How would you describe your unique experience of having psoriasis?
Growing up as a kid, when I would have major lesions, my mom would tell my twin sister and I that we had “growing dandruff,” to help us feel less embarrassed about our condition. As a kid, my psoriasis was pretty mild, with flare-ups only here and there. When the pandemic hit and I experienced my major flares, it was like night and day. I was in constant pain and discomfort. I did not have access to my providers outside of Zoom calls. I suffered from other health complications that required surgery, causing me further stress, which intensified my flares. It was truly a devastating time. I lost all of my hair in my crown and many days I often felt alone and sad. Thankfully, with support and willpower, I pushed myself through the toughest of days.
How does psoriasis impact your life day-to-day?
Currently my psoriasis is under control. I believe it is due to a combo of things. I was able to manage it with medication, I completely changed my diet to gluten free, I work out daily as I became a fitness instructor during the pandemic, and I meditate/pray daily.
What areas of your life are most impacted by psoriasis?
I spent so much time hiding my lesions out of embarrassment. Many people don’t know what it is that you have and often judge out of fear, believing your condition may be contagious.
Does psoriasis impact your relationships?
I am very vocal about my psoriasis, so it has not impacted my relationships much. I choose the path of just explaining off the bat to avoid stares, etc. when I have a flare.
What do you do to manage and treat your psoriasis?
I have been on topical medications for years. I am not against biologics but have chosen to incorporate lifestyle changes in my diet and activity levels to help manage my symptoms. I also make sure I get all natural vitamin D which many people of color historically lack, and I take vitamins and supplements.
What do you know about psoriasis now that you wish you had known when you were first diagnosed?
I never knew before that stress could have such an impact on my body where it would manifest into a flare. Now that I know this, I am intentional about protecting my peace in all areas of my life.
What do you want others to know about living with psoriasis?
I want others to know that living with psoriasis is not the end of the world. For me, when I experienced my worst flare, it became the beginning of a new world. I was inspired to help others like myself and became a mentor and advocate with NPF. I started Sistas With Psoriasis, I focused on my health, and I became a group fitness instructor. I also connected to some of the most incredible people who became my go-tos, and I finally was able to prioritize my self-care. This may not be everyone’s experience, but for me, with so much “bad” people might see with the disease, I was able to truly experience so much “good.”
If you would like to connect with Ayesha or follow along on her continuing journey, you can find her on Instagram @sistaswithpsoriasis. And to meet more people like Ayesha who are thriving with psoriasis, follow NPF on Instagram and Facebook.
Answers are lightly edited for clarity and style.