‘That looks intolerable. I can’t stand it.’ It looked like I’d been burnt in a fire. I quickly pulled my shirt sleeve down.’: Woman puts career on hold to heal psoriasis, find self-love

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“6 years ago, I made a tough decision that changed my life path forever. A decision between my then rising career in a prestigious design firm in San Francisco, versus leaving the company and going away to heal my severe psoriasis. Of course, today the choice is clear. However, back then, the decision was not an easy one: it was not without internal struggle, frustration, pain and tears, but it was also one that ultimately led to joy, positivity and self-love.    

Psoriasis is a chronic inflammatory skin condition that is caused by a hyperactive autoimmune system. It’s like a glitch in the computer system. Your immune system’s ‘help cell’ is hyperactive and causes an overproduction of skin cells, which results in psoriasis. I have had psoriasis since I was in high school, but it was not noticeable and I could easily recover with simply a few days of rest.  

However, in the summer of 2013, my psoriasis had exacerbated to a severe condition. 60% of my body was covered in psoriasis and it looked like I had been burnt in a fire. It was always itchy; it looked angry; and it was constantly oozing water and bleeding. It was infected. I would put Kleenex over it and pad it lightly, but the Kleenex would get soaked and always turned yellow.

Courtesy of Amy Choy

In the late spring of 2013, I had just moved to San Francisco alongside my then director to a prestigious design firm where we had high profile projects in China. I was well treated and valued as a potential associate in the firm and was managing 7 active projects at the time. We would travel to China every 4-6 weeks for 2 weeks through 14 cities 一 yes, that’s more than 20 flights! Being an ambitious professional female and a dual master degree graduate from an Ivy League school,  I was enjoying this despite of all the stress it entailed. It was exciting, adventurous, and the opportunities and exposure I had were thrilling. I was given every opportunity to grow: from design, to managing projects, to even speaking in Mandarin and presenting to clients.  

While I was having a lot of fun and enjoying my rising career, my health was suffering behind the scenes, and my psoriasis started exacerbating even more. I remember a client’s manager looked at my wrist after a meeting and said to me in Chinese, ‘That looks very painful and intolerable. I can’t stand it. Have you seen a doctor yet?’ I quickly pulled my shirt sleeve down to cover it. I didn’t realize I felt embarrassIed when people pointed it out back then. I just figured it wasn’t professional to talk about it with a client. When I return to San Francisco, I went to the dermatologist who told me, ‘There is no cure and you will have it for life.’

Courtesy of Amy Choy

She gave me some cream to apply as a way to relieve the itching and pain. She also gave some alternative options that would clear it, but they would also suppress my immune system and make me subject to other illnesses. As I am a strong believer in natural and holistic healing, I smiled and said no to those options. This is a decision I am still proud of to this to day. As my condition got worse, I felt unmotivated, discouraged, frustrated, and embarrassed. The increased stress it caused only made it worse. It was effecting my work, especially since creative work requires a lot of focus. I was in a lot of pain, and the stress at work did not help. My colleagues and Seniors would be kindly concerned and felt sorry for me. However, this didn’t really make me feel better. It made me feel worse, as I was not able to act professionally and be treated professionally in return.  

Then came a shocking announcement from the firm which put me at a cross roads. My director announced that he would be parting ways with the firm and opening his own, bringing all the projects with him. He wanted to take me along as well, but there were too many reservations I had about going to a start-up, seeing as the level of stress and long hours it would entail wouldn’t be beneficial to my psoriasis. It was an emotional departure given how much effort I had put into those projects. With his departure, I would have to rebuild the firm along with trying to heal my psoriasis. I suppose at that point I was still in denial of the severity and the psychological impacts it had on me, given I was really focused on growing my career. 

That Christmas, I went home to Canada to visit my parents. My mother was trying to tell me to do something about it and she said, out of compassion and sympathy, ‘It must be very itchy and painful.’ I suddenly became very self-conscious about how severe it was, and how things did not go as I had planned in my career. I was left in pain, depressed, frustrated, worried and unhappy. This was the first step to awareness.

Courtesy of Amy Choy

In the new year, I was given new projects under a new director, which led to another crazy deadline schedule. One day I was talking to a female director in our office courtyard. I was expressing my concerns for a project, but she, with compassion, changed the subject. She looked at my psoriasis and said, ‘Are you doing something about it?’ I said, ‘Yes, I am going to finish the deadline and take some time off to get it treated.’ She responded, ‘If I were you, I wouldn’t wait for the deadline, I would go now. Health should be your priority.’

She spoke what I knew in my heart. I needed to hear it. After that conversation, I decided to take time off from the office. I sublet my apartment and left a week later to get treated for psoriasis. That decision opened the gateway to a journey of healing, not just from psoriasis, but toward self-love. Since deciding to take time for myself, I have cleared my psoriasis.

Courtesy of Amy Choy

That journey opened the doorway to transformations I was not ready for in the past. I have since faced and overcome panic attacks and depression and have completely remade my self-image, self-esteem, and outlook on life. It really is a get well and stay well story: a journey to healing and a journey of self-love. It is an on-going transformation.

From my own journey, I have 3 messages for everyone reading this, even if you don’t have psoriasis: (1) Your situation is temporary and you have the power to make a change. (2) You can heal psoriasis holistically and be healthy and happy again. (3) If you have the courage to pursue what you desire, if you take the steps, you will get there. Don’t give up so soon.”

Courtesy of Amy Choy

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Amy Choy. You can follow her journey on Instagram, Facebook, and her website. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

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