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“I would be your boyfriend if you didn’t have psoriasis.”

Jocelyn Hall opens up about navigating relationships with a visible disease.

We had been flirting for weeks. We hung out during recess and chose each other as partners during classroom activities. I even played my first game of footsie with him. But it was not to be. For him, something stood in the way.

“I would be your boyfriend if you didn’t have psoriasis,” my first-grade crush said to me. I still remember those words more than 30 years later. I was crushed. It felt so unfair.

I was diagnosed with psoriasis at the age of four. Growing up, it was hard to make friends. Kids were scared to play with me on the playground. I either sat to the side alone or with other kids who had been unfairly cast aside.

I was bullied by a few kids for something that I had no control over. Going to school became torture. By the time I was in second grade, I had missed so many days of school that I was forced to repeat the grade. This did not help my confidence. 

I don’t want it to seem like I had no friends or boyfriends. It is just that finding the right ones took more sorting out. In a sense, I’m glad I had psoriasis to weed out the ones that would have cared about something so superficial. I realized later that the phrase, “those who mind don’t matter and those that matter don’t mind,” was meant for this sort of thing.

I had a go-to line, “I have psoriasis. It’s a non-communicable disease, so you can’t catch it.” Why would a little kid use the word non-communicable? Looking back, I was obviously using terminology my doctor or parent gave me.

Being a teenage girl is hard enough without psoriasis. Dating was slow for me. I didn’t collect boyfriends as fast as my friends did in middle school. Eventually, I started dating a guy in my junior year of high school. I have dated some great guys throughout the years and have wonderful friends who don’t even factor psoriasis into the equation.

What a Difference Clear Skin Makes

When I went on systemic medication at age 20, my skin went from being covered 80% to 90% with severe lesions to only 3% to 5% with mild lesions within a few months. Having spent the last 16 years of my life with severe psoriasis, that small percentage made it feel like I didn’t have psoriasis at all.

My confidence grew and people began to see me as more than a person with psoriasis. I had always thought I was beautiful. I thought that my psoriasis took away from that. Now that my psoriasis had been mostly cleared, I began to gain more confidence in my appearance. Dating became different. I didn’t feel like I had a secret that needed to be unveiled.

The amount I talked about my psoriasis with friends decreased significantly, and I found myself not having to tell the person I was dating I even had psoriasis until later in the relationship. I was not trying to hide my disease. It was simply a non-topic at that point because it wasn’t as obvious.

I’ve been relatively clear since starting a biologic 17 years ago, which has helped my confidence in the dating world. I don’t feel like my appearance is such a determining factor as to whether a person will want to date me. I feel more confident that what is on the inside is what people are seeing now – instead of just my psoriasis.

When I do have flares, I can handle discussing it with my dating partner better now. The years of being clear have given me the confidence to know that what is on the inside is how people should come to understand me. It is no longer about my psoriasis.

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