When 27-year-old Jude Duncan first discovered she had Psoriasis, it started innocuously enough.
“I had just started my third year at university and noticed a small red mark growing above my left eyebrow,” she explained. “I wasn’t sure what it was and went to the doctor after a few weeks when it didn’t go away. I’ve always had many skin issues from adult acne to shingles, and lots of rashes and reactions. My doctor thought it was just another reaction and that it would die down soon with some cream.”
Of course, it didn’t end there.
Months later, Jude realized that the spot was growing, and she wasn’t responding to treatments. After visiting a dermatologist, she was officially diagnosed with Psoriasis.
Jude says that she almost immediately started feeling judgment from other people. “Just before I was diagnosed, I had a member of the public approached me as I was working on the High Street counter and told that she thought ‘people had to be pretty to work here.’ I was devastated by this comment and it deeply affected my confidence. I became very insecure about my psoriasis I was fearful that everyone was looking at it and judging me for it. It became a very lonely place for me to be I felt no one understood what I was going through. I was heavily depressed and filled with anxiety about my skin and how I looked.”
Psoriasis, Jude explains, isn’t just something that impacts your skin.
“So many people think that psoriasis is just a cosmetic issue… but it is so much more than that,” she explains. “It can — and has for me — deeply affected my mental health. I have depression and anxiety which both have been linked to my psoriasis. Psoriasis is also linked to other health conditions such as psoriatic arthritis (PsA) – which I was diagnosed with in December 2018.”
Today, Jude shares her journey of self-love and empowerment on Instagram, posting candid selfies of her skin and sharing her life with others. “It’s such a common condition yet it’s so misunderstood,” she says.
It’s also precisely why she feels called to share her authentic truth with the world.
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Lets talk about Psoriatic Arthritis or as it’s more commonly know PsA. I was diagnosed with #PsA at 26, 5 years after my #psoriasis diagnosis, and it took almost 6 months to get a diagnosis and referral to a rheumatologist. In my experience, I have found the stigma with PsA worse than the stigma with psoriasis. As my psoriasis is incredibly visible, with it being mostly on my face, it is sometimes hard for people to believe that someone in their late 20s has an invisible illness such as psoriatic arthritis. When I’m flaring I’m known to over apologise for walking slow, limping, or feel embarrassed having to ask people to open or do things for me (my PsA mostly effects my right side especially my right hand and ankle). On non-flare days, I move normally but still feel the effects especially the fatigue and exhaustion that comes with the condition. I may look well, but a lot of the time the I’m experiencing invisible side effects. I hope this post has raised a little more awareness around psoriatic arthritis plus the invisible illness and chronic pain that we can feel when having the condition – flare or no-flare! Please share with me your experiences of PsA, I’d love to hear about them and spread more awareness. #psoriaticarthritis #chronicillness #chronicillnesswarrior #invisibleillness #invisibleillnessawareness #fragilebutunbreakable #chronicpainwarrior
“I think that we live in this Instagram world where everything needs to be perfection and that flaws are seen like such a bad thing but to be really honest with you it took a lot for me to accept myself with psoriasis and I’m not going to hide away anymore,” she shared. “I spent so many of the first months and years being really afraid and aware of how people saw me and what people would say that I wasn’t myself anymore. As soon as I realized that actually psoriasis is not my defining feature and it’s not what makes me me, I started presenting a better self to the world.”
Jude hopes that we can continue to normalize skin issues like Psoriasis, so people don’t continually feel the need to make negative comments about it and make others feel even worse than they already do.
“Connecting with people online has been a really positive experience for me and my psoriasis journey,” she says. “It’s one of the reasons why I am so comfortable with my psoriasis and who I am now. I saw these incredible people who were sharing their stories and putting this real positive energy into the world and it made me realize that psoriasis doesn’t have to be a negative thing.”
I think when you’re first diagnosed and you’re told that there is no cure and it possibly won’t go away that has a real negative impact on you so to then be able to find a positive in all it was great. I have made some of my greatest friends on Instagram and I’ve never met them in person and they are the people that I go to when I’m having a bad flareup and need advice if I’m having a bad day or I need cheering up they’re there for me and they completely understand what’s going on and how I’m feeling.
As for what she’d tell anybody newly diagnosed? Remember you’re not defined by it.
“I constantly remind myself of this for all of my conditions,” she says. “I am more than how I look, my skin, my autoimmune conditions, my invisible illness and my mental health conditions. They are part of me, but they in no way shape or form define me. I wish more people had this motto in life.”