Psoriasis Is Part of My Story—But It’s Not the Whole Story

For one woman living with psoriasis, pictures of her past show more than what you see at first glance. 

I was diagnosed with psoriasis, which runs in my family, as a kid. I remember my grandpa had it all over his legs; he never tried to hide it. Maybe it never bothered him—but it bothered me. 

My psoriasis tended to surface on my scalp. On one hand, that was great because it wasn’t obvious to most people. But it was also very itchy, and because of that, I was always scratching my scalp, to the point that it would bleed and flake. So people definitely noticed that

Psoriasis made me feel so uncomfortable in my own skin. Even if other people couldn’t see it or didn’t know about it, I always felt on edge because of my psoriasis. I was always mortified whenever I got my hair cut or colored. 

Fast-forward to my life as an adult: I generally hate having my picture taken. But now I’m a wedding photographer, and I love helping other people feel comfortable in front of a camera. I’ve had really beautiful clients, and you’d be surprised how many of them feel awkward when they’re being photographed. I can relate, and that’s one of the reasons it’s so important to me to make them feel good.

Looking back at my journey with psoriasis, pictures can be telling.

Photos courtesy of subject

I was born to pretty young parents. They got married and had me a year later, all in their early 20s.

Photos courtesy of subject

I was painfully shy as a child. (To be honest: I can still be incredibly shy, but I’m pretty good at acting outgoing.) Back then, if I didn’t have my head in a book, I was doing something active—I was constantly riding my bike, on roller skates, or playing sports. 

Photos courtesy of subject

My parents gave me my first camera for Christmas. I remember being really, really excited about that camera. (This was before everyone had a camera!) I used to give my sister makeovers and take pictures of her. I was always taking pictures and creating a story around them. I remember taking pictures and then making magazines with them. 

Photos courtesy of subject

Even as a child, I preferred to be behind the camera, not in front of it. I never loved many pictures of myself—especially alone—but I love this one because it feels like the real me. It’s my real hair color, and you can see my freckles. I’m 12 or 13 here, and this is probably one of the last photos of me before my psoriasis diagnosis. After my diagnosis, I didn’t feel like me in photos anymore. I felt like I was hiding.

Photos courtesy of subject

When I look at this picture, I think “hiding.” My psoriasis was hidden on my scalp (it might’ve even been in my eyebrows here) but I was also hiding my true self: I was hiding my real hair color, bleaching it myself with Sun-In. (I hated going to the salon because of my psoriasis. To this day, I prefer to have a friend who’s a hairdresser do my hair in her home rather than going to a fancy salon.) I’m covering my freckles with tons of makeup and, of course, covering half my face with the huge sunglasses. I had created a larger-than-life persona to hide behind—but maybe not in the best way possible. 

Photos courtesy of subject

I met the man who I’d eventually marry on spring break when we were both 22-year-old college students. My lifestyle was definitely triggering psoriasis flare-ups at this point in my life. I was drinking a lot, not eating right, and not taking care of my body. I was having a lot of fun, but it was taking a toll on my body.

I love this photo because it’s when my husband and I met, but it doesn’t feel like me. (My now-husband had no idea what was going on then.)

Photos courtesy of subject

In my mid-20s, I realized I needed to start taking care of myself, so I started running with my dad. I ran marathons and I even started winning shorter races. I was also eating better and prioritizing my health. My psoriasis flare-ups decreased during this time. 

Photos courtesy of subject

I loved being pregnant. I remember my skin went a little crazy during the first trimester, but after that, it cleared up and my skin and hair were so glowy and beautiful.

Being pregnant—and then being a mom—has taught me that sometimes the best parts of our lives are also the most stressful. 

I went back to work as a teacher when my son was 15 weeks old, and that was the hardest thing I ever had to do. But it also led to one of the best things: It really motivated me to start my wedding photography business, which eventually allowed me to be home with my kids. So often the best and most stressful times in our lives are intrinsically connected—you can’t have one without the other. 

Photos courtesy of subject

I love being a mom. But when I get caught up in the stress of being a working mom—when I’m too busy to take care of myself—my psoriasis flares up.  I’ve found it really improves with self-care: eating well, exercising, and getting enough sleep.

I love to help people feel comfortable in front of the camera. Before my shoots, I ask my brides to send me photos they love and in which they feel beautiful (and photos that they don’t love). I also ask them about their insecurities, side preferences, etc., so I can do my best to give them photos that will show their true and authentic selves.

As for me, I still like to hide a little—now it’s behind my camera. But as a small-business owner, I have to brand myself in a bold way. I definitely feel like my brand is a larger-than-life persona—a pretty successful person who’s somewhat separate from me. 

No matter how confident someone may appear, everyone has insecurities. (For some, insecurities are caused by an autoimmune condition like psoriasis; others might be worried about their physical appearance, their weight, or where they are in life or their career.) I love using my lens to focus on a person’s beautiful qualities in a way that I believe goes deeper than how they look.

Keri Calabrese is a wedding photographer who lives in Bridgewater, New Jersey. You can follow her on Instagram or Facebook. 

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Jillian Kramer is a journalist who writes about health, wellness, science, and adventure. She taps into a broad network of experts to write in-depth articles for leading publications, including Glamour, The New York Times, Scientific American, Travel + Leisure, EatingWell, and Food & Wine.