This is pretty much just me complaining and describing a personal problem that I'm having. I doubt very much that I'm going to relate it back to anything, so if you're not interested in reading about my personal life, I'd skip this one.
I've taken to joking a little bit that I'm going to bring back spots, but I have what is known as a "skin condition". Say hello to my right and left legs. Those lovely red spots are called plaques, and are caused by psoriasis. If my derm's reaction is any indication, I've got at least a moderately seriously case. The words "Oh, that's not fair" have left his mouth on multiple visits. Sadly, his sympathy has done little to ease my discomfort. As you can see, it's kind of all over my legs, particularly my lower legs. It's also covering my torso, arms, face and head. Even on and in my ears. Which is to say, pretty much my whole body. I sort of think I'm lucky, in a way, that it's worse on my legs than anywhere else. And, really, it could still be worse, even there. Unluckily, it's second worst on my head and face.
If you don't have psoriasis, I think it's generally considered a relatively benign thing to have. Relatively speaking, of course. It's not going to kill me, for example. As far as I know, it's not going to cause any major organ damage, either. It's not going to attack my brain. It's not going to do... well... much of anything, except cause those rather bright red spots to appear all over my body.
Did I mention that they burn? No? Oh, well. They burn, too. They itch almost constantly, but I use moisturizing lotion to try to cut back on the itching, and that helps a lot. Periodically, though, I experience what I can only describe as an intense burning sensation. Like my leg is covered in acid. While that comes and goes, it's most intense usually when I'm getting a little tired, and I'm preparing for bed. A few times, the pain has been intense enough to give me spasms. Which can make it difficult to fall asleep, to say the least.
Another interesting fact about psoriasis: it's exacerbated by stress.
Which is awesome, because, as you might imagine, having itchy, burning, bright red splotches all over you body, including your face, can be a fairly stressful situation. Particularly since, and this is really awesome, too (which is to say, distinctly not), they become dry and flake off. The skin on the spots gets very dry, and almost leathery in texture, or sometimes raised and coarse. Then it flakes and peels off, almost like a sunburn. Only, this happens on a daily basis. And has a tendancy to look like dandruff, when it comes off my scalp.
See, psoriasis is basically the body producing skin at an accelerated rate. Normal skin cells mature and fall off the body about every 28 to 30 days. Psoriatic skin cell take only 3 days to mature and move to the surface. Then, instead of being shed off, they pile up and form those bright splotches. Which then crack and flake, since they're mostly formed by piles of irritated dying and dead skin cells.
It was bad enough when it was just my legs that were afflicted. It was painful, and annoying to be constantly putting on lotions and trying to resist the urge to scratch. But, as it's spread over the rest of my body, I've also had to start dealing with other people's reactions. Because, uh... people stare. I've taken to wearing a hat, even while I'm indoors, unless I have to to take it off, because it helps cover up the flaking skin on my scalp and along my hairline (Oh, did I also mention psoriasis can lead to extensive hair loss? No? It can lead to extensive hair loss), but it's not like I can hide my face. I've let my beard grow in, which helps a little, but I think that's mostly psychological.
My friends and co-workers know about it, but I'm not going to stop and tell every random stranger that gives me weird looks when I'm trying to shop "Oh, yeah, I'm not diseased or dirty. Well, I mean, I guess I am sort of diseased, but it's a genetic skin condition called psoriasis." Nor would I want to.
If you do any research on psoriasis, one of the things you'll discover is that there's lots of talk about the link between depression and psoriasis. Or how psoriasis sufferers go through a loss of self-esteem. Well, duh. You know why? Because people tend to be both fascinated and repulsed. The worst is when I'm having a good day, and it's not itching too much, and I manage to forget about it for a little while, and I'll go out, and someone will look at me in that way that makes it clear that they're... I don't know exactly what they're thinking... but they're staring at me. And I don't know whether to be angry, or offended, or embarrassed, and I mostly just want to go hide.
I've been ruminating on talking about this for a while, now. I'm sure I could relate it to all kinds of different things, but, hell... even while I'm sitting here looking at that picture on my blog, and thinking about how depressing it is that I pretty much look nothing like that now because, yeah, I'm fucking polka-dotted, I also feel terribly guilty. Because the thing is, compared to the other two men in my immediate family, I won the genetic jackpot. All three of us suffer from a chronic, incurable ailment. At least mine is mostly cosmetic. MS and seizures seem a lot more significant by comparison.
Anyway, there it is. I don't know what else to say. So I won't.