Jude Duncan: How My Psoriasis Saved Me From Toxic Positivity

Jude lives in Glasgow, Scotland and she has been living with psoriasis since college. When she was diagnosed with psoriasis, her perspective on self-honesty, self-realization, and self-acceptance was changed forever.

“Not many people talk about facial psoriasis, and that’s weird because it’s something you can’t hide. I remember when I was diagnosed. I was in my last year of university which is a pretty stressful year and it started appearing and I didn’t know what it was. I’ve had a lot of skin conditions like rashes and shingles, but they just couldn’t figure out what it was. Nothing was working. That was really tough because it’s so hard to know that you’re unwell when you don’t know what is wrong. Plus, it was right in the middle of my forehead so I couldn’t have even hidden it if I wanted to, and I was really insecure about that.”

Jude describes a moment where she thought her skin insecurities were confirmed as true when in reality, they were not. “I was working at this shop, and this woman turned to me and said - what’s wrong with your face?” And I just said “nothing,” and I tried to brush it off. And she said - “Oh, okay. I thought you had to be pretty to work here.” And like - I just wanted the ground to swallow me whole at that point. From that moment on, I was like - everyone is looking at my skin. Everyone is whispering about my skin. Everybody is laughing at my skin. I was absolutely convinced that everyone noticed, everyone was making fun of it, and that everyone was commenting on it. It made me really aware of people, and that put me in a really dark place. It was really bad, and I worked really hard to get out of that place.”

“I came to a point where I thought that I was over it, and then I got diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis, and I started having those flairs. Psoriatic arthritis is when the same thing that happens to your skin starts happening to your joints. It’s really bad joint stiffness, inflammation, and swelling. When I got diagnosed with it, I felt like I was starting all over again. I was reliving all of the feelings of being diagnosed with psoriasis again. It was a deja vu, but the second time around, it was so much harder.”

“I was already suffering from bad depression, and I started getting patches including ones my belly button, and my whole right side was really swollen and sore. My pinky and my right toe were like cocktail sausages. They were really fat. I literally went from being absolutely fine to not being able to walk two minutes down the street. I couldn’t move, and when I could move, I was in agonizing pain. I’m now on medication that helps me live a normal life, but I do have to use aides. What made it worse with psoriatic arthritis is that you can’t see it. With psoriasis, people can see how red and flaky it is so they believe you. But with psoriatic arthritis, you can’t see how much pain it is, and people are always like - “oh, it can’t be that sore.” Yet, there were times where I couldn’t walk five minutes without crying. I just pressed all of my feelings down.”

Judith's hair falls over left eyes as she tilts her head to the right. She opens her eyes a bit widely and gives a small smile like she is presently surprised at something.

“But then, I just broke and I broke hard and there is nothing worse than that feeling of brokenness once you’ve hit rock bottom.”

“And that’s when I learned that breaking is worse than dealing with your feeling just a little bit at a time. If I could go back and tell myself one thing, I’d be like - just deal with your feelings for just a half an hour a day. It’s going to make you feel better. You need to take back some of the control that your conditions are having on you by addressing it. This will actually give you more control than pushing it down.”

“Now, when I feel sad about my psoriasis, I will have a cry, and not talk to anyone. I do all of that sort of stuff, but I’ll do it for a day or for an hour, and then I’ll make the intention to get back into the world. It’s better to do it this way because otherwise, it all builds up, and then you crash. Whereas if you take it a little bit at a time, you’re going to have a better outcome because you’re not constantly repressing things and making them boil up. You’re going to feel so much better when you give yourself that release. That’s why I am so over toxic positivity! No, like - it’s okay not to be okay. Your feelings are valid. We’re all in different boats within the same storm. Your feelings are valid. I know that on the grand scale of things, psoriasis might not be as bad as other illnesses, but you shouldn’t invalidate people. And when people give unsolicited advice or criticism, it doesn’t make the person feel any better. We need to stop invalidating people and pushing them down because we can’t see their pain.”

Judith takes a selfie, and her green eyes connect with ours.

“When someone says “I’m in pain” we need to start taking that as fact because I have spoken to so many people in the invisible illness community. Why would we make this up? We aren’t attention-seeking. We just wanted to live a pain-free life. People with chronic illness are totally valid in what they feel. For everyone, all of your feelings of sadness, anxiety, or anger are valid, and they are natural. They are human. Find your community and find people who understand what it’s like to live through the things that you have. You are not alone. Go and find that community because holding it inside isn’t going to help; it’s only going to tear you up even more. I ignored it for so long, and that’s why I do what I do on Instagram because I never want anyone to feel the way that I did. I never want that loneliness for anyone. While my psoriasis is still my biggest insecurity, I know now that I am more than my condition, and if people can’t see that, that’s on them.”