By: Charlotte Agnew
For many years I’ve owned a photography account on Instagram where I would only post photos of pretty things. I used to take great care in making sure that my account had a certain aesthetic, ‘cause that’s just what people do. It isn’t just with Instagram, but the perfectionist that I am makes sure that my Pinterest pins are categorised into neat folders, with only the pretty pins made public for others to see. Even in real life, the way I dress is heavily influenced by what I see other people wear and certain styles that are portrayed on social media.I am also aware that there is a stigma around social media being used to portray the ‘perfect life’. One time in high school, I was not invited to a party and all of my friends were. The photos from that event were plastered all over social media - making me feel very left out.
In January 2018, I started to get these strange red dots all over my body. In a short matter of time, these dots spread into inflamed, red and flaky skin. My goodness, it was so painful because of how itchy it was. Even though the doctors diagnosed me with psoriasis, I still felt a huge sense of embarrassment because the flaky skin looked just like dandruff to other people.
Psoriasis is a skin condition which causes large areas of red scaly skin as a result of my immune system attacking itself. The thing that I found hard about it was that it wasn’t something that went away overnight. Instead, it continued to spread whilst also knocking down my confidence. It wasn’t pretty, and I felt isolated because I did not know anybody with the same skin as me.
One night I was scrolling through Instagram’s trending page, looking at other people’s flawless skin. It was upsetting because I was not happy with the way that I looked, especially because of my skin. However, I decided to search up ‘#psoriasis’ and I was so shocked. It took me by full surprise to find so many pictures of other psoriasis sufferers sharing photos of their skin. It felt so liberating to see people sharing their problems, as well as supporting one another. I was finally able to say “Yes! Me too!” because I could one-hundred percent relate.
Almost immediately, I created a new Instagram account to share my story, as well as joined the psoriasis community. It did not take long before I was talking and sharing advice with other people. What was also liberating was noticing how much the tables had turned because my confidence started to grow again. I no longer felt alienated.
It’s interesting because usually, there is a lot of pressure with social media to meet certain expectations. People sometimes log off because it can get overwhelming, especially if it affects their confidence. However in my case, social media has done the opposite and has turned a negative into a positive. It has created a driving force of motivation because I want somebody else with the same condition, either online or in public, to see my skin and think, “Yes! Me too!”
Already, I have noticed the effect of being open and honest about my skin online. It even gave me the confidence to post a photo of myself in a swimsuit on the beach. It wasn’t your typical tanned, flawless skin beach photo that usually floats Instagram’s trending page, but others having seen my red pattern, started sending me photos of themselves in swimsuits!! In all honesty, I find these actions so inspiring because I know it is helping other people escape the alienating feeling that psoriasis often creates.
Not only does it help others to feel better about their bodies, but it helps me in return. At the beginning of my journey when my psoriatic flare-up was bad, I was online a lot. However, as my skin heals I am spending less time on the account, but I still want to be an active psoriasis spokesperson for as long as I can because people are getting flare-ups all the time. I also feel that spreading awareness will be just as important in a few years time as it is now. I may get another flare-up in the future, so my journey may still have a long way to go.Going back to my photography account, I still do care about ‘aesthetics’ which is why I wanted to create an artsy looking psoriasis account. Successfully, it has turned the auto-immune disease into a unique pattern (that also looks pretty funky – haha!). You can follow me @itsonlypsoriasis
*** Think about a time you helped someone overcome their personal struggle, how did you feel? Comment below with the feelings you felt!***