Imagine applying a layer of make-up super thick on your arms and having to wear skin toned stockings all year round to cover unsightly patches of flaky skin on your body. This was Tarryn’s daily routine for a long time.
Tarryn suffers from psoriasis, a medical condition that occurs when skin cells grow too quickly. The most common form is plaque psoriasis. It presents as raised red lesions covered by silvery white dead skin cells. It typically shows up on the scalp, knees, lower back and elbows. It can often be painful and itchy and has a tendency to crack and bleed1.
“At first I thought I just had really bad dandruff,” says Tarryn “but then my first ‘spot’ appeared on my face.” And soon after, red, scaly skin spanned swathes of her body.
At an age where social acceptance is based around appearance, her condition made it harder. “I know that I needed twice as long to get ready as other girls my age did. Getting ready for a normal day required a lot of prep!”. This stopped her from being spontaneous, and most of her day involved planning not just around having a change of clothes, but also making sure she had a variety of steroid creams and moisturisers available.
Tarryn was diagnosed ten years ago and as an impressionable teenager, she found that the stigma of living with a skin condition was unbearable. It is about embarrassment and fear. The public would stare, make comments, or assume that it was contagious. “I remember a friend’s mum used to joke about needing to vacuum whatever path I had walked. That sucks.” she says bluntly, “At my worst, the itch was so bad I wanted to rip my skin off at least three times a day. And at best, I would make jokes about looking like a leopard.”
Having a supportive network really helped Tarryn. “My mum was the most supportive,” she says, “I remember her getting excited about finding a new moisturiser, a new shampoo or something to bathe in, and we would get excited together hoping that it will get rid of the psoriasis.”
But student life, as most of us would know, is what you make of it. According to Tarryn, there was no use sitting and being upset. “I was a sassy teenager back in school and I would just get on with it,” she recalls. “For our annual school fashion show for example, I didn’t let psoriasis stop me from showcasing or modelling my own work.”
After her diagnosis, it took at least five years for things to improve. Establishing a strong working relationship with your healthcare professional really helps. “The first dermatologist I saw was very insensitive to my condition,” she recalls, “but then I found a dermatologist that was right for me and they changed my life.”
Now a 23-year-old interior design student, Tarryn is finally happy with her skin. “For now, my psoriasis is under control. I just have weird freckle patches where it used to be,” she chuckles.
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