Psoriatic arthritis (PsA) – these are two words that sound strange and incomprehensible, that are difficult to pronounce and of which hardly any layperson has precise knowledge. Successful therapy cannot begin until the first signs have been cleared up. However, it is not that easy to detect PsA, especially since psoriasis attracts everyone’s attention.
I got psoriasis relatively early, around five years old. Despite everything, I was lucky: I got the best doctors from day one. I was a human guinea pig. No one had ever seemed a black child cover in head to toes in scales. I was quickly giving the best medicine there was out there in 1963. I was treated early. As probably with many people affected, the symptoms started harmlessly. In the beginning, it was a very small patch on the back of the neck that sometimes itched and which I initially ignored. I now had to find a way for myself to ignore the strange looks and have suitable answers ready when asked at a young age, what is that on you?
When I was working as an account manager for the government agency at the time, it was, of course, uncomfortable, and I sometimes had awkward experiences with clients.
I thought it couldn’t get worse from this, but I was very wrong. I wasn’t fully aware that the risk of developing psoriatic arthritis isn’t rare at all. Severe joint pain in my finger joints and feet became a part of my life. Sometimes I couldn’t even go down the stairs because of the horrible pain.
Sadly, my job was becoming increasingly difficult. It is practically impossible to make a friendly face when greeting with a strong handshake, without wanting to just scream out in the other person’s face. Pointing out to anyone to whom you shake hands immediately: ‘please do not press firmly’, is definitely not professional and not a long-term solution. After all, it’s about talking about business at first and not about illness.
At times the symptoms were so severe that I could hardly stand on my feet in the morning. The night sweats in my sleep and the fatigues in the morning made it impossible to bear in some days. Those usual, daily tasks that seem to be the simplest, suddenly started to require so much energy and made me easily tired. I started to develop social anxiety because I felt like my condition affected my social behavior. I felt like a boring person who complains a lot, a real party-breaker. The break-point for me was the decision to talk to a psychologist. Then I realized I had developed many defense mechanisms that pushed me in a dark place, far-away from my friends, family, and from my real self. I made the decision to change my daily routines. The symptoms slowly began to improve during the day, because I started to do yoga and to swim regularly.
The problem of living with a chronic illness is the lack of acceptance. If you struggle with psoriatic arthritis, my sincere advice to you is just to accept that it is real, and it is here every day. Replace the overthinking and defensiveness with light activities and hobbies that make you feel accomplished and relaxed.
I wish everyone affected by psoriatic arthritis good recovery and good luck in the search for the “right therapy”. You will have a long road ahead of you.