Here’s my story, and like my underwear, I’m stickin’ to it. (It was 106 degrees in Phoenix today.)
When I was about six years old, I remember being in bed for the night and scratching. Mostly my legs, but I would scratch and scratch, and then I would scratch some more. It itched. What else was I to do? Mom and dad’s bedroom was directly across the hall from mine, and my routine would sometimes be so persistent and loud that mom would call across the hall to, “Stop scratching and go to bed!” She wasn’t mean about it, mind you. There has never been a mean bone in my sacred mother’s body, but that lets you know the kind of intensity I could muster.
Interestingly, there were no skin lesions or eruptions at that time, just that itch.
I also remember being real young, maybe 4 or 5, and going downtown to visit a relative who lived in the Hotel Westward Ho on Central Avenue in Phoenix. We had to climb a few stairs on our trek up to the apartment and etched in my mind to this day is the excruciating pain and immobility I felt in my knees as I tried to walk up those stairs. I believe my mom carried me some of the way. I have often wondered if that was my first encounter with PsA - psoriatic arthritis, which would make it’s presence felt in a big way in my life from about age thirty on.
My first psoriatic skin lesion arrived when I was 17 years old. I was in a rock and roll band with the cream of the crop of graduating musicians from my high school. We had booked a gig in Flagstaff, Arizona, and we took off in our mini-vans all young, awkward, and unsure, like a bunch of baby birds on their first flight out of the nest.
This might be a good time to mention that I was always a shy kid, and my father passing away just a year prior to this road trip did nothing to boost my confidence. The trip was difficult for me from a social perspective, and perhaps that stress triggered the outbreak of the disease. Psoriasis is an auto-immune disease which can be brought on or exacerbated by stress.
Recent findings in the medical community say that psoriasis may affect the central nervous system in the human body, and a mental health professional offers that people with psoriasis tend to be more anxious than those who don’t have it.
I will forego the standard query of the chicken or the egg at this time and lean instead on the apparent presence of the proverbial viscious cycle in this equation.
stress = new or worsening disease = anxiety = stress, etc.
Anyway, when we returned from our road trip, my inner leg had developed an unrelenting itch. Closer inspection revealed a patch of unfamiliar looking skin about the size of a silver dollar. My first thought was that something had been rubbed the wrong way sitting in the van on the way back down to Phoenix, but a subsequent trip to the doctor netted my first encounter with the word “psoriasis” and shortly thereafter, my first application of steroid cream to a psoriatic skin lesion.
The itch, the pain, the lesions, all would become way too familiar to me in the coming years.