Wednesday, April 7, 2010

I AM STRESSED THE $*&% OUT!

How do I know I'm stressed?  Not the tight feeling in my chest.  Or my brain constantly turning thoughts over in my head, making it worse.  Not the sleepless nights.  Not the feeling that I am THROUGH with money, work, family, friends, the gym, my house, life in general...which then causes me to throw a tantrum like a two year old.  It's my PSORIASIS (pronounced SORE-EYE-UH-SYS).  It tells no lies.  Even when I don't actually FEEL stressed out, it usually tells me that I am harboring some kind of issue in my sick little brain. 

Psoriasis is a weird disease.  It looks like a skin disease.  Usually it's on my elbows -- patches of overly dry skin will show up.  I also get small spots on my nose where glasses would sit, which is why I usually don't wear sunglasses.  (I am actually VERY lucky that I don't have it on my scalp or other embarrassing places.  I've met people who have it on every inch of their body, and I cannot imagine the pain that it causes.)  It's an autoimmune disease, so stress makes it flare up.  I can always tell when my stress is higher than my medication can deal with...because I will have ugly red arms.  Right now, I have very angry red arms. 

So, in the normal world, your skin regenerates every 30 days or so.  Most people never notice it.  When you have psoriasis, the affected areas can generate skin every 3 days.  So like a nasty snake, you shed. 

Before I had gastric bypass surgery, I had moderate psoriasis.  Mostly it affected my knees and elbows -- it commonly starts around your joints (it makes you more susceptible to psoriatic arthritis -- which affects 10% of people with psoriasis).  However, if you damage your skin (say, cut yourself with a razor), you can sometimes "grow" patches there as well.  After I lost weight, my psoriasis became a lot more manageable (I believe the doctors would now call it "mild," affecting less than 10% of my body).  I have gone year-long stretches without touching my medication.  I can usually pick up a heavy moisturizer (I love Kiehl's), or if it's starting to get bad, I can catch some rays (the sun kills it...so I have talked my dermatologist into allowing me to use tanning beds on occasion).

When I'm having a bad flare up, I have three heavy duty medications to knock it out.  These medications have come a LOOOONG way since I was a kid.  My mom used to have to wrap me up like a mummy at night, using tar-based vaseline types of medications.  They did almost nothing.  Back then, they believed that psoriasis was a dysfunction of the liver and gave you a special diet to follow, which basically said you shouldn't eat carbs.  I remember having to run track in 6th or 7th grade.  It would be cold and windy and I'd be in a short-sleeved gym shirt.  My arms would crack and bleed like chapped lips.  I'm actually very surprised kids didn't make fun of  me.  Maybe I am blocking it out, but much like being a chub most of my life, I don't remember being harassed too much about it.

But I digress.  Currently, I am back to using my medications, and it's not working.  I actually had to make an appointment with the dermatologist.  I haven't seen him in well over a year.  He has this lovely little shot that he can shoot directly into the skin to make it go away.  It sounds gross and it hurts, but it makes it go away (sometimes permanently...he gave me those shots in the knees a few years ago and I haven't had a recurrence since).

Cortisone shots, interestingly enough, clear my psoriasis (I guess it makes sense, since it treats inflammation).  I had to get a cortisone shot seven or eight years ago, and it cleared my psoriasis for about six months.  I was secretly happy about getting my recent cortisone shot for my hip because I was hoping for the same deal.  I got ONE MONTH of psoriasis-free skin.  A MONTH!  That's it?!  And it's almost come back worse than before.  So I made the dermatologist appointment. 

I've had a lot of stuff going on over the last couple of years.  My psoriasis seemed to do okay.  Yet suddenly, it is out of control again.  I'm not even sure what is causing this flare up.  But it's frustrating.  I've had psoriasis since I was a kid, so I'm used to the questions (OH MY GOD, DID YOU GET POISON IVY?!).  When I was a teenager and working at Sears Portrait Studio, one parent refused to let me photograph their kid because they didn't want to catch whatever I had (guess what, you can't catch it -- it's hereditary, although perhaps I am adopted because no one else in my family seems to have it).  I also had a massage therapist tell me that she had to use rubber gloves for my massage because the redness meant there was blood at the surface and she could catch HIV from me (also untrue...and I don't have HIV anyway).  Maybe my sudden weight gain brought this flare-up with it, so now I get to be grumpy about being chubby AND flaky!

So, tonight I go to Twirly Girls -- which is something I enjoy, so there is no stress there -- and I look forward to meeting the world-famous pole instructor, Pantera at Sapphire in Livermore!  And I guess I hope the stress will die down and I can get back to have clear, beautiful skin!

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