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Bahraini Basma Kazerooni, who has lived her entire life with psoriasis, is breaking misconceptions about the red and itchy skin condition by sharing her story, writes Mai Al Khatib-Camille.
She hopes to educate and inspire others dealing with the disorder.
Psoriasis causes skin cells to multiply up to 10 times faster than normal, producing bumpy red patches covered with white scales. It mostly appears on the scalp, elbows, knees and lower back. For most people, it affects just a few areas but in severe cases, it can cover large parts of the body … which is what happened to Basma.
“I started developing psoriasis on my scalp when I was six-months-old. Over the years it spread all over my body,” the 38-year-old applied behaviour analysis therapist said.
“It never affected me mentally because my parents never told me to cover up, or made me feel different. I actually lived a normal life and that’s thanks to them.”
Her father Faramarz Kazerooni, who owns a carpet chain business, and mum Maryam Wadiee, a former abaya fashion retailer, taught Basma to love who she is and to stand up for herself when being bullied for appearing different.
Many psoriasis patients feel embarrassed and face social discrimination because of their appearance. “I have and still endure bullying to this day,” the mother-of-two said.
“However, I grew up learning to stand up for myself and not holding back. I know I am not the only one who is being bullied. At times my family gets bullied and I know one day my children – two-year-old Maria and five-year-old Tariq, a Nadeen School student – will too. But I am teaching them to be strong.
“I have to thank my parents, it was not easy to raise a child with psoriasis, especially in the 80s. There was very little awareness back then. People would stare at them and it would crush them at times. But they never allowed me to see that on their faces. And if they see someone trying to hurt me or bully me, they would tell me to stand tall. This is why I have so much confidence and inner peace.”
Most types of psoriasis go through cycles – flaring for a few weeks or months and then subsiding or even going into remission. There are so many forms of it where you can either end up with red patches of skin covered with thick, silvery scales or even have dry, cracked skin that may bleed or itch. One of the most common type is plaque psoriasis that causes dry, raised, red skin patches covered with scales.
There is no cure for this common, chronic disease but treatments are available to help manage symptoms. Incorporating lifestyle habits and coping strategies can also help.
Her parents found that homeopathic treatments worked best on her.
She also makes sure to eat and sleep well, drink more water, exercise, manage stress and avoid other triggers.
“The only thing that truly affects me is when I have the urge to itch,” she explained. “Sometimes the itchiness does not stop and you start to bleed and feel the burn. It’s like your body is on fire. I was never bothered by how it looks as I always look at my body as though its covered with pink flowers and my cheeks makes me glow like a red apple. It’s the itchiness, we lose touch with reality.”
Basma uses her Instagram to raise awareness and has even gone on TV to talk openly about it.
One of the things she hopes to do is rid people of the misconception that it is contagious.
“Psoriasis can’t be passed from person to person but it does sometimes happen in members of the same family. I just want people to know that we are beautiful and to be more empathetic towards people with psoriasis.”
Basma also advises self-love for true inner peace. “When you love yourself, you glow from the inside. You would attract people who will love, respect and appreciate your energy. Everything starts with how you feel about yourself. Be magnetic. Love yourself instead of abusing yourself or your skin.”
Basma also has a message for people caring for those with psoriasis: “Show them love, support and understanding because it is not just a skin problem. It can affect a person emotionally and mentally. Kindness is the best nourishment for humanity.”
For details, follow @lovemypsoriasis on Instagram.