Trust. A simple five-letter word, but also a complex metaphoric glue that can hold or break a relationship. Trust is the foundation of any relationship, whether it be with family, friends or a new love interest. However, building and maintaining that trust means opening up to another person and allowing yourself to be vulnerable.
When you’re having a flare and need support, it’s important to educate your loved ones about what you’re feeling, both physically and emotionally. Sharing how your psoriasis is affecting you can help them understand the level of support you may need. They may know you need help, but be unsure of exactly what you want them to do or need the most. Remind yourself that it’s OKAY to ask your loved ones to help you with a task that you may have difficulty with because of your psoriasis. If you feel guilty in asking them to listen to your frustrations—don’t! This can be an opportunity to help them understand that although they may not be able to change what’s causing the frustration (your psoriasis), simply having them listen can provide a great sense of relief. Finally, take into consideration how good you feel when someone gives you a simple “thank you” for helping them in a time of need. Remember people like to be appreciated, so show your gratitude and let your loved one know how much you value them and their help.
It can be helpful to start by finding a support group to get you out of the house and connecting with other people who understand your experiences and struggles with psoriasis. Take this initial step as practice and as you become more comfortable, it will become easier for you to venture outside of your group and strike up conversations with someone who doesn’t have psoriasis. Who knows, discussing your experiences may help you find some other common interests! To get you started, check out this support group here from the National Psoriasis Foundation.
Also, when you’re in social situations, don’t be afraid to self-advocate when the opportunity arises to educate others about psoriasis. Explaining that you are not contagious can go a long way. This can start a domino effect where one person overhears someone talking about your skin and they can let it be known that it’s nothing to be afraid of. I know it can be hard to be so open when you don’t want to draw attention to your psoriasis, but it may just result in a more positive outcome. Sometimes initially addressing “the elephant in the room” will break the ice and make it easier for you to move on to other topics.
We all know from the infamous television show that Kids Say the Darndest Things, so children can (and will) ask blunt questions that we as adults deem uncomfortable or inappropriate, like pointing out your psoriasis. This is when it is crucial to have the child understand that psoriasis is not contagious. This way they won’t feel afraid that they can catch it by being around or affectionate toward you. Children are undoubtedly going to wonder. So be prepared with answers to questions such as, “Will it hurt if I give you a hug?” Let them know your psoriasis is just the way your skin looks sometimes in ways they can understand, like getting freckles in the sun, and not something “gross” or “scary.” While their words may sting at first, remember this is just unfiltered curiosity and not intentional meanness.
Active listening is a very important communication technique, especially if you are a caregiver. If you listen to your partner without interrupting and then repeat back to them some of the concerns they’ve shared about their psoriasis, it can enhance understanding and ensure you’re both being responsive to one another’s needs. If you are still struggling to have a successful discussion about your loved one’s psoriasis, you may want to try writing your thoughts down on paper to help you prepare for a more thoughtful conversation with your partner. While listening is a key part of supporting someone living with psoriasis, as a caregiver, it’s also important to take time for yourself. You can’t help anyone else if you are super stressed and exhausted. To avoid this burnout, I recommend that you also build time into your schedule to meet your own goals and fulfill your own needs.
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