I have a severe rash covering 80% of my body.
It’s been on me on and off since I was 13 years old. It stumped the dermatologists in my small town of Meadville, Pa and they sent me off to the Cleveland Clinic, hoping to get some answers and relieve me of my pain.
When I was 13 it covered my arm pits, my face, and my neck. It appeared as hives, which turned into welts, and eventually opened up and were extremely painful and ghastly to look at.
They biopsied me, tested me for a million allergens, put me on prednisone (which made me vomit for two weeks) and finally gave up.
They sent me home and told me to spot test everything I interacted with. We eliminated anything fragranced (laundry detergent, deodorant, shampoo, perfume and lotion), found a make-up brand that didn’t make me break out (Almay), and became cognizant of bringing everything I needed every time we traveled.
Occasionally, the rash would come back for no rhyme or reason. It was usually small, and it usually was resolved with some steroid cream and a few Benadryl.
Until last year.
Last year my legs broke out. I went to the doctor and they diagnosed me with psoriasis. It was painfully horrendous all summer as it rubbed the back of my calves while I rode, and the back of my thighs when I sat. And then it got cool out, and it went away.
And I remember watching the commercials for shingles or psoriasis and thinking “Oh, c’mon. You’re that embarrassed by a little rash on your arms? It’s THAT big of a deal?”
Until this summer, when it came back with a punch.
For the last month now, I have been miserable. The itching over powers every other sense in my body. I don’t enjoy food, I can’t focus at school, and I am constantly scratching any time possible.
I get out of the shower in the morning and stare at my body as if it has betrayed me. My confidence is shot, and I’m embarrassed to be seen in almost any public outing.
My arms and legs are the worst, and yet it is July in Kentucky. With 90 degree days, I am usually forced into some form of outfit which reveals this horror. And people ask, or stare, wondering what would be wrong with me.
I jokingly call it my leprosy, but a lepar I look. And I finally have full sympathy for those paid actors in those commercials.
I feel ugly. I feel miserable. I am miserable.
But for three glorious hours of the day, I am not.
For three glorious hours of the day, I am not judged for my looks or thinking of my rash.
I have three horses who demand my upmost attention. They demand that I focus on what is underneath my seat and not what is on my skin. And as I think to shift my right hip back to ask for haunches in, or my left rein back for half halt, I am completely focused on them.
No one cares if I’m covered in a rash. No one cares if I am packing on a few extra pounds. No on cares if I’m smiling or frowning, they just care that I am 100% with them and riding them to the best of my capabilities.
And for three hours, my mind is on that, and not on me.
But this week, this ended. My rash had finally covered the entire surface area of my legs which lies on my saddle, and my three hours of bliss turned into three hours of agony. My mother just happened to call me during one of these rides and caught me in tears. My escape have become just another section of my prison.
So today I head to a specialist to try (yet again) to figure this out. My mother thinks I have Celiac’s Disease, my physician still says it’s psoriasis, the doctor at UTC calls it a bad case of poison ivy, and yet I am sure I suffer from an autoimmune disease like Lyme’s or Lupus.
But I’m interested to see what these doctors have to say.
I hope to get some resolution.
I hope to get some relief.
Because I want my confidence back. And more importantly I want those 3 hours back. I have come to realize that it is ok if I have gained 15 pounds as long as it isn’t hindering my riding. It is ok if my bank account reads $2.17 as long as I have enough to pay the board. And it is ok if I am covered head to toe in a blistering rash, as long as it doesn’t put me on the sidelines.
It has also made me appreciate every individuals struggle. If you were to see me at a show, you would think I am just fine. My jacket and my breeches hide the scars, and my smile hides the pain. I complain about it to my closest friends, but only a select few know how bad it has gotten.
And that is ok. It is ok to pretend like everything is fine. It is ok to ride through the pain.
But I wanted to post this here because it is not ok for us as a society to let others believe that we are the only ones suffering. The only ones who have lost our confidence. The one ones who feel fat. The only ones who feel ugly.
I don’t feel awesome right now, but that is ok.
Because I have a team of great friends who let me vent, 3 fantastic ponies who let me ride them, and a doctor who will hopefully have some answers and provide some relief.
Wish me luck.