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Day 342: When stress hurts

Drawing of a man with cracks forming at the back of the neck. He looks sad, looking down.

I have a lot of disabilities. Some are more debilitating than others for sure, most are just annoyances or give me weird quirks that people sometimes are frustrated with, other times get a laugh from. For the past few days I’ve been dealing with a flare up so bad I’ve never experienced anything like it in my life. It was a painful reminder that I was in fact stressed.

My uncle was the genetic anomaly in the family. He had lupus and living was painful for him. He also had to have triple bypass because of what it did to his heart and back surgery. That last one, that’s a family curse that I am very cognizant about now that I’m at the age where most of the men in the family seemed to hurt it. So you see, I was born into a mess of a family and they didn’t even want me.

I really can’t give you more of a family history because no one in my family is honest, the only one I could ask was my uncle and he killed himself, ironically not because of the pain. I don’t talk to my father, he’s a bastard and when he dies the world will shine slightly brighter and I hope every damn day that it happens slowly and painfully. Does that make me a bad person? Maybe, but then again you don’t know my father. I can’t ask my mother, she disappeared, literally. Like the kind of disappearance that could be on unsolved mysteries if it weren’t for the fact that no one seems to care she’s gone but me.

All this to say that I don’t know if psoriasis runs in my family. I’m not even 100% sure that’s what I have. I do know that ever since I’ve gotten out of the military, whenever I stress out (and even sometimes when I don’t) I develop patches of flaky, painful, itchy, raised, dry looking skin on my face almost exclusively. I say almost because right now as I type this it’s spread to my fingers. My hands feel stiff, almost swollen, and everything fucking hurts. Oh man do I mean EVERYTHING!

There are red patches, they are raised and hard with little red dots. It’s almost like I burned myself. It’s the weirdest thing. I’ve gotten tiny bumps like this on the back of my hand before, maybe twice my entire life, but nothing nearly this bad. Thankfully I have some prescription hydrocortisone cream for when I have my flare ups. Unfortunately, I know that it will get worse before it gets better, even with the cream. Assuming it follows what is normal, which is a big assumption since none of this is normal.

It wasn’t even until a therapist pointed out that I was stressed out that I even realized it was a thing I was living with, it was just so normal to me I didn’t know I was stressed. Even now some days I wonder if I’m stressed or just being lazy. I’m sure a lot of us deal with that, thankfully not everyone has a super painful flare up to let them know they really are stressed out!

Now that I know my stress level is officially off the charts, I’m planning on taking a step back from some of my work and trying to relax a little more. There’s still a few weeks left of summer and I want to enjoy them. I still have experiments to do, but outside of that most of my responsibilities can wait.

The takeaway message today, stress isn’t just something in your head. Just like depression and anxiety, stress is a very real thing that can cause very real consequences to your health. This week was a very painful reminder that we’re constantly told that our worth as a person is tied to how productive we are. It’s so deeply ingrained in us that if I didn’t have this first-time-in-my-life incredibly massive flare up or whatever we want to call it, I would still be wondering if I was just being lazy.

Even now I’m trying to fight the urge to wave my red, scaly, swollen looking hands at people and say “SEE! I’M NOT BEING LAZY! I HAVE PROOF!” Which just makes me incredibly sad that all of us live like this.


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