Tag Archives: See Psoriasis: Look Deeper

PSORIASIS BLOG – FRUIT OF THE LOON

FRUIT OF THE LOON

Christmas 2012 … (cue clanging chimes of doom)

OK, I may as well get this out of the way early on. I had a few mental health issues over the Christmas period. It was horrible, but I suppose at least it will enable us to examine the links between mental health and psoriasis, which I am coming to realise have a very intimate relationship. It’s one not many people know about and those who do don’t really acknowledge it:  like a staff room affair or the Catholic Church and paedophilia. Of course, this was the whole impetus behind the much needed See Psoriasis, Look Deeper campaign, so my breakdown has been rather timely. Come to think of it, too timely. Perhaps they put something in my Horlicks to set me off in order to draw attention to their scheme? Like a piece of psychologically primed product placement.

Anyway, if I may my candour on this will stop there. I have friends and family for whom this period was difficult and whilst I don’t mind breaching my own privacy it’s not acceptable to do so with theirs, so I’ll be scant on the detail if I may. But let’s put it like this, it was quite serious: it wasn’t a sadface-put-on-my-Facebook-profile-because-I’m-feeling-a-bit-needy sort of crisis; it was a wearing-underpants-on-my-head-and-sticking-two-pencils-up-my-nose-I’m-just-off-to-Hartlepool-to-buy-some-exploding-trousers kind of discombobulation. I’m alright now, mending slowly, and received great support from people very dear to me. I have been taken off acitretin which doesn’t help lighten one’s mood apprently. The dermatology department at the Royal Free, who have cared for me so well, dropped everything to facilitate my stabilisation. The psychiatric care I received however (mostly at a different hospital), was a real eye-opener to how mental illness is treated in this country, and will be something I blog about in detail when … when I’m a bit further away from it all. I’m still a trifle raw and also don’t want to give the impression that I am currently incapable of rationality, because that couldn’t be further from the truth. Some distance is necessary before I address this very serious issue though. Suffice to say for now then, that the whole system for dealing with a psychological crisis seems designed to ensure that if you aren’t mental when you go in, you sure are by the time you come out. Fortunately I had a wife at home who could rescue me; many others aren’t so fortunate.

Skin-wise this relates, as obviously a lot of one’s deep seated frustration and self-esteem issues are related to the fact that one has spent much of one’s life looking in the mirror at a scaly red flake monster. When I say one, by the way, I mean me, but I’m trying to be all professional and distant because that’s sexier (referring to myself as “one” is fine and sane – it’s when I start describing myself as “both of us” you’ll know that I’ve flipped). In addition, when one’s feelings venture into this kind of territory the temptation is to hit the bottle. Hit? I did a bit more than that. When I wasn’t working I administered Grievous Bottley Harm, nutted a Chablis and kicked the shit out of some very nice malt scotch whisky. Curious how when I am working I manage not to drink at all – when I am on stage I don’t drink till after a show, when I’m doing a telly job I don’t drink during the whole shoot … but when I’m left to my own devices and thoughts, I unleash a torrential downpour of liquor that would kill a horse (and therefore probably add lustre to the flavour of certain burgers on the market until relatively recently).

What the drink did, of course, was to facilitate the outpouring of all sorts of things that need dealing with sensibly rather than splurging out amidst random thoughts and slurred vowels. What I do know, as I write this, several weeks sober, is that what it didn’t do was help. It made things worse. Which is why it is ridiculous that I always turn to it when I want to make things better. So I have stopped.

Watch this space.

I’ve been tentative about publishing this as it all sounds a bit bloody needy, and frankly, could have potentially damaging professional consequences (nobody wants to hire a self-confessed nutcase who drinks too much). Oh well, what the hell: I’m on the mend, I’m working (and therefore, potential employers, distinctly available and able, fear not), I’m dry and have thrown myself into a ridiculous Doctor Who based project to prevent me from staring at my own navel for too long.

Meanwhile, Dr Mizara is being very clever at tying everything together. There are various things that haunt me from the past but they are done and dusted and I really need to get over them. I need to stop concentrating on the things that frustrate and worry me and instead enjoy the very many things that make my life a blessed and fortunate one. The experts tell me I need to love myself as well, but I was always told that that made you go blind. I clearly have a lot of hard work to do, but they say you have to hit rock bottom in order to get yourself straight so maybe it’s good for me even if it’s not particularly enjoyable to experience. It’s like exercise. Or John Craven’s Newsround. Or a Bran Flake.

Onwards, then, and I’ve only got upwards to go …

PSORIASIS BLOG – Treatment Update Eight

Treatment Update Eight

Early January 2013

Please read the disclaimer if new to this blog.

First up, cliffhanger resolutions – my fingers seem to have got less painful, and no arthropathy was spotted in my X-Rays. In one bound I was free (but whilst on the starting blocks I was clearly a hypochondriac)! It could be that my new treatment regime has helped … whatever, the finger joints are not a current concern, so thank goodness for that.

The time has come to commit to the most pointy and extreme of all the treatments of psoriasis. No more creams. Light treatment – not on your nelly. Pills – your boys took one hell of a beating. It’s time for me and adalimumab to get acquainted. Dr McBride pronounces it as if she’s been saying it all her life: I think she’s been practicing at home. I’ve been practicing at home and I still can’t say it. It is used to treat arthritis, Crohn’s disease, all sorts, and with psoriasis one has to have found all other treatments ineffective before being allowed to use it (and special funding has to be applied for). I am a drain on the economy and for that I apologise. I don’t drop litter though.

A quick explanation: biologic medications are specifically designed to act in certain ways to correct a malfunctioning part of one’s physical make-up which in turn causes a disease. Insulin is probably the A List celebrity of the biologics world. As for my particular example, the impossible-to-pronounce adalimumab, I shall quote from the Psoriasis Association and hope they don’t mind : Adalimumab (Humira) works by blocking TNF-alpha, a ‘chemical messenger’ that signals to other cells in the immune system to create inflammation. People with psoriasis have too much of this chemical in their body, and adalimumab helps to lower this to a more normal level, leading to an improvement in symptoms. Adalimumab is an immunosuppressant, meaning people taking it are more at risk of infection. Because of this, people will be tested for active and latent (hidden) infections, such as tuberculosis (TB), before starting treatment, and are advised to have regular flu jabs.

 

The latest addition to my fridge

So just before Christmas, Senior Nurse Annie, who is the biologics guru and an extremely nice person, brought me into one of the rooms of the day care centre and talked me through the administration of my own injections. This sounds scary, and I’d love to play it up and make it seem so because then you’d all think I was terribly brave. But, it isn’t. You get a big thick plastic pen device, not unlike Doctor Who’s sonic screwdriver, and you unscrew a couple of handily labelled caps. In fact, they’re labelled 1 and 2 but I was so inept and struggling with #1 that Annie said it didn’t matter what order I did it in so I threw caution to the wind and pulled #2 off first. I don’t play by no rules you squares. The injections come with their own antibacterial swabs, and on day one I was to have two doses – the first administered by Annie, the second by me. I could inject into my stomach or the top of my leg. The leg seemed the best option – sturdier and less wobbly. One has to grab a wodge of skin to make it firm, swab the area, push the pen device on and depress the button on the top – like clicking a Parker before writing a letter. Except you don’t stab yourself with a biro – unless you’re a nutter or have a tight deadline for Doctor Who Magazine. There was a bit of pain and one has to wait until one hears a sort of fizzing release sound before removing the thing. I did the second dose myself and it was fine, although it does produce a little spot of blood.

As with any treatment, it is not all roses. If ever I decide to become a pregnant woman I will have to be very careful, and side effects can include upper respiratory tract infections, abdominal pain, headache, rash, injection site reactions and urinary tract infections. These joyous visitations usually occur after the first dose and decrease after that so I think I’ve managed to avoid the worst.

I also agreed to fill in various questionnaires. One of these was a slightly more detailed version of the PAASI test which studies the impact of psoriasis on the sufferer’s everyday life. The second one was a bit more grown up, and Annie thoughtfully vacated the room as I grappled with questions about erections and all sorts. Still, I hope the answers are useful to them and that my candour has helped the cause of medical science (whilst going on record that my erections are perfectly alright thank you very much – indeed, the two I’ve had over the past six months have been quite splendid).

The next dose of adalimumab was due Christmas Day (one week later) and the next a fortnight after that, so I went home with two lots, the transport of which required a cool bag supplied by the hospital. I did my own on Christmas Day but asked my retired medical professional of a mother to supervise. She did, but it didn’t stop her telling everyone afterwards how pathetic I had been. She wouldn’t have lasted long at the Royal Free.

It takes a few weeks to kick in, and I am being weaned off the ciclosporin in the meantime (75g morning and night). The injections will be done at home, fortnightly, and to that end the medicine is delivered to my home (saves the NHS paying VAT apparently), where it has to be kept in the fridge – which is why, I guess, they make it look like a pen rather than a mushroom.

And let’s hope it works, as there isn’t very far to go beyond this. I’m in the Last Chance Saloon, and there’s only one thing left behind the bar that’s doing to hit the spot (or in my case, massive amount of spots) …

PSORIASIS BLOG – Sunny Misposition

9th October 2012 Part Two

Slightly out of date but I’ve dithered.

DISCLAIMER: If you here for laughs (of which I only aim to provide the mildest), maybe check out some of the earlier entries before this one.

At my last appointment, and in the interests of full disclosure, I had to share with Dr McBride (and therefore do so now with the half dozen of you that read this) that my spirits have not been especially high recently. I do this not for sympathy but because I am trying to fully understand the link between mental health and my condition, and as I am part of an initiative to raise awareness of this (the See Psoriasis: Look Deeper campaign) I will have to be honest about it. There’s a possibility that acitretin can cause depression, but without going into specifics, I think that that is unlikely in my case. We talked about the mental framework of psoriasis patients. Apparently, that subconscious fear that the condition might break out at any moment affects the way we anticipate things. It is not unusual for a psoriasis sufferer to have higher states of anxiety than other, less mottled people. Dr McBride couches this state as an “anticipation of doom”. The way in which we psoriasis sufferers think is different due to the fact that we internalise our fears about a recurrence of the disease (for we are never truly free of it – the dermatological equivalent of the Daleks, it can only ever be kept at bay, not wholly defeated). Much of this is down to learnt emotion: the things we fear are thoughts not actuality. You know the sort of thing – worrying that you’ve left the oven on, fearing you will die on your arse at every gig (maybe that’s specific to me), abject terror that Boris Johnson will end up as Prime Minister (alright, I’m not alone in that one, and it also may have nothing to do with psoriasis and everything to do with having the scantest interest in a positive future for mankind). But anticipatory fear – with which I wrack myself all too consistently – can be traced to my mental attitude to my disease.

 

There you go – clowns are funny. Take a break, smile at the clown, and then dive back in to the angst-ridden text.

I fret about simple things like train journeys and am terrified of phoning people lest I be calling at an inconvenient time or they simply want me to fuck off. Now, these psychological somersaults aren’t the sole province of psoriasis sufferers, but they are examples of behaviour and the cognitive dysfunction of those of us in the cult of the crusty.

One of the reasons I am seeing Dr Mazara is to try to come to terms with the fact that much of what I worry about is abstraction rather than reality. I also need reassurance that the fact that I do fret and worry and suffer from depression isn’t simply self-indulgence (my biggest fear of them all – being thought self-indulgent; a trait I despise). The entire approach being taken to my condition by the experts is to establish that there are sound medical reasons for the way that I feel. It’s a frustrating area: my worry about a recurrence of psoriasis leads to stress, stress exacerbates the psoriasis, the resurgence of the rash exacerbates stress, and so I have two insatiable beasts feeding themselves off each other and having the discourtesy to do so in my brain and body, the inconsiderate sods.

Physically though, I’m in as good shape as I have been since I scored the winning runs for England at Lords’. Sadly, that was in a dream, but I was pretty fit in it, and got comparably so in reality thanks to the physical regimen I stuck to in Edinburgh. Compared to the shambolic, overweight, blotchy man who first shuffled into Dr McBride’s view I am now in a sustained period of remission from those stubborn body-wide plaques and am at a pretty steady 12 stone (could do with losing another half stone to be totally perky, but as a default it’s a hell of a lot better than I am used to). Largely thanks to my wife’s encouragement in such matters I eat better, have a genuinely more positive and proactive attitude to my physical well-being and spent the first half of the year totally alcohol free. To the naked eye I have a healthier colour and more sparkle. “If you were a dog you’d have a nice wet nose,” is how Dr McBride puts it.  I’d also bite children and dry hump a kitchen table leg, but I didn’t tell her that.

But … I am still not well.

The fact that my arms are a little more affected than they were six weeks ago is explicable and not too alarming, and I even came out of my hospital visit feeling much better about the fact that … the fact that I don’t feel much better. And I am not a maudlin whinger – as someone who spends most of his time amongst, and attempting to generate, laughter I think I get a pass on the whole “oh, poor me” brush that depressives can be tarred with. As I type this I’m in two minds about whether to publish it or not, because I am wary of the cult of narcissism that the internet promotes, of self indulgence, and of people who think that things get them down more than they do anybody else. I don’t know how I feel compared to everybody else because I have no idea how everybody else feels. But I know when the blackness descends it is very difficult to motivate myself to do anything. I know I shut down a bit when contemplating awkward situations. I know I stay up to the early hours drinking just so that I get access to those emotions that I generally keep under wraps because I – like most psoriasis sufferers – am used to internalising misery (and physical pain) just so that I can function of a day to day basis. I know that I find myself mired in indolence. I know I feel unable to get enthused about anything and in a state of anxiety about the simplest things like anticipating a train journey. I know I replay conversations, fretting that the way that person X said “hello”/”goodbye”/”when’s the bus due” means that they hate me and think I am an idiot.

This all may well be a very complex and self-absorbed way of saying I’m so lazy my brain has to come up with all sorts of reasons for not doing anything, so that I can then justify them to myself in medical terms rather than admit that I am just a boring, apathetic narcissist. I don’t know, but the two medical professionals I see haven’t laughed me out of the room (I’ve never actually be laughed out of a room – I have been un-laughed out of a room, and that’s bad enough). In fact, the major breakthrough with all of this is that everything I don’t like about my behaviour has been identified and explained by Dr Mazara, and that knowledge brings understanding, understanding brings strength, and strength creates the ability to do something about it. Let’s see eh? I’m game. And if any of this sounds like awful motivational speak then yes, I probably would have thought the same 12 months ago – but it has helped. It really has.

So there we go, that’s how I am today. I am very lucky that my consultant is someone who has made it her mission to create bespoke treatment for psoriasis that takes the patient’s emotions and personality into account as much as their genes and cells. And that I feel able to speak to her about it. So I thought I’d tell you too, just in case it helps. It may just be that you’ll think I’m a dick, but do you know what, my personality is such that I’d assume that’s what you were thinking anyway, so what have I got to lose?

There we go – that blog was awkward, potentially embarrassing and quite painful to endure, but what the hell, I’ve done Christmas gigs at Opus …

PSORIASIS BLOG – Radio Scar

RADIO SCAR

The day after my trip to Parliament  – 18th October – I went to USP Studios to spend a few hours chatting to a number of radio stations about psoriasis and the See Psoriasis, Look Deeper campaign. It wasn’t just me, as they need some people who actually knew what they were talking about to contribute to the discussion, so Helen McAteer from the Psoriasis Association and Simon Lawton-Smith from the Mental Health Foundation were there to lend a factually correct assessment of the condition and its ties to the sufferer’s psychology, whilst I moaned about the disease and repeated the same anecdotes like a boring actor plugging his tedious autobiography.

 

Helen McAteer of the Psoriasis Association, Simon Lawton-Smith from the Mental Health Foundation and some bloke whose principal skill seems to be the ability to talk about himself a lot.

I was very impressed with how intelligently the subject was handled by our interviewers. Some were live (the interviews that is, as far as I am aware, all of the interviewers were live: the undead are one of the many groups under-represented in today’s hegemonised media) and some were pre-records to go out later: some used all of us, some wisely dispensed with my services and relied solely on Helen, and a couple of foolhardy souls (BBC Radio Manchester and the syndicated Ed Stagg Show which goes out over a number of BBC Midlands services) just used me.

One notable thing that came up was that when we were doing our first interview, the interviewer was asked not to say that people “suffer from” psoriasis, which is what he had written down on his scripted intro. As it happens, during the taped discussion, he did indeed introduce me as someone who “suffers from” psoriasis, and had to do a retake at the end. Simon took the opportunity to ask me what my take on this semantic issue was, and I said quite bluntly that I “couldn’t give a f*** how people describe it” which immediately made me realise how people in my line of work are quicker to swear than people with proper jobs. But it’s true: the interviewer wasn’t being derogatory or pejorative; he was describing a patient with an illness. I didn’t take offence at the implication that I suffer. Why? Because there are issues of import around this disease that are far more pressing than pernickety verbal scrutiny. I know what he meant, and I answered accordingly. If someone says something deliberately hurtful about my physical appearance I will take offence, but not if someone who uses a description without using the vocabulary-de-jour. Who cares? And I know that the people who have decided we must not say “suffer from” have the best of intentions too, but let’s not get diverted by the, frankly, unimportant issue of how exactly it should be described.

I will be linking to a few of the interviews here, but it will take some time as I have to host them on You Tube and doing so involves putting them together on my wife’s Mac which is as slow as an East Coast train from London to Newcastle when there’s a slight breeze and it has rained in the past three hundred and fifty years. The links below will be green when the pieces are ready:

BBC Radio Manchester (me and Heather Stott)

The Wireless on Age UK (me, Helen McAteer and Simon Lawton-Smith)

BBC East Midlands Syndicated (me and Ed Stagg – a long interview this, 21 minutes)

 

 

 

PARLIAMENTAL HEALTH

Shedding Cumbersome Blog Titles – a trip to Parliament, some amazing canapes, and so light at the end of the tunnel (that, for a change, isn’t ultra-violet):

This week I went to the House Of Commons to address a group of human beings and MPs about psoriasis, as part of the See Psoriasis: Look Deeper campaign. We had a briefing in Chancery Lane beforehand, and then gathered for a buffet lunch (no sausage rolls and limp vol-au-vents here – roast salmon, brie and avocado and yum-yum-yum were the order of the day) for those of us who were being taxied to parliament. Those present for the high-end comestibles included medical professionals such as my consultant Dr McBride, and Dr Bundy from Manchester – my close ties to that city mean I will be working with the latter at a medical conference in December (funny how these things sometimes work out and slot neatly into one’s existing schedule). Other finger food beneficiaries were representatives of the Psoriasis Association (including the head honcho, Helen McAteer), the Mental Health Foundation (including head of policy Simon Lawton-Smith), Weber Shandwick (the PR firm handling the event), and (a nice touch, this) some fellow sufferers. Even though the food was delicious, it wasn’t all hovered up – psoriasis sufferers are like that: even though we probably wanted to gobble it all, we held back (this isn’t romantic faux-humility by the way – I’ll fill you in as to why in a future blog).

And so to Parliament. It was a bit like queuing for customs (plastic trays, hat removal, X-ray machine), except we got a lanyard and no-one wanted to steal my nail clipprs or demanded that I put my moisturiser in a plastic bag. Dr McBride noticed that one of the security staff had a bit of scalp psoriasis – she’s as eagle eyed about potential patients as I am with character actors for 1960s and 1970s British television (I spotted Arthur Cox on the tube the other day and had a chat don’t cha know).

A most witty and imaginitve way of addressing psoriasis (so needless to say, not done by me).

While we waited to be shown through to the dining hall Danielle from Abbots (the company who have sponsored this initiative) pointed out the crack in a statue’s sword: which was the result of security once having to remove Emmeline Pankhurst who had chained herself to it. As we observed this piece of history, a security man asked me to take my hat off. For a moment I shared Emmeline’s sense of oppression. Dr McBride showed me one of the bound booklets containing all of the postcards sent in by psoriasis sufferers (part of the campaign has involved this epistolary communication between sufferer and disease). How inventive and moving they were. Some sad, some angry, some resigned, and one reminiscent of Stockholm syndrome, ending as it did with a profession of love for the blighter. I found that most affecting of all – what sort of a benevolent soul must you be to turn the pain and despondence this disease causes into a positive emotion? The writer of that card is a better person than I could ever hope to be. The simplest and pithiest were the best: I was actually disappointed that my rambling effort hadn’t been lost, cropping up as it did at the end (I note too that I was one of very few who actually signed their card, as most were anonymous – always after a credit, narcissistic thing that I am).

Finishing touches are put to the tree from which all the psoriasis postcards were hung.

Parliament had obviously got wind of our top notch lunch as when we got to the dining room, the canapés wheeled out on slates with slashes of brightly coloured dipping sauces providing visually attractive flavour enhancement, featured such heady delights as smoked salmon, wild boar pate and halloumi in tiny morsels of delicious artistry. I have to say, if they get food of this quality all the time, it’s no wonder certain politicians consider us to be plebs with our tinned ravioli, hob-nobs and spam. The room had been decorated with a tree onto which the postcards, with their honest testimonies, had been placed. Individual cards had also been mounted with sections transcribed and highlighted in big writing like a newspaper sub-heading. I was alarmed to see my illegible scrawl among their number. At least the quote they used (“I lived with you for years assuming that I just had to put up with it, but when my wife met me she told me that I was worth more than that and that I should take you on”) gave credit to my dear Katherine who has been the one encouraging me not to hold back in my quest for treatment and help. I was especially impressed by a series of cartoons by a lady I met (but whose name, I’m afraid, escapes me) which were brilliantly rendered and full of good humour. A most imaginative way of expressing those conflicting feelings we all have.

I chatted to Dr Linda Papadopoulos off the telly – she was lovely and put up with my blather for ages; she was empathic and clued up on all aspects of the campaign and the psychological make-up that goes with the illness. She also clearly has the patience of a saint as I ceased to be interesting about two minutes into our lengthy conversation but despite knowing this my mouth carried on moving for what must have seemed to her like hours. When someone shows the vaguest hint of understanding regarding psoriasis it sets something off in me which turns me into Ted Stryker, the hero of Airplane!, banging on about his relationship troubles. I also met a couple of other bloggers, Simon, and Jess; click on their names to read their writings on this subject, as everyone’s perspective is useful, and you never know, their experiences may chime with your more than mine do.

One of the rules of parliament is that all speakers have to be invisible.

Then it was time to subject everyone to the monologue I’d just imposed upon the long-suffering Dr Papadopoulos. I deliberately hadn’t learnt as speech as everyone else had facts and figures that they were obliged to reel off, so I felt it’d be better if I just spoke honestly. I had key things that I wanted to cover of course, plus some trite wordplay and mock self-deprecatory humour. I had been given exactly seven minutes to say my piece, so I set my iPhone to Stopwatch and got ready. We were introduced by Sir Paul Beresford MP, and it is fair to say that without him, we wouldn’t have been given voice in such hallowed surroundings, so eternal thanks to the Right Honourable Member for Mole Valley. Helen and Simon went first, outlining the key points about the campaign from their respective organisations, and then it was my turn. I started with the jokes. They went OK. I then talked out what it was like having the disease, trying to make the point that because it is not cancer, the sufferers are reluctant to moan about having it, and such a continued focus on staying emotionally chipper and physically blocking out the pain takes quite a mental toll. It was going OK and I could see some people nodding at my anecdotes, but then the parliamentary voting bell went. And went. And went. I talked over it, but it hardly helped to sell my message. I feel like a leper most of the time – I didn’t need democracy to rub it in by ringing a bell. Then it stopped. And I launched in again. And so it started again. I made a quip that it was being both irritating and persistent, making it the audible equivalent of psoriasis – this got a nice laugh and helped steady things, but by then I’d forgotten so much that I sort of lost my way. I looked down at my stopwatch to see how long I had left and realised that I hasn’t pressed start, so I meandered to a close and introduced Doctors Bundy and McBride. It wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t the job I wanted to do, and I lost several points in the melee of ding-dongs. Everyone else felt the same, I know, because everyone forgets things when public speaking, but the reason I was there is because I am supposed to be good at it.

The real meat (apart from that in the wild boar pate) came from the professionals, and I will outline some of the things they highlighted in my next blog. What really hit home to me was how lucky I am that I stumbled upon the Royal Free Hospital. Most psoriasis sufferers get nothing like this level of care and expertise. The fact that I do has changed my life. Immeasurably. Palpably. Fundamentally. And to such an extent that I get quite tearful about it. Only this time when I cry the tears don’t hurt the raw, dry skin on my face, because it has receded. I hope that after today, everyone will be able to benefit from similar treatment. Tell your MP, and tell your GP, that if they see psoriasis, they need to look deeper.

More details about the campaign can be found here.

 

SHEDDING LIGHT AND SKIN – See Psoriasis: Look Deeper

See Psoriasis : Look Deeper

I have just written a postcard to my psoriasis.It may seem like an odd thing to do: I’m not sure if anyone else pens missives to their illnesses. I’m never noticed friends texting their eczema or sending an email to their piles, but maybe they should. This whole “Wish You Weren’t Here” initiative is part of a drive by the Psoriasis Association – in conjunction with the Mental Health Foundation –

Yes, he may look cool, but dressing this may will not help yur condition one bit.

called See Psoriasis: Look Deeper.  The plan is to raise awareness about the psychological impact of the disease. (I orginally mistyped it as See Psoriasis: Look Depper, which is an altogether different campaign which involves dressing like an idiosyncratic Hollywood actor prone to eccentric performances. It has not been a success).

Anthropomorphising one’s illness isn’t as cheesy as it sounds when it comes to psoriasis, because one often relates to it as one would a person: I get angry with it, I resent it, I sometimes get embarrassed to be seen with it in public. It is also a very personal disease – bespoke even. It is uniquely tailored to each individual: therefore no-one quite understands it – or relates to it – in the way the sufferer does. It is a character in one’s life: the sense of resigned dread one feels when sensing a new outbreak is identical to the one experienced when told that some tedious relatives are coming for Christmas. Having psoriasis is also like being in an abusive relationship, because although I hate suffering from it, part of me is drawn to the victim-fetish that accompanies it. I know that is wrong and unhealthy, but I can’t deny that it is there. And so understanding this complex psychology is important.

So I’ve written my post card. I don’t think I’ve done an especially good job of it to be honest, but it’s the act of writing it that is the point. It’s a public display of one’s feelings about something that people perhaps don’t understand. The tendency is to bottle up one’s emotions, because no-one likes making a fuss (and it’s not like it’s life threatening is it?). Perversely, this refusal to express oneself helps to nurture the thing, because its propagation is undoubtedly linked to one’s mental state. There’s also an option – on the postcard – to draw an image representing what you feel about the disease, but that has flummoxed me. I’m depressingly literal, clearly, and abstract imagery is not my bag. Never mind – the drawing thing is good for people who aren’t used to articulating their thoughts and feelings (which as a stand-up is what I laughably call my job).

The really exciting thing for me personally about See Psoriasis: Look Deeper is that I have been invited to attend the launch at the Houses Of Parliament on October 17th, and will be notching up some media appearances to coincide with it. If anyone reading has an outlet that they think might be interested in giving this initiative some profile, please to leave some details in the comments section and I’ll get back to you. The launch will be a chance for health professionals and MPs to focus on the needs of people living with psoriasis, and as such should be welcome relief to the millions who are affected by this ailment.

For more about The Psoriasis Association, go here.

For  more about the See Psoriasis: Look Deeper campaign, go here.