How I Took My Life Back From Psoriasis: Alisha’s Story
Alisha Bridges decided she wasn’t going to live in hiding because of her skin condition. Now she encourages others to "come out," too.
By Beth W. Orenstein
Medically Reviewed by Ross Radusky, MD
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About six years ago, Alisha Bridges posted a suicide letter on her blog, Being Me in My Own Skin.
Before you gasp, she wasn’t talking about killing herself. "I was talking about killing the part of me that was ashamed of my psoriasis," she says.
Bridges, 29, has had plaque psoriasis that covers nearly 90 percent of her body since she was in elementary school. "I’m literally covered from my neck to my toes," she says. "The only thing that isn’t covered is my face."
Growing up, Bridges hid her skin as much as she could. When she was 14, she even wore long sleeves and a long maxi skirt instead of a swimsuit to a water park. When friends invited her to a pedi party, she’d lie and say she didn’t like people touching her feet — otherwise she would have had to show her legs, which were covered with the flaky patches common in psoriasis.
Living with psoriasis back then wasn’t particularly easy, says Bridges, now a promotions coordinator for CBS Radio in Atlanta. It wasn’t just the embarrassment; it was also the constant itching and the pain. "If you don’t moisturize your skin, especially in the wintertime, your skin gets big cracks that can bleed and be painful," she says.
Advocating for Psoriasis and Living Better
One day, Bridges decided she'd had enough of feeling sorry for herself. "Living with psoriasis for so long, you realize that you allow it to stop you from accomplishing different things," she says. "Every aspect of my life was built around my having psoriasis, and I decided I didn’t want to do that anymore."
The response to her blog post declaring she would stop living in hiding and "kill that part of me that was holding me back" was overwhelming, says Bridges. The outpouring helped her realize she wasn't alone and turned her into an advocate for others with the inflammatory skin disease.
Bridges says she’d always been something of a class clown and not at all shy. So once she decided to stop hiding her psoriasis she felt much better about herself — and has been able to encourage others living with psoriasis to follow her lead.
Social Support for Psoriasis
Bridges not only writes a blog, she also joined Facebook and Twitter communities for people with psoriasis. She's a community ambassador for the National Psoriasis Foundation, calling upon government officials to support research for skin diseases and encouraging doctors to use the foundation's educational materials and share them with patients. "When I was growing up, I didn’t know about the National Psoriasis Foundation and all the information and support it can provide for people with psoriasis," she says.
It also helps, Bridges says, that her social support system is behind her 100 percent. "My friends and family encourage me to keep going and to continue to be who I am, no matter what," she adds.
Because she's African-American and has a darker complexion, Bridges says her psoriasis isn't as red as it is for most light-skinned people. On the other hand, she says, her skin can quickly start to look white and ashy from the flakes and scales if she skips her moisturizers.
According to National Psoriasis Foundation numbers, about 1.9 percent of African-Americans have psoriasis, compared with 3.6 percent of Caucasians.
But Charles E. Crutchfield III, MD, medical director of Crutchfield Dermatology in Eagan, Minnesota and clinical professor of dermatology at the University of Minnesota Medical School, says that in his practice the numbers are about equal.
4 Ways to Manage Psoriasis
These tips can make living with psoriasis easier:
Keep your skin hydrated. "Use a good moisturizer and gentle cleanser, like Dove or CeraVe," Dr. Crutchfield says. Bridges has found that moisturizing truly is key. "It takes away the flakiness," she says.
Work with a dermatologist. A board-certified dermatologist can help you get on a good psoriasis treatment plan, Crutchfield says. Once you have a psoriasis management plan, follow it carefully, and talk to your doctor if it needs adjusting.
Use concealer. "Sometimes I mix a little liquid foundation or concealer with my lotion and put it on my body where the discoloration is,” Bridges says. "Then it’s not so noticeable."
Don’t hide. When she hid her psoriasis, Bridges says she felt more ashamed and alone.
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