Depression and Psoriasis

I learned the hard way that depression and psoriasis have a very real connection. Prior to my official diagnosis (and even after), I found myself in some dark places. I should also note that around the same time I was diagnosed as manic depressive or bipolar. My skin disease and my mental illness combined created a whirlwind of emotions that, at the time, I was working through virtually alone. I was lost and scared, to say the least. My friends and family were amazing support systems but there’s only so much people outside of your condition(s) can truly comprehend. But they did the best that they could. It became apparent to me that I needed to seek professional help and outlets outside of my inner circle to talk to.

What’s up with the Psoriasis/Depression connection?

I didn’t understand how something that seemed to be happening on the outside of me could be affecting things churning around on the inside of me. And even when I learned that psoriasis does in fact come from things happening inside of your body, I still couldn’t see the connection. At this point in my disease I was hiding most of my body, even on those hot summer days. I was even hiding myself, holed up in my house, cutting off connection with almost everyone.

When I did venture out into the outside world, I was stared at, pointed at, whispered about and avoided. Even people who knew me would avoid physical contact prior to understanding my disease. And who could blame them? What if I was contagious!? The combination of all these things, the simple act of not being hugged or kissed, took a toll on my mental health.

“An August 2010 study published in the journal Archives of Dermatology found that those living with psoriasis have a 39 percent increased risk of being diagnosed with depression than those without the disease, while the risk of an anxiety diagnosis is 31 percent higher. Another study, published in the Journal of Rheumatology in April 2014, found that those with psoriatic arthritis and psoriasis suffer higher rates of anxiety and depression than those with psoriasis alone.”(1)

After a little research and learning the statistics, I began to wonder what was going on INSIDE of me to cause this sense of sadness. I read that researchers found increased levels of cytokines — a key player in psoriatic disease — in people with depression. “Cytokines are a broad and loose category of small proteins (~5–20 kDa) that are important in cell signaling. Their release has an effect on the behavior of cells around them.” (2) Stress can trigger a mast amount of cells to release inflammatory cytokines and, in turn, cause the brain to release chemicals that trigger depression. (This whole process is, I’m sure, a lot more complicated but I broke it down to the simplest terms so that I could understand it.)

O.K., Great, So Now What?

Now that I (kind of) understood the link between my skin and my brain, I knew it was time to seek some help. For me, personally, the first thing to tackle was my manic depression by finding a professional. (But that’s a whole other blog.) Once that was taken care of, I was ready to take on my psoriasis-triggered sadness.

Here are some steps I recommend taking:

  • Don’t be afraid to reach out to people who might be going through the same thing OR just understand what you are going through. Mentors are available to you through the National Psoriasis foundation. Whether they have dealt with depression or not, they’re just great, understanding people who know what you are dealing with in terms of your disease.
  • Please, please, please find a healthcare professional. Therapy is NOT something to be ashamed of. Sometimes just getting it all off your chest can lift what seems like tons of weight of your shoulders.
  • If this is something you may need to be medicated for, talk to your therapist and he or she will be happy to recommend you to someone who is legally able to prescribe you the right medications. NEVER self medicate.
  • Find a support group. Some of my favorite people to talk to on a rough day are friends I have made through the National Psoriasis Foundation. They’re always just one text or phone call away. You can find their online community HERE
  • On a similar note, find a psoriasis blogger! Reach out to them and I’m sure they will be happy to chat with you and guide you in the right direction.

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Please remember there is always help and hope out there. Find what works for you and stick to it!

Keep Calm and Pspot On Friends xoxo Britt

(1) https://www.psoriasis.org/advance/link-between-psoriatic-disease-and-mental-illness

(2) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cytokine

*Images thanks to http://www.LeafScience.com and http://www.namikauai.com

** DISCLAIMER: THIS BLOG DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE

The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained on this website are for informational purposes only. The purpose of this website is to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

It’s Just Psoriasis, It’s Not Contagious

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As I brave my winter skin, I also brace myself for the stares and comments that come along with it. As a New York native, I can say I am fairly accustomed to the bizarre and odd things that one sees in this city. Cirque du Soleil on the train… questionable food on the streets sold from even more questionable vans… fashion statements galore… you name it, we have it. But what happens when you are on the other end of the staring?

I don’t care how long you have Psoriasis, you never get used to the stares. You never get used to the moving of seats on the train just to get away from you. You never get used to the questions. And, oddly enough, for a city that considers itself so diverse and open-minded, I think we can be one of the most close minded cities in the world.

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I’ll never forget standing on the street one day waiting for my car to be taken out of valet. A little kid, maybe four or five years old, was getting out of the car with his parents and he asked his mom if she thought all the bug bites on my skin hurt. It was maybe one of the most innocent things I had encountered concerning my disease. He didn’t mean anything by it and it was almost sweet. But the way it hit me and hurt me will never leave me. Kids can be so innocent and so raw.

Walking by unusual people every day never bothered me. It still doesn’t. But to suddenly be my own little side show was surprising to me. I never really saw it that way but I was this little freak roaming the streets of New York. I didn’t fit in! And all because of my SKIN!

I think my point is… take it with a grain of salt. Try not to slide your sleeves down to make people feel comfortable, or sit by yourself on the train away from everyone intentionally. If someone has an issue with your skin, let them ask you about it. You’ll be surprised how many people will sigh when you say, “it’s just psoriasis. it’s not contagious.”

Winter And Your Skin: 7 Tips to Helping Your Psoriasis

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As most Psoriasis patients know, winter can be the hardest month to bare. In the three years that I have had Psoriasis, I notice that the fall and winter season has not been kind to my skin. But why?

According to the National Psoriasis Foundation* “A combination of dry air, decreased sunlight exposure, and colder temperatures can all contribute to winter psoriasis flares. Frequent moisturizing and use of a home humidifier can help alleviate some of the symptoms. Discuss with your doctor possible treatments to control your psoriasis in the winter.”

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I DO suggest you consult your physician but here are some things that help me during the snowy months:

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1- Moisturize, Moisturize, Moisturize.

Keep your skin moist to ease the pain, redness and scaling. The thicker the cream or ointment, the better it is at locking water into your skin. Use moisturizing soap and a creamy lotion after you shower. I use fragrance-free products like baby lotion or Aveeno.

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2- Choose soothing baths over hot showers.

I know, I know. I hate baths too but they really do help. Long showers in hot water remove moisture from your skin. If you are going to shower, shower in warm water just long enough to soap up and rinse off. (Use gentle soaps like baby soap or soaps with Tar in them- I love Grandpa Brand Soaps personally) If you choose a bath, Sprinkle finely ground oatmeal (they sell them in packets at the drug store), Epsom Salts or Dead Sea salts. Make sure the bath is WARM not hot and soak for about 15 minutes to slough off scales, soothe itching, and, most importantly, unwind. Apply moisturizing cream or lotion right after to lock the water in.

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3- Use a humidifier.

While a humidifier doesn’t work for me personally because my room is a hot box as it is, I do recommend it. To wake up with smooth skin, use a device to keep indoor air moist. Make sure you clean the humidifier or bacteria will build up and that helps no one.

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4- Wear soft layers.

Cold weather and wind can irritate your skin and trigger flare-ups. They can also make psoriasis in your joints more painful. Bundle up in a soft scarf, hat, and gloves when you go outside to protect exposed areas of skin. Dress in layers you can peel off to avoid getting too hot — sweating can make psoriasis worse. Choose cotton over wool, denim, and other fabrics that are more likely to bother your skin. When I put on creams before bed, I like to keep a pair or two of psoriasis- friendly pajamas so I don’t worry about stains.

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5- Drink water.

To pump up moisture, drink plenty of water. You’ll know if you’re getting enough because your urine will be a pale yellow. Drinking 8, 8oz cups of water is not only recommended for daily use in general but it also helps your skin. If your urine is bright yellow or dark-colored, you may need more water.

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6- Ease stress.

I know it’s hard, the winter holidays are full of cheer but also full of stress. Stress, in my experience, always makes my psoriasis worse. Plan time to relax. A massage wouldn’t hurt if you can afford it (or have a loving partner who is willing to exercise his or her hands). Exercise also helps. So get that workout in and grab a loving massage.

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7- Consult your doctor.

If nothing seems to be working, please consult your doctor. There are many options. I personally love UV Therapy but leave it to your doctor to decide what is best for you.

 

So grab that nice, soothing bath… lotion up… toss that humidifier on high and grab that massage you deserve. The holidays are for celebrating, not for skin flaking.

Goodbye Black Clothes: A Love Poem ?

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Goodbye black clothes,
Wherever you are.
Trapped in my closet,
The trunk of my car?

Goodbye black clothes,
That I’ve tucked away.
The depths of my drawers,
In bins, where I can’t say.

Goodbye black clothes,
That collect all my flakes.
I’ll never see you,
On one of my dates.

Goodbye black clothes,
I’ve loved you so much.
Your smell from the dryer,
Your soft, gentle touch.

Goodbye black clothes,
It’s great when it lasts.
Too bad I have skin,
Covered in plaques.

Table For 3!: My Date, My Psoriasis and Me.

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So I have a date the other night but my scalp had other plans. It was beginning to look A LOT like Christmas and I had a few hours to get ready! Is my dog sick and I need to cancel? Did I injure myself and need to reschedule? Do I wear a hat and cover some of my face on our first date? UGHHHHH.

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No, Brittany! You’re going to woman up and figure this out. O.K., so my first problem was that there was no way I could leave my hair down. It was obviously flaky and I DIDN’T want to flake on this date (literally – in both ways) so that was out. Ponytail? Meh, I can’t really pull it off, PLUS, it shows the terrible amount of flaky build-up all around the frame of my face. SIGH… Wouldn’t it be great if I had bangs? Eureka!!!

Faux bangs! They’re cute enough with a little, messy bun but can be sexy too. Done.

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First, I brushed out my hair and applied some hair oil to my scalp. You can use any. I have about ten varieties.

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Second, I starting curling sections of my hair, bit by bit.

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Third… I already have side bangs but they are long-ish. It doesn’t matter how long your hair is, just take a section of the front like you would see on someone who has bangs, make sure its even and push back the rest of your hair so it’s out of the way. I twisted the “bang” part and put a little clip on it to hold it in place.

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Fourth, after you twist the little section you want to be your bangs- pull them up towards the back of your head. Stop when the bottom of the bangs reaches the length you want. I left mine in my eyes a little so I could curl them just a tad and mess them up. Pin them back with bobby pins and try and get them as close to your scalp as possible so you don’t have an odd bump.

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Last but not least, I threw my hair up into a curly, messy bun with some pins. Tossed a little hairspray into it. Moved some pieces around for a messy, sexy look and voila! No Psoriasis in site. For tonight.

And while I know this is not a long term solution for your scalp psoriasis, it did get me to and through the date.

Mission Accomplished.

RECIPE: DIY Strawberry Fruit “Roll-Ups”

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As you know from reading my blog, I try to maintain a healthy diet for my Pso-Sanity. Well, luckily I’m not much of a sweet person but when I got a craving, I tried to find alternatives to sugary things I liked. I came across these fruit “roll-up” imitations a while ago and they hit the spot. You don’t even need to add sugar!!!

Everyone has their own method to making these at-home fruit “roll-ups” or “fruit leather”. You can google a bunch on the internet but here’s my method. I do not use a dehydrator but if you have one or want to purchase one, I’m sure the process goes along much smoother.

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Prep time:  5 mins
Cook time:  6 hours
Total time:  6 hours 5 mins

What You’ll Need:

4 Cups of strawberries

Wax paper (O.K. to cook in oven with or you’ll have a melted mess that doesn’t taste good)

Shallow baking tray

Blender

Oven

INSTRUCTIONS
1. Preheat oven to its lowest setting, somewhere around 150 to 170 degrees.
2. Line two half-sheet pans with parchment paper or a Silpat baking mat.

Screen Shot 2016-09-14 at 8.43.39 PM.png3. Puree the strawberries in a food processor or high-speed blender.

4. Taste the puree and add sugar if needed. (I do not add sugar as I feel like it’s healthy and sweet enough as is.)

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5. Spread the fruit puree in a thin, even layer on the baking sheets. The puree should not be more than ⅛ thick. (To measure, stick a skewer in the puree and then measure how far up the skewer the puree comes.)

6. Dry the puree in the oven until darkened, dry to the touch and pliable, approximately six hours.

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7. Peel the fruit leather off the Silpat or parchment paper and cut into strips

8.Store in an airtight container.

Of course mine sometimes look like broken messes of sticky delicious fruit roll-up pieces but, hey, who cares if it’s healthy and yummy, right!?

“Stay Calm and Spot on” -Brittany xo

 

 

 

5 Yoga Poses That Will Help Your Psoriasis

You’re confused. I get it. Yoga? Psoriasis? WTF?

We all know Psoriasis loves stress. It’s like a fat guy finding an unlimited buffet for Free. Whaaaaaat? Get me on that line! (sorry, that was my inner fat, buffet-loving person). So how can we relieve it?

I can totally give you a list of 100 things. O.K. maybe like 28-ish. But my point is that yoga is a definite stress reliever. A According to a survey conducted by the International Journal Of Yoga, “of nearly 4,000 people, Australian researchers found that more than 58 percent of yoga practitioners started yoga for stress-reducing benefits, and nearly 80 percent continued in their yoga practice for this benefit.” Can anyone say #TeamYoga ?

Here are 5 Yoga poses/techniques to start your day (or finish your day) with. A little body bending never hurt anybody. Never mind, I take that back.

This pose looks easy, because it’s basically just standing. But it’s the basis for all of the other standing poses and inversions. If you do this actively, you will be working your torso and legs, and you will be grounding yourself. This can be great for confidence and easing anxiety.

Tadasana
Posture Tip
Your spine, especially your pelvis, should be neutral. That means you will have a slight curve in your lower spine. Many of us today, from sitting so much, either push our booties out too much or pull our pelvises in. A neutral lower spine and pelvis should have a slight curve, and you shouldn’t have any muscles clenched in your hips or your lower back.
    1. Stand with your big toes barely touching, and your heels slightly apart. A good way to gauge your stance is to see if your second toes are parallel. Press into all four corners of your feet: big toe, little toe, right side heel, left side heel. As you push into your feet, feel how that engages your entire leg and keeps those muscles active.
    2. Take a deep breath and roll your shoulders up and back, releasing them down, so your shoulder blades are resting toward each other and your neck is long. Take a few deep breaths here. Close your eyes if you like.

2. Forward Fold (Uttanasana)

When you’re ready to move on, take a deep breath.

Uttanasana
    1. On your inhale, lift your arms to the sides and up, over your head. On your exhale, release your arms (either in front of your body or out to the side, like a swan dive) as you fold your torso over your legs. On the first time through, have at least a slight bend in your knees. No matter how flexible you are, your hamstrings will be cold when starting out, and you’ll want to be gentle with them.
    2. As you relax into the pose more, begin to straighten your legs as far as feels good. Anything that pinches or is a shooting pain should immediately stop your movement. Let gravity do the work here; don’t pull yourself down and try to force the fold. You can put yours hands on your shins, your feet, or the floor. This passively lengthens your spine and your hamstrings, and it’s also a great way to work on balance.

3. Plank Pose (Uttihita Chaturanga Dandasana)

This is a very active pose that works all the muscles of your front body.

Uttihita Chaturanga Dandasana
Posture Tip
Your shoulders should be directly over your wrists, and your arm bones should be firmly in their sockets. Try not to anticipate movement by pushing up out of your shoulder sockets, but don’t rest into them either.
    1. From Forward Fold, put your hands flat on the floor, bending your knees as much as needed to do so. Step one leg at a time back, until you are in a high plank pose.
    2. Press into your hands, keep your legs parallel and engaged, and pull your bellybutton toward your spine. Take a few deep breaths here, working your core and your arms.

Press into your hands, keep your legs parallel and engaged, and pull your bellybutton toward your spine. Take a few deep breaths here, working your core and your arms.

4. Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

This pose elongates your spine, stretches your back leg muscles, and aids in digestion. Since it’s a mild inversion, it can release stress, help with headaches, and calm the nervous system.

Adho Mukha Svanasana
Posture Tip
It’s easy to drop a little too much and get “banana back” or to hunch your shoulders. A good way to figure this pose out as a beginner is to get a friend to look at the shape you are making from the side. Your upper body, from your hands on the floor up to your hips, should be relatively straight, allowing for some curves due to natural spine curves.
    1. From Plank Pose, push into your hands and lift your hips up and back on the inhale. One thing that can be tricky with this pose is, again, keeping your shoulders engaged but not working too hard, and keeping a neutral spine.
    2. Your legs should be straight, and your heels working toward the floor. There will probably be some space between your heels and the floor. You could be very flexible, but if, for instance, your legs are a bit on the long side, you probably won’t have your heels all the way to the floor. That’s fine. Keep your legs active and heels reaching toward the ground. Your first time in this pose, pedal out your feet a little to warm up your leg muscles.

5. Child’s Pose (Balasana)

In any yoga class, this is a good pose to come to if you want to rest and reset your nervous system.

Balasana
  1. In Downward Facing Dog, take a deep breath. On the exhale, release your knees to the floor, pull your hips back to your heels, and rest your forehead on the floor. You can either leave your arms stretched in front of you or pull them next to your body, hands resting palms up near your feet.
  2. This is a restorative pose, so adjust it to your needs. If you want to widen your knees a bit, do so. Like all forward folds, this pose is nurturing. It relaxes your spine, shoulders, and neck, and massages your internal organs.

 *Poses thanks to HealthLine.com  –  http://www.healthline.com/health/fitness-exercise/beginner-yoga-poses#6

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