My name is Sharlene and I am a psoriasis warrior.

I call myself a warrior because I have a vowed to fight the stigma attached to having psoriasis and to live a happy, beautiful life. Somedays, it is not easy.  As I write this, I have bleeding lesions on my scalp. It has been a rough week and my scalp psoriasis has flared up.I discover new things about the impact of psoriasis on my life every day and I remain positive and more determined to create awareness about psoriasis. For me, living with psoriasis is a learning experience as every day I am learning how to live a better life with this chronic condition.

When I was first diagnosed with psoriasis, I had just become a mother for the first time and had to learn how to cope with the challenges of motherhood and managing my psoriasis. Somedays I burst into tears from the stress of it all. Going back into the workspace after maternity leave presented a whole set of new challenges. It was hugely embarrassing to sit in boardroom meetings and try not to scratch. Colleagues would often dust the flakes that fell onto my shoulders and I would quickly explain that I had a bad case of dandruff. I did not have the time or the energy to explain what psoriasis was to my colleagues so I lied and said it was dandruff. It seemed easier that way.

This “denial” went on for months until one day I found myself standing in front of the bathroom mirror at work in tears. I did not ask for psoriasis but I have it and I need to make peace with it.Things changed that day. I started talking about psoriasis. I spoke to anyone who would listen, family, friends, colleagues, and people in the supermarket queue. The more I spoke about it, the easier it became to live positively with psoriasis.

I believe that we need more psoriasis awareness in South Africa and I am on a mission to create it.  People can be so kind and understanding when you speak from your heart as I do when it comes to my psoriasis. I am reaching out to people, even people in the salon I go to. After I explained my condition, they have offered to gently massage my scales off my scalp when it is time to wash my hair. The little things make a huge difference.

I don’t cry about having psoriasis anymore, it’s part of my journey here and I set out each day to talk about my experiences and how I manage the disease. I hope that in some way, I can touch or inspire others and help create army of psoriasis warriors.