For a very long time, psoriasis was something that Alisha Bridges hid from those around her.
But a few years ago, that changed. She posted a "suicide" letter on her blog, Being Me in My Own Skin, "killing" the part of herself that felt ashamed of her severe psoriasis:
"Well today, I end it all. All the doubt, all the hiding when people ask questions, trying to deny who I am," she wrote in 2012.
Since then, Bridges, a 27-year-old Atlanta-based radio promotions and marketing executive, has made connecting with others living with psoriasis her personal mission. And as part of her goal to build a supportive community in her city, she recently helped to bring the first ever Walk to Cure Psoriasis to Atlanta.
The event was a huge success, raising $44,000.
Speaking out makes the difference
Dr. Jamie Weisman's clinic, Medical Dermatology Specialists in Atlanta, was a presenting sponsor of the Walk. Weiseman said she, her family, friends, patients and co-workers wanted to be involved in part because of the very issues that Bridges described.
"I have had the privilege of knowing and caring for many patients with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis," she said. "Patients have told me of the stares and comments, the isolation and pain and discomfort they experience. This disease is far more than skin deep."
To spread the word about the walk, Bridges used social media. She said she's been amazed at the response she's received.
"I have a friend whose sister has psoriasis, and he told me he never knew how much this disease affects you until he read what I wrote about it," she said.
Social media spread the word
Another young woman gave a presentation in her public speaking class about her experience after connecting with Bridges through Twitter.
"That was really touching to me," said Bridges. "It makes me realize that I'm helping people and giving them encouragement.
"Honestly, it's surreal. I never in a million years thought that I would be so open about talking about this disease," Bridges said. "I basically decided to start life over, differently."
Tips for starting a Walk
Bridges has a goal of continuing the Atlanta walk, and making more money for psoriatic disease research every year.
She encourages those looking to bring a new Walk to their area to use the power of social media. But mostly, she encourages those living with psoriasis to be open and honest about their experience.
"Make sure you really tell your story," she said.
Want to start a Walk or event in your community? Contact [email protected] to get started.
Driving discovery, creating community
For more than 50 years, we’ve been driving efforts to cure psoriatic disease and improve the lives of those affected. But there’s still plenty to do! Learn how you can help our advocacy team shape the laws and policies that affect people with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis – in your state and across the country. Help us raise funds to support research by joining Team NPF, where you can walk, run, cycle, play bingo or create your own fundraising event. If you or someone you love needs free, personalized support for living a healthier life with psoriatic disease, contact our Patient Navigation Center. And keep the National Psoriasis Foundation going strong by making a donation today. Together, we will find a cure.