Dating is tough. Whether you have psoriasis or not.

When you have psoriasis…it definitely can be harder. Here are some of the anxieties I have had before (and during) a date- can you relate?

  • are there flakes on the back of my jacket?
  • I can’t go to the toilet because there a snowdrift on my seat (damn these fashionable bars with black chairs)
  • Yikes! I think he just saw me pick that huge fake off from behind my ear (sometimes it’s just too tempting)
  • Do I tell him that I don’t really love pizza because I’m gluten intolerant and tomatoes make me itch and burn within 20 minutes (or maybe I can hide it?)
  • oh no- what did he just ask me? I was trying to come up with a strategy for hiding the plaques I just noticed on my elbow…
  • Does he think I dress like his mum? he’s definitely looking suspiciously at my polo neck… oh no… what will i say if he asks me! I could tell him I have eskimo heritage..?

To help make things less stressful I have come up with strategies that will help you prepare for your next date which will help reduce your anxiety, and remind you why your psoriasis should be the last thing on their mind when they are sat with you in a bar.

One: Relax and know why you are awesome

I have been on dates where the other person has been so nervous they have stumbled over words and made terrible jokes that came across as mildly offensive so I can tell you that working on your pre-date anxiety can make a huge difference.

Try deep breathing: admittedly this sounds a little woo but if you listen to the sund of your breath as it mves into your body, and the sound of your breath as it moves out, you focus your attention on somethng other than the thoughts racing around your head which can help reduce anxiety and bring your attention back into your body.

A bonus of this is that refreshing the stale air that sits right at the bottom of your lungs can lead to more oxygen in your blood, which can help make you feel more alert, and more able to remember those funny stories and those quick-witted quips which your date will love you for.

Use up your nervous energy: At a public speaking workshop I attended recently I learnt the power of using up nervous energy before the big event- which in your case is a date. Shaking your arms and legs in a toilet cubicle will get rid of some of the excess energy you are building up in anticipation of your date.

I recently had an interview on BBC Radio Sheffield and as I was waiting to go in, moving was not helping enough, so i moved onto sound. I was in a public area so to avoid looking like i had lost my shiz I folded my arm, and placed my mouth over the inner fold – the inner part of the arm opposite my elbow and made sound into my arm. I also made sounds into my jumper crumpled into my fist. It really helped. By the time i went into the interview, I had dispelled around 80% of my nervous tension.

Think of conversation starters: a lot of the time our nerves come from thinking of all the things that can go wrong. Worrying about not having anything to say, or coming across as boring is a normal concern. The best way to prep for this is to think of some funny stories that have happened recently or to think of stories that introduce your hobbies and interests.

Interesting stories i have been sharing as ice breakers recently include throwing my post in the bin as (i recently changed my name and didnt recognise my new name on my letters), telling people i recently tried sailing and jumped overboard five minutes in to swim back and my recent love for audio-books for auto-biographical books (and books that I buy that are intimidatingly large). The Compassionate Mind I am looking at you… oh and the naked spa I came back from in November.

TWO: Practice telling people you have psoriasis

I have been asked on a few dates about my psoriasis. My regular strategy was this:

“I have psoriasis, its an autoimmune condition where the immune system attacks the skin. Its not contagious, so you cant catch it.”

This usually leads to either- more questions about psoriasis which I probably dont want to answer, or silence becasue Im exuding contempt, fear and other emotions whch make the air around me feel like led 

This is why I love Judes strategy. She deflects immediately after telling someone she has psoriasis, which goes something like this:

” I have psoriasis, can you pass the water please?”

I have now modified my approach- i still like to highlight that the condition is not infectious as I think it helps to put peoples potential concerns to rest as son as possible, so the next time someone asks me this is what i will say:

‘” I have psoriasis, its where my immune system attacks my skin, you can’t catch it. Please can you pass the water?”

I recommend being as brief as you can, while still getting the message accross. I have a wonderful friend, who talks in a lot of detail about her health challenges which is great for us becasue I know there is so much more to her. However if you launch into your test results and how frustrated you are with your doctor on a first date- it might be overwhelming.

If someone is interested, they can google it and come back and ask you questions. Be open to questions and answer them honestly. But be succinct. If you hear yourself saying the following things you need to reign it back in:

  • I went onto a forum and this person called Thyroid24849 said that I should get another doctor…
  • My test results last week were 1.2 but then the week before they were 1.4 and my doctor says …
  • The medical system in this country is failing me because I need….

Three: Practice reading people

Looking back my initial dating strategy worked a little like boy bingo. A mental list of all of the boys in my year at school that had their names eradicated from my list as i learned more about them.

Things that I learnt were good indicators for removal:

  • objectified women/ boastfully shallow: I appreciate boys at 15 will be boys, but if I overheard anyone talking in detail about how attractive someone was based only on their physical attributes, then that was a definite no.
  • I overheard strategies they shared to be less aroused (i mentioned were talking about early teen boys))- and those strategies included imagining a woman covered in scales. Almost as common as thinking of your nan. With my dress sense sometimes, that not a hard crossover for me.
  • A gossipy approach to conversation. If a person talked a lot about other people in a non-constructive way, then they were also a definite no. If I flaked on their T-shirt at the cinema- there was no way I would want everyone to know about it.

As adults we can be a lot more subtle, and as men rapidly mature from boasting about uncontrolled erections, their general chat improves too. So what can you look out for when dating?

  • Does your date talk positively about their work colleagues, friends and family? If they have a lot of negative chat, then it could indicate that they will not have the burturing and understanding disposition that will support you to thrive living with psoriaiss.
  • Does your date obsess over physical attributes- talking about how great a celebrity is, when you know that their personality is sub-par. Its ok to be infatuated with someones fictitious attractiveness- my 16 year old self remembers marrying Christian Slater repeatedly even though I had never seen him in an intervuew or in real life. You wll need to trust your gut- is it telling you to be careful? (side note here- sometimes your gut tells you to be careful becasue you are afraid to be hurt. This is a different feeling, you need to thank it for the reminfer and refocus its excelled skills set back on the task in hand).
  • Does your date talk sympathetically about someone they know who has experienced a challenge in their lives. It doesnt need to be health, it could be divorse or personal loss. This can give you a good indicator as to whether the person can empathise with the challenges another person is facing. Definitely a desirable trait for us too!

FOUR: Practice being comfortable in your own skin

This section is focussing on being naked- but that not because I am expecting you to get naked on your next date. It is because we are more attractive when we have accepted, and learned to love ourselves. Being at peace with our bodies is one of the steps on our journey there.

I mentioned earlier I recently visited a naked spa. I was not excited as a person with psoriasis to walk around naked. I needed to prepare, and for me that involved practicing being naked in a public place (legally!). In my gym the changing areas are communal for women, with a few private booths.

Step one: Get changed in the communal area- making obscure constructions out of towels for privacy is acceptable- but draws unwanted attention

Step two: Expose upper half while dressing.

Step three: Expose part of lower half briefly, and definitely not while bending over to pick up knickers!

Step four: drying from the shower, placing the towel on the bench and then getting dressed.

No one said anything to me, at all *shock/horror* People keep telling me that I obsess over my skin, and they rarely notice. I tend to think they’re blind, or have had some brain injury overnight but it seems they may be right. It’s very liberating to stand naked, covered in spots, look around and find out that really no one gives a hoot.

Yes there are loads of stories where people have been asked to leave the pool, but they are the minority. Most people genuinely don’t care, are or are too self involved to notice. That includes your date. They’re probably worrying about something too.

If you need more support on self love with psoriasis, theres a list of other activities you can try here (scroll to the bottom)

Five: Exercise to feel good

We often talk about exercise for weight loss and muscle tone. These are great reasons to exercise but its not what were talking about here. Here I want to talk about these benefits which will help you with dating:

The hell yes you: The only time I am incredibly kind to myself is when i am exercising and I think I am going to publically fail. I love a class called Blaze. Its HIIT training but with your heart rate stats publically published on the wall, which overrides my urge to fake it until the last five minutes. In this class I have to run for three minutes, sometimes on maximum speed. I need to talk to myself, and this is what I say:

  • You can do it Gem
  • You have got this, your nearly there
  • Your killing it, keep going, just 30 seconds more and you hit your goal
  • I can do this

HELLO positivity! and also where are you in the morning?

If you are great at positive affirmations then great, if you’re like me and positive affirmations is a work in progress then putting yourself into a situation where you can force that positivity then do it.

Linking positive affirmations to the success of your goal is also a great neural pathway to cement.

Body confidence: I ran first 5k since I struggled with depression. I didn’t think I could do it, in my previous three runs I had given up with feelings of hopelessness before I hit the 1k marker. I ( yes me- and probably you) ran 5k. My body did that. I didn’t think it could, and then it did.

I feel more beautiful and successful and interesting and all of the things I want to feel when I give my body the chance to remind me that while not perfect, it is an incredible construct that does me well.

For you it may not be exercise, it may be something else, having an incredible memory for names, a well-trained hand that can draw what you can see and the ability to sing in tune (all things I would love to be better at). What does your body do that is truly awe inspiring?

It makes you more interesting: I used to work in a big corporation and sifting through CVs was fun- I stopped reading the cover letters after 15 and read the hobbies instead. That was my first point of differentiation and then I went back to the cover letters of those I had left.

If your hobbies were shopping and going to the cinema I binned you. The guy who trained his tortoise to do tricks made it to round two. If you truly love the cinema and can talk about it fo hours on a date then great- but sometimes people just had nothing else to say in the hobbies section.

Things you enjoy to do in your spare time are great conversational sparkers on a date, and can really boost both interest and enthusiasm in a conversation.

You like hiking? I love hiking! Have you ever hiked up Snowden? I lived there in a tent for three months when i was 19…

Exercise can be a great one even if the other person hates it, because we have all tried it, we all have stories to share.

Six: Speak to your doctor

Sometimes, no matter how much self work we do, we cant get past our psoriasis. This is usually true for me, when it is on my face.

I use hydrocortisone in my eyebrows but make sure you have a consultation with a medical professional or a suitably qualified pharmacist (in the UK our pharmacists are qualified to dispense hydrocortisone). This gives me the confidence boost i need sometimes when I have a social event coming up, particularly if i want to style my hair and i’m worried about my hairline flaking.

In my twenties I because fed up and tried Cyclosporin. I felt liberated by the freedom I had to date without psoriasis for a short time, but also by the realisation that having clearer skin made no difference to the success of my dates- only my confidence in going on them.

I am a huge fan of healing naturally, and placing strategies in place to support yourself but sometimes, when we also need support with the psychological challenges of living with the condition- pharmaceutical support can be a great tool to lean on.

In conclusion there are many things you can do to improve your next date- but rememberign that you are interesting , funny, engaging and attractive from your inside out is most imortant. If your feeling down then ask your driends what they like about you. Ask you mum, dad, siblings and colleagues. People choose you becasue there are ther things abut you rhat make you desitable company. Your date will see that too. Just be ready tp show them.

If you think I have missed anything out, let me know in the comments 🙂

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