When I was diagnosed with psoriasis, I received a narrow and potentially incomplete picture of what was happening to me. Since then, I have been dealing with the stress of trying to understand more deeply what’s going on with my body. Upon first diagnosing my condition, my dermatologist explained that I had an autoimmune skin condition called psoriasis and that, while there was no permanent cure, there were treatments available that could help me manage my symptoms and lead a comfortable life.
Little was said about what brings this condition about. My doctor explained what he could about psoriasis, which is that individuals with it seem to have an abnormality in their immune system that leads to inflammation of the skin and rapid growth and shedding of skin cells. He also said there is likely a genetic component.
My dermatologist also told me that I may have my own unique triggers, but that some triggers — such as stress — are common. That was it. I was very frustrated to learn that, despite decades of research, the disease that had overtaken my body was a relative mystery.
Since my diagnosis, I have continued to search for answers. I was dissatisfied by the idea of simply treating the outward manifestations of psoriasis, which led me to explore a holistic approach to healing, including complementary therapies.
While taking steroids prescribed by my dermatologist, I also worked closely with a doctor of Chinese medicine, who explained excessive blood heat to be the root of the onset of psoriasis. My Chinese medicine doctor prescribed treatment focused on clearing heat and cooling blood—through herbs and diet, primarily. According to this way of thinking, something was off within me and my system needed rebalancing. I was on board, but, unfortunately, did not see any improvement through herbs and diet alone.
I came across another theory proposed by a chiropractic doctor, claiming that my body hadn’t betrayed me but was actually just trying to do its job to the best of its ability. According to this theory, my skin was picking up the slack of the bowels and the kidneys and trying to expel excess waste produced by a leaky gut. This all left me more confused than ever—and I still am. (Note: Chiropractic doctors are not medical doctors.)
I felt guilty about treating my lesions if they were, in fact, only due to my body trying to get something out that needed to be removed. Why would I want to suppress a necessary process? I also felt incredibly stressed out about curing a potentially leaky gut with no clear protocol to do so, and I went to extreme dietary measures in the hopes of seeing some improvement in my skin. Despite carefully following the Pagano diet for six months, my skin only worsened. Granted, I did not complete the full protocol, which included chiropractic adjustments and regular enemas.
With the stress of identifying and addressing a root cause of my psoriasis weighing on me, my mental health has taken a toll. I can truly say that talk therapy has been the most supportive practice in living happily with this disease. With my therapist, I received consistent support when my exploration of various theories and search for potential treatments has gone from helpful to obsessive.
Together, we have come up with strategies for containing my healing quest so that I can lead a life that is about more than just psoriasis. In some cases, it’s just about framing. Instead of stepping onto my yoga mat because “psoriasis is exacerbated by stress and I better deal with my stress so my skin will clear,” I’m doing yoga because it feels good and I love myself, without expectations of healing.
It can be challenging to allow myself to do anything that isn’t in the interest of healing when I am still uncomfortable with the state of my body, but I now see this as a necessary part of honoring myself as a whole person. I still don’t know what’s causing my psoriasis. I still don’t know what measures, if any, could cure it from the inside out. What I do know is, I am no longer willing to allow this disease to occupy the space it has in my heart and mind. Until we learn more, I will manage my stress, eat a nutritious diet and supplement my deficiencies, exercise, and use biologics and topicals to stay comfortable. That’s all I can do for now, and that’s OK.
MyPsoriasisTeam columnists discuss psoriasis from a specific point of view. Columnists' articles don’t reflect the opinions of MyPsoriasisTeam staff, medical experts, partners, advertisers, or sponsors. MyPsoriasisTeam content isn't intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.