Mail (May, 1998)


Accident Trauma Started It
from Judy W.

Dear Ed: My name is Judy W. and I'm 40 years old. I've just wandered through your website and I felt compelled to drop you a line to say, "Thank you!" for making me feel better. I have been wallowing in self-pity because of the current condition of my psoriasis. Reading your excerpts has lightened up the seriousness of my mood. Somewhat.

I have had guttate psoriasis for 23 years, beginning when I was 17 and was injured in a car accident. I woke up 10 days after my accident to my skin completely covered in spots, head to toe. A derm was brought in and he told me it was psoriasis. Since I was preoccupied with other, more serious, injuries, I figured this was just a "rash" that would go right away. It took a year and a half to just subside.

For the twenty years since then I've managed it with the ususal stuff—creams, ointments, tar baths, PUVA, then Temovate. It was never more than just a mild annoyance. I used to call it my "Winter Rash" because during the summer it would all but disappear except, of course, on those parts of my body "where the sun don't shine." Living in far West Texas, where there's plenty of sunshine, helped. Until now. Three years ago we moved to the Dallas area. Since then, it has bloomed. I knew something was different, because suddenly the sunshine wasn't helping much. Temovate wasn't helping either. My new derm says I've built up a resistance to Temovate. Since I've been "spayed" and can no longer have children, he put me on Methotrexate. I thought I had been cured for the month that it was gone. Never did my derm tell me it may come back worse than it was before. And that's exactly what's happened. My guttate, and its new co-habitant, plaque, is now 100% of my body.

Forgive my psycho babbling. You've heard, or experienced, this all before. Only recently have I realized my psoriasis has taken on a new identity, that I am presented (or tested by God) with the new challenge of managing, hopefully controlling, its newest, latest variation. I am very depressed and I've taken the liberty of dumping it on you. Only because I know you will understand! I am married to the best man in the world—his patience with my emotions and his understanding of my self-absorption are without compare. But even he, and the rest of my family, cannot understand what it's like to have it. I would rather have an incurable cancer! At least dying from cancer has an end. With psoriasis, it goes on indefinitely. WOW! AM I A SAD SACK, OR WHAT?!

When I get out of this funk I'll buy your book. I realize now is when I need it the most, but as I'm sure you know, this self-pity is all part of the "the process." And to think I used to be Homecoming Queen!

Thank you for letting me introduce myself. -Judy

*****

Ed's Response: Judy Judy Judy! (Who said that?) Somebody needs to give you a good tickle!

You're not the first person to tell me their psoriasis started overnight because of a major physical trauma. Current thinking is you probably always harbored the proclivity to be psoriatic, but weren't triggered until the accident. Unfortunately, because an accident can bang you up in so many different ways, just what misfunction inside you did the triggering may remain a mystery. But, that's all water under the bridge now, isn't it?

Have you given any thought to what might be different about life in Dallas (other than the lingering odor of J. R. Ewing)? I know my psoriasis is very sensitive to climate ... and seems to grow MORE sensitive as time passes. I travel enough to see the effects clearly. And they're seasonal, too. How about the quality of the sun you're soaking up? Is it being filtered by significantly more pollution?

You're right about self-pity being a necessary part of the adapting process. We've all gone through it. Do you know what happens in our minds when self-pity consumes us? We become a third party to ourselves, sometimes with so little connection we might as well be strangers. At these times we live in a house of mirrors. All that we perceive about ourselves is what we see reflected in the mirrors around us, and since they are all around us, sometimes we are looking at reflections of reflections of reflections. (NOTE: I'm not nearly profound enough to come up with all this stuff; I'm paraphrasing my maternal grandfather, here.) When we are so removed from our inner selves as to see only reflections, we become soulless (grandfather would have said "Godless") and hence untrustworthy to ourselves. We interpret our lives from reflected images of ourselves, which are really nothing. We see the truth as: "I must be miserable because I feel so much pain ... or ... because I am so disfigured." We see ourselves the way others must see us. How, then, do we account for those moments—brief as they may be—when we do not hurt? when we laugh or giggle? when joy swells? when a wave of contentment rolls over us? Sometimes these small euphoric feelings are so fleeting they are never caught in the reflections and we confuse them with dreams, dismiss them because they contrast so sharply with the pitiable us we have come to believe. (Here my grandfather smiles and winks.) Pay closer attention to those little good moments, my grandfather says, because they are the true you hiding behind the mirrors.

You would not REALLY rather have incurable cancer, Judy. That is an interpretation of a reflection, not the sentiment of the homecoming queen who's still there but, for the moment, hiding coyly behind one mirror or another. Let's find her! -Ed

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