How music helped me cope with psoriasis

| Frank Doris

Many people with psoriasis are reluctant to talk about their condition. I know because I was once one of them. Now that I’m older, I feel like I must be a voice for those who don’t want to because they’re too embarrassed or it’s too painful for them to share their feelings.

I was a shy kid and being diagnosed with psoriasis didn’t help. Just as I became a teenager with all its awkwardness, my skin became covered with plaques that made me ashamed of how I looked and embittered at having a disease that caused others to stare.

So why didn’t I descend into constant self-pity? Because I resolved not to let psoriasis define who I am. And because playing the guitar brought emotional release and gave me a sense of self-worth.

I’ve always loved music.

I played viola in elementary school and got an electric guitar for my bar mitzvah. In a strange twist of fate, I started lessons a month before I was first diagnosed with psoriasis at age 13. I’m 60 now.

I discovered I had a natural talent for guitar playing. And when I strapped on a guitar, I was transformed from feeling ugly and ashamed to having self-confidence. I wasn’t some undesirable freak; I was a guitar player — and a good one.

I got so adept that, in the late 1970s and 1980s, the Lines — the New Wave band I was in — became a successful local act to the point where we played with Duran Duran on their first-ever U.S. gig. We played with the Ramones, the Jam, the Go-Go’s and many other top bands.

Still, sometimes I would get so embarrassed about my psoriasis that I’d get dressed alone instead of in the dressing room so the other musicians wouldn’t see my skin. Sometimes when the band was really cooking and the audience was loving it, all I could think about was whether my psoriasis was showing under the stage lights.

But whenever my psoriasis got me down, I channeled my frustration into my guitar playing. I still do.

By diverting that emotional energy into my playing instead of directing negative feelings at myself, I learned to take those otherwise self-destructive feelings and turn them into something positive.

Like a vinyl record, there are two sides to my musical story. Playing the guitar made me feel better about myself and my psoriasis. And having psoriasis has made me a better guitar player.

Once I reached my mid-20s, I realized I wasn’t going to be a rock star, and career and family took over. Yet two things have remained constant in my life: my psoriasis and my passion for music.

Psoriasis is forever — I now take a biologic drug that has helped but not cured it — and I have never stopped playing guitar and getting better at it. Before every gig, I look at the other band members and say, “Play it like you mean it!”

I know dealing with psoriasis is hard. But whether it’s music, golf, cooking or something else, having an outlet you’re passionate about can make living with psoriasis a lot easier.

Frank Doris is a writer, PR professional and dedicated musician living with psoriatic disease in the New York area. Top photo by Robert Berkowitz.

The opinions expressed by National Psoriasis Foundation Blog contributors are their own and do not reflect the opinions or positions of the National Psoriasis Foundation. The information posted on the NPF Blog is not intended as, and is not, a substitute for professional medical advice.


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