(April, 1999)

About to Graduate; P a Job Search Hurdle
from Aaron K.

I just want it to go away.... I am 24 and graduating from college soon. I will have to go into the real world and interview for jobs. My psoriasis is located just on my head, under the hair and under my nails. I watch as the red spots on my head grow bigger, I have tried T-Gel, T-Sal, Head and Shoulders, Denorex, and others ... to no avail. Can you suggest something that will cure me or at least help me? Thank you for your time. -Aaron K.

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Ed's Response: I'm curious, Aaron. You seem to be certain your problem is P, which implies to me you've been to a dermatologist, yet you mention only over-the-counter remedies. There is a considerable assortment of prescription medications formulated specifically for scalp problems (including, but not limited to, psoriasis) and I encourage you to try some of these. Of course, you will have to get the prescripts from your doctor (hopefully a dermatologist). Go to the Archives, here, and look under "scalp" for letters that reveal how others have handled their scalp P. The only OTC shampoo I have found effective for handling my own scalp P is Pentrax. If you want to try it, you may have to look in the larger pharmacies or ask a pharmacist to order it. It's expensive and poorly stocked here in central Kentucky. Hopefully it's more available in your neck of the woods.

The nail P is more difficult to handle than the scalp P. Again, check out the Archives.

I empathize with your impending job search. I know you want to look your best and not have an apparent physical problem sidetrack interviews or deter favorable considerations. For folks like us, Aaron, "looking our best" is something largely beyond our control. We will sleep better knowing we have done everything we can to quiet our P before an important engagement, but there's no sense in berating ourselves or jacking up our stress level if our attention to detail falls short of making our P invisible.

It's been a long time since I was interviewed for a job, but I still have to meet people, and it's important they develop a favorable opinion of me. When my P is flaring, and it's obvious, here is the psyche job I perform on myself.

First, before the meeting, when I'm dressed and ready to go and assessing the seriousness of the situation in a mirror, I say to myself, "Well, Ed. It's you. It's the best you can do for the moment. I guess the tables are turned and they are the one's going to be challenged today." They are the important people I'm going to meet and whose impression of me is important for one reason or another.

Now, everybody notices, so nothing's to be gained by asking yourself if they're going to notice. So, right away, from the moment we first glimpse each other, I try to sense not whether or not they are noticing, but how they are reacting. It's a subtle difference. It takes practice. Some people seem to take note then quickly tuck it away and you never get a sense of what they really think. They appear to be ignoring the situation, so I do, too. Some people seem stuck by it, whether or not they're willing to address it. That is, they become confused and distracted and you can't move forward with the business at hand because they are not concentrating on it. They are, instead, concentrating on your skin. These people go "uh huh" a lot and their eyes dance back and forth between something on the wall, or on the table, and your visible lesions or flaking. With these I just bite the bullet. "Allow me to apologize for my skin," I'll say (or something like this). "If I could have left it at home today I surely would have. Please don't let it alarm you...." Then I go on to say what it is, that it's not contagious, etc. Most people will ask a question or two or retort with, "My Uncle Baxter has that!" In a minute or two you can usually have the whole matter of your P on the table, pushed aside, out of the way. Yeah, sometimes it's that easy. In a job interview situation I think I'd take this tack quickly and with very little provocation. No sense in letting the recruiter wonder if you're healthy enough for a job!

The people who present the greatest difficulty for me are the ones that find my P so fascinating we linger on the subject. It doesn't really bother me if it's the check-out clerk at the supermarket, or the person changing my oil, but it does bother me if it's a business associate or prospective client. I have, on more than one occasion, had to resort to something like this to get the conversation off psoriasis and back on track: "Could we change the subject? It's not that I mind talking to you about this, but when I focus too long on my psoriasis I begin to itch terribly. If I scratch, my skin just peels right off, and then I start to bleed. I think I'll be all right, but it would help if we could move on to...." It's a little fib, but I don't think it will keep me out of heaven, and it's always worked (so far).

Aaron, I don't know if any of these psyche jobs will work for you, but they are all I've got to offer. If other readers can recount how they survived job interviews while flaming, I hope they'll send us their story. Good luck, Aaron, and stay in touch. -Ed

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