My South Africa Story
It's pretty chilly in England 24/7. Even our summer is winteresque to most. I recently went to South Africa for a friend's wedding. Now, South Africa is hotter than England, and I didn't want to wear neck to ankle clothing. I wore shorts or dresses a lot of the time (it was pretty windy whilst I was there so wore leggings a fair amount too). The dresses were 3/4sleeves so my arm pso wasn't on show. With the shorts I'd wear a top/lightweight cardi combo, or a 3/4 sleeve....or even a jumper if it was cold in the eve. Mostly people saw the pso on my legs, but if I was soaking in the sun (a great way to help pso calm down) I'd just have a vest top on.
My friends knew my skin condition story, but their families and friends didn't. I had gotten pretty used to not being ask pso questions as it's never really on show here. So when I wore shorts/dresses around others who didn't 'know' me and they saw my pso...you could see the glances, and see the desire to ask questions in their eyes. I had forgotten how that felt for while, so I felt quite vulnerable to what I think people are thinking (for the first time in ages).
Most people's first thought were that something has bitten me or I'd had a reaction to something (makes sense as it's SA and we were mostly in farm land)....one family member massively panicked and was ready to rush me to A&E (which I thought was just the most adorable thing ever). Others were keen to ask what it was and what it meant and why it was there. But the wonderful thing that I had forgotten is; that people are mainly just inquisitive to know what something they've not seen before is. No one looked at me with disgust or pitty or fear, they just simply wanted to know. Wanted to know - am I OK? My friends sister, once I had explained, was rather emotional about it. The empathy that she showed was really very sweet. When you live with something 24/7 you forget that it's not common for others to know it exists.
Upped the skin routine
Bought in new and old creams to ensure the pso wasn't flaring
Avoided all trigger foods
Avoided makeup as much as possible
Gentle exfoliating daily
Even thought about going on sunbeds (which is not like me at all)
Nearly tried to fake tan myself, but didn't want to look like a cheetah (even if it IS my spirit animal)
Tar shampoo adoration grew immensely
Oat baths on the regular
Generally over thought everything, and went into a panic overload - a completely rational response ;)
For the actual wedding day I was a bridesmaid. We had to wear one of those infinity dresses...armless...backless....chesty....! It was safe to say that this sent my mind into overdrive. 'There are going to be professional photos' 'your back is on display' 'your arms are out' 'it's floor length so good leg coverage there' 'chest pso can be kinda be covered' 'long hair will work to drape over the back' ...you knoooowww just the classic does-my-butt-look-big-in-this worries with some added pso-drama. Standard.
To boot; I actually couldn't try on the dress until I was in SA so had a good 4/5months of worries about how it'd look. I had Googled endlessly the different ways to style the dress and I had found a style I wanted that crossed over the back and gave v.short sleeves. I also bought a shawl in the same colour as the dress as a back-up if I still felt uneasy.
Turns out that two of the other bridesmaids went for the same style as the one I wanted which made me so happy!! I did add in the shawl because I wanted some cover from the sun (it was a hot af day, we'd be in thr sun for hours, no bag = no block, I burn easy) but wouldn't have if I wasn't worried about burning - as I felt comfortable with the style, and even more comfortable knowing that I matched two others!
Someone saying, especially in a time of self-doubt, 'you look stunning' or 'I think you look fantastic' it quite literally and ear-to-ear smile guarantee for me. People at the wedding said such nice things, which really does give a confidence boost to an outfit. Especially one that you had an excessive amount of self-doubt about wearing.
I think once people hear you say (in whatever way you phrase it) 'it's a skin condition, and I am ok' then they relax. I am not saying that living with pso is easy, nor that the lifestyle with it is a walk in the park. I just felt for the first time, in a long time, that all my anxiety about showing off my pso and wanting to wear what I want - was all for nothing.
I spent A LOT of time prior to the wedding day worrying and fearing and, to an extent, hating myself. It's funny how all that previous tension and anxiety can all just dissappear and seem like a waste of time and effort. I regret spending so much time looking at all the negatives that could have happened. I think it's easier to focus on the negatives as it sets a precedent for your mentality, 'it couldn't get worse than that, so anything else is a bonus'; it's just a self defence method that protects you.
It is also easier to look in hindsight and wish you'd done something differently - but looking back and wishing you'd done something differently is good for future experiences. After the amount I built this up in my head and how little I needed to; I'll be using this experience to help me through the next one - as there will, without a shadow of a doubt, be one.
Thanks for reading!
Love, Kara xXx
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