I thought long and hard about writing this post as it’s another pretty personal one…but I figured that if it helps someone who goes through the same thing then it’s all for the greater good.
The topic of my post is what shall henceforth be referred to as ‘the mother of all skin flare ups’…About a month ago I had a nasty throat infection and was prescribed antibiotics by my doctor. At the end of the week of taking them I developed a rash – firstly on my throat, which then spread to my chest. I figured it was an allergic reaction, but when it spread further to my back and stomach I noticed a few bigger patches of psoriasis, which I have had on and off since my late teens. When it started spreading to my face I thought it was time to visit my GP who, after calling in two other doctors to take a look at me, diagnosed ‘Guttate Psoriasis’…
Guttate is a distinctive acute skin eruption characterised by small drop-like, pink/red lesions. It is classically triggered by a particular throat infection and is also associated with stress. Given that I had been experiencing some personal and work-related stress over the previous few months this seemed to fit the bill. Guttate is sometimes called teardrop or raindrop psoriasis due to the shape of the spots…which kinda makes it sound a lot more pleasant than it is.
On my first visit to the GP I was told that it would take two to three months to clear, was prescribed some emollient and Vitamin D cream and encouraged to try a few sunbeds, since sunlight can often help clear it up. I was pleased to have a diagnosis, although a little alarmed at how long it would take to clear up, and went on my way. I also realised that this had happened before…when I was 17 (almost half my life ago, eek), I had not long got over a bout of glandular fever and had suffered a couple of throat infections. I was also revising for/sitting my A Levels, and I had a flare up. This one was mostly across my back, and my GP at the time diagnosed psoriasis, gave me some cream and eventually it cleared up. I then had the odd patch on and off for years until I went travelling (and spent virtually a year in the sun). I hadn’t realised at the time that it was a certain form of psoriasis or what it was all about, so it was interesting to make the connection.
Over the days following my visit to the GP, the guttate spread. And spread. I was soon covered more or less from head to toe (apart from the palms of my hands and soles of my feet) with an angry looking, and itchy, red rash. The worst part was on my neck, and my face ended up pretty badly affected too. Not fun at all for someone who has always been self-conscious about the way they look. The photo below is of someone with guttate, and looks similar to the kind of coverage that I had.
By this point I was covering up as much as I could – wearing long sleeves and scarves wherever I went, and make up whenever I had to face people (which I’m sure wasn’t helping, but I don’t think I could have left the house without it at that stage).
I decided to read up on guttate a bit more, and accessed the Psoriasis Association website which was really helpful, especially the forums which provided some good tips and advice, as well as being a comfort to know that other people were going through or had been through the same thing. Too much reading up on the internet is never advisable though, and I decided against doing so once I started reading stories of people whose guttate had taken a year to clear, or who had suffered from one flare up after another.
I admit that I got pretty down in the initial week or two, especially when the guttate was getting worse and worse by the day. I tried a number of things to try to alleviate the symptoms and managed it…I changed my diet (cutting out red meat, caffeine and diet fizzy drinks, increased my intake of fresh fruit & veg, water and wholemeal products and started taking a spoonful of Manuka Honey and drinking an Actimel every day). I tried various baths (olive oil, dead sea salt, porridge oats – not all at the same time though!). I also had a couple of three minute sunbeds, although this just seemed to make my skin flare up more.
In the end I decided to take a few days off work as I was getting upset about the thought of people seeing me and just wanted to hide away. I was beginning to understand how people with long-term skin conditions could end up depressed, and of course wanted to avoid going down that road. I thought some time out, away from the stressful work situation, would enable me to work out what to do, whilst being in the comfort of my own home.
Whilst I was off for those few days, and over the weekend preceding them, many opportunities arose to see and socialise with family and friends. Whilst my instinct was to hide away and see no-one, I figured that these people knew me and what I was going through, would sympathise and wouldn’t think anything differently of me. So I ventured out – I went for a walk with friends, met a friend for coffee, caught up with my sister, niece and nephews. I soon realised that, although I was a bit self-conscious, I felt a lot better when I was around people. For one thing it was good to take my mind off things, but also it was great just to connect with people again, to socialise and chat and laugh.
Through these positive connections with people, I realised that my work situation wasn’t helping – I generally sit in a big office on my own day in, day out. Sometimes I see and talk to no-one, and then go home to an empty house (not that I am bothered about that, I love having my own house and space, it’s just after a day in the office on your own you can end up being/feeling rather isolated).
I decided that I needed to change a few things at work, so I approached some colleagues who I knew often had spare desks in their offices, explained my situation, and asked if it would be possible to hot-desk with them. They came back to me and said ‘OF COURSE!’, so since then I have been sitting with people again and it has made SUCH a difference. Just to be around people, chat and catch up, say hello as you pass colleagues in the corridor. I can’t believe how much I’ve missed out on, and what a rut I had got myself stuck in until I made the move to be around others again, hence why I have titled this post ‘The Positive Power of People’.
During my days off I also returned to my GP Practice and saw a different doctor…he told me that my case was now severe, gave me some stronger cream and warned me off the sunbeds (since they use UVA rays and it is UVB rays which clears up guttate). He said that if there was no improvement in 2-3 weeks he would refer me to the hospital for phototherapy/UVB treatment. I am pleased to say that after a few days I started noticing an improvement…it’s been just over a week now and the patches on my face (where I can’t even use the cream), neck and chest are barely visible. Everywhere else there is a slight improvement, so I am hoping that continues and that I should be clear of it in due course.
It’s been about a month since the guttate first flared up, and it has been an emotional journey. However, despite the not so nice things, there have been many positive things that have come out of it (including realising how much support I have around me), and I feel that I am coming to some life-changing decisions. Good comes out of bad and light comes out of dark, for sure. I hope to never have to go through this again, but there is a chance that I will. At least if there is a next time I will be prepared, and I am sure it’s a combination of the things I have done that have got me to this point. I am hopeful that the changes I have made, and continue to make, will put me on the right trajectory to a happier future.
Until next time, love and changing times, sm x