Mail (Sep-Oct, 1998)

An Update And Motivational Speech
from Faust

Dear Ed, and my extended virtual tribe: Turns out the terrible flare I described when last I wrote was in fact a Strep infection. For those who think of Streptococcus A as being "a throat thing," let me assure you it does its fiendish bacteriological job quite well on skin. It's tough to describe what it felt like, even in terms we flakers can understand where others can't. If the skin could scream, this would be a chorus of wails, with no two of them in tune with each other.

But enough drama; we're a tough lot, because we've put up with discomfort and we know our limits must be pretty far out there. (I want to see a psoriatic spy-movie hero. "Torture me for the launch codes? With acid? Big whoop.")

Considering the amount of psoriatic acreage on my landscape, it's really kind of amazing that no significant bacteria found their way in earlier. The normal epidermal layer is the most important part of the immune system, like a wall is a castle's best defensive weapon. Psoriatic patches are chaotic melees of cell reproduction, not happy and banal epithelium, and so are basically holes in the immune system as much as they are an over-abundance of skin.

Long story short, the spots that were there had their own little combination Mardi Gras and recruitment drive, and are flakier than ever. Plus, I'm now enjoying guttae psoriasis, like chicken pox dots, as an after-effect. The stretches of smooth, glorious skin in between spots is rough and dry with the guttae, and my hide feels like that of a rhino in places.

But my attitude is really good.

Seriously, people, I can't preach enough about this attitude stuff. With the infection gone, I can get out of bed in the morning, ride my bike downtown to work once more, and get back into living my swinging Faustian life. In the right light, with the right parts of me exposed, I look like an extra on "Tales From the Darkside," but that doesn't stop me from flirting with the cute woman in the coffee shop. It hasn't stopped me from landing a kickin' job, or from pursuing my acting career on the side. The amazing thing, if there is one, is that the coffee woman flirts back.

People who don't know better have called me brave, or inspirational, or strong, because of my refusal to be ruled by my superficially significant skin condition/ disfigurement/ colorful plumage/ natural motley, but the truth is easier to deal with: I've already tried feeling sorry for myself. It didn't work. It was all very dramatic, and very serious, but ultimately I got bored.

I once saw myself as trapped in an unearned prison of flesh, my body unfairly branded for crimes my heart did not commit. I've wished for repentance of unspecified and uncommitted sins, and committed some against my better self. I've let myself down, sold myself short, held myself back. I've compromised, given up, and never tried, all because the cells of my dermis act up in bizarre ways. I've been involved with women I wasn't completely attracted to, to balance my unease with my own physical self. I swerved off the path to my best hope of self-expression and grace, because I was convinced the psoriasis was insurmountable.

I was a putz. I was dull. And I was clearly not living the life I should have. Not that I'm drinking champage with celebrities very often; I'm materially less successful now than I've been. But the feeling of weight on my guts is lessened. I sit straighter, and breathe easier, having put aside the victim mentality.

I don't think of myself as particularly tough. Maybe tougher than average. But definitely tougher than psoriasis. And that's the only thing that matters.

And my dragon-skinned brothers and sisters, as long as I'm on a quasi-inspirational rant anyway, let me say that you too are tougher than the psoriatic symptom complex. Until some earnest white-coated Danish lab worker isolates our Miracle, we'll just have to tough it out. I say we do it in style. -Faust


Ed's Reponse: What can I say? Humbly ... Thanks, Faust! ... and loudly: MORE! -Ed

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