I belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I know who I am. I know God's plan. I'll follow him in faith. I believe in the Savior, Jesus Christ. I'll honor his name. I'll do what is right; I'll follow his light. His truth I will proclaim.

I Know that My Redeemer Lives!

I Know that My Redeemer Lives!

Friday, July 3, 2015

Gospel Message Day 281

Gratitude, Part 5

"'What right have you to be merry? What reason have you to be merry? You're poor enough.'
...'What right have you to be dismal? What reason have you to be morose? You're rich enough!'"
- A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens

I've always liked that quote. And I think it very applicable to what I'm going to write of today. For though I am poor, I have great reason to be merry--because I am so very rich!

I have truly been greatly blessed in my life, in big things and especially in the little things. It is not difficult for me to look around and immediately see the glaringly wonderful and amazing blessings such as my home, my job, my health, my family, my food, my clothes, my ability to take care of my every need, my opportunity to work with children, my proximity to temples, my knowledge, and my testimony. 

But I think the greater challenge and thus the greater joy is trying to find what there is to be grateful for in my trials. Today I'm going to speak about one of those.

As a young teen, I had really awful dandruff. To the point that I scratched my head raw most nights as I slept. I would wake with scalp filling my fingernails. I tried all kinds and brands of dandruff shampoo. I still find a little seam of humor that when I was trying Selsun Blue, I would wake with blue scalp in my fingernails.

I finally came across T-Gel, which was from a brand name that I liked for other hygiene products. It stopped the itching. But after a few weeks, when Mom was playing with my hair, she noticed the oddest build up on my scalp. And the warnings on the bottle and the fact that it smelled like my grandfather's pipe had me start questioning the product. But I didn't think much until friends at school started to comment (with intent to help) that my make up was not blended in well at my hairline. Upon closer inspection, they realized that it wasn't make up (especially considering I wasn't allowed to wear it, yet), but there was discoloration at my hairline. I made a guess that the T-Gel was chemically burning my scalp. The build up was the scalp trying to recover. And the discoloration I assumed to be a scar. 

A year or so later, the scar was still prominent and I was tired of explaining to others. So I cut my own bangs. Oh, what a horrible phase of hair that was in my life. When I felt the scar was not as noticeable, I began to grow the bangs out--just before college. But during my freshman year, I noticed the scar reappear. But it had grown! That's when I knew it couldn't be a scar. I finally pointed it out to my doctor. One quick look and she diagnosed me with psoriasis. But she didn't really give my much information. I have had to experience and research this disease as the years have gone on and the area affected has spread. 

I have found a shampoo that works fairly well and keeps the burning, itching scalp at bay for a week's time. I used to blame the T-Gel for being the cause. I can't prove it, and considering the itching for the few years before that shampoo, it's possible the psoriasis was manifesting itself earlier. I'll never know for sure. However I ended up with it, it is my trial and there is no cure. Psoriasis is an auto-immune disease where my body thinks it is being attacked. In reality, it is only attacking itself. It thinks that it needs to reproduce skin cells to replace those it has lost, only it hasn't actually lost them. So the skin builds up and begins to flake off. Huge flakes. Noticeable and embarrassing flakes that just fall off my face or stick in my hair if they come off my scalp. 

But that isn't the worst part. The burning and itching can be rather painful at times. Without even noticing I am often scratching at burning patches of skin, which of course makes it worse. I have to be careful in the sun (which my darker complexion didn't have to worry about too much before) because a sunburn on the patches of psoriasis is a whole different kind of horrible pain. It's also rather unsightly. I have to cater all my face wash to the psoriasis--which likes to adapt to almost everything I try. If I find something that cleans the face and actually keeps the psoriasis calm, that is what I stick with, even if it does nothing for the lovely acne I have to fight against (a different trial to talk of on another day). 

Some days my face needs to breathe, which means I have to go make-up free. This can lead to some days when I just can't look at my face in the mirror with its blotches and patches and redness and every single imperfection made worse by the aforesaid acne and the psoriasis. It leads to very self-conscious embarrassment when I see a nice, single young man and know I do not look my best. Indeed, I probably look my least attractive. 

I never know if there are flakes of skin stuck in my hair or hanging off my face. I never know if the patches have decided to be visible in their red, bumpy nature. Even with the marvelous prescription cream my doctor has prescribed for me, there are still days that flare ups will succeed before a few days' application will calm it down. I always have to be mindful in a change of climate or a change of elevation or in a change of stress, as all cause flare-ups.

That's a brief synopsis of my history and experience with the trial of psoriasis. Where are the blessings in it? What have I to be grateful for? Well, in my research, I have come to see that others who suffer with psoriasis have a much more painful experience, with patches much larger and perhaps even more noticeable that what I have. I have been greatly blessed that my psoriasis has stayed mostly contained, that the patches are small and thus the pain not as bad. 

I am grateful that in time I learned how to apply make up, so that on days I can wear it, I have been able to cover it up fairly well.

I am grateful that, in truth, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And I believe, or at least I have faith, that I will find an amazing man who will see beyond the psoriasis and find beauty in my personality, my testimony, my intellect, my interests, my passion, and perhaps somewhere in my face. For even though there are times when all I see or feel is the disease manifested on my face, I believe there is a man who will not care if he notices it, and will know that it is not who I am.

I am grateful that so much of me works and functions and does so well. 

I am grateful that I have learned and am still learning compassion for others with any obvious visual "defect" and the pain it can be to have to face the world, not just endure the pain from the defect itself.

7/3/15 Update:

I just watched this video.

And there is great irony on it coming with what I blogged of last night and what I will be blogging of tonight. Some of my loved ones think that I over-react over what saddens me about my face. They say no one notices. But videos like this remind me that they do notice. The difference is that Christ-like people don't say cruel, hurtful things like in the video.

So perhaps what I am most grateful for in all of this:

I am grateful that I have such loving family and friends who if they notice my psoriasis now, generally have ignored it or not commented about it.

And I am grateful that I still have nice eyes, and a beautiful smile (Elder Richard G. Scott has told me so!) and that I have so many things to smile about.

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