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Sonal Shah: Aloe. It’s Me, And My Psoriasis

By August 10, 2018 2 Comments

“Hi. I’m a career-changing director. It’s nice to meet you.” I think his name is actually Kevin, and I avoid eye contact at all costs.  

As I extend my arm to shake his hand, flakes of my skin shake off my elbow and onto the ground. It’s like the niagara falls of dead skin cells. I’m convinced that all he can see are the loud obnoxious spots all over my body.  I must look like the scary Pennywise clown!

I know this does not sound very appetizing.  I’m so ashamed for my mere existence in this moment and I now I have to act, too!  Even if I do a good job, he’s probably thinking, “What kind of costume will cover all those spots?”

Shake, Risk, Psoriasis, Autoimmune Disease, Hollywood, Actress, Self Care, Acceptance, Holistic, HealthI do my audition, say thank you, and exit the room.  Should I call a friend to express what just happened? Will anyone understand? You see, I have psoriasis, an autoimmune disease that results in patches of red, itchy, and scaly skin localized or all over the body. Right now, it is all over.  

It is not life-threatening or debilitating, but it is also not something that just goes away after a few days. Psoriasis is typically due to an overactive immune system, stress, as well as environmental factors, however western medicine has yet to discover a cure, or even the reason why one is blessed with this visible invisible illness.

I was diagnosed with  psoriasis a few years ago when I discovered small patches here and there on my arms.  It didn’t bother me much, and I was given some steroid creams that seemed to keep it under control.  However, my father was diagnosed with heart disease and underwent an emergency quadruple bypass surgery.  

My father is my most favorite person in the world, so naturally I was stressed about the fact that he was going to undergo this serious operation!   I only slept about two hours the night before his surgery, and when I woke up, I was covered head to toe in psoriasis plaques. It looks like chicken pox, but worse.  

I visit dermatologists, functional medicine doctors, holistic healers, regular doctors, and anyone else I can think of to help clear my skin.

I do UV light therapy which means driving an hour to and from an office where I slip into a mummy-like coffin and essentially “tan” my already brown skin.  I’ve become immune to the steroid creams and it would take a whole tube to cover my spots one time anyway. The doctors advise me to take oral pills or give myself daily injections to suppress my immune system. My psoriasis may clear up, but a potential side effect is lupus? No, thank you.

Shake, Risk, Psoriasis, Autoimmune Disease, Hollywood, Actress, Self Care, Acceptance, Holistic, Health

Three years and thousands of dollars later, I’ve tried everything. Alas, I will look like the 101 Dalmations for the rest of my life. I would wake up in the middle of the night, itching my legs screaming, “My body hates me!”  I would wear long sleeves and long pants when it was 90 degrees outside. Victimizing myself seemed like the easiest thing to do. I was frustrated, isolated, and bumpy.

One day, I looked into the mirror, completely fed up and said, “No more of this my friend, it is time to put your big girl pants on.  Or in this case, take them off!” I wondered if it was possible that my body was simply begging me to give it more love. Would a natural approach work for me?  I decide to face my psoriasis head-on and surrender to it. I have to run to my bumps instead of away from them.

I come across an acupuncturist who claims to specialize in skin disorders. I had tried acupuncture in the past, but that was when I was still at war with my physical self.  A page had turned, and now I’m accepting me for me and where I am in this moment.

Within 2 months of seeing her, my skin clears up 60 percent.  Yes, this could be a coincidence, or this could be a testament to her practice.

I need to sustain the clearing. Once you have psoriasis, you always have it… what if it comes back? Even though the acupuncture is helping, ultimately the only person that can really save me, is me. I try making lifestyle changes.  

I mean, I’m already a vegetarian, what more do you want from me? Slowly, I start to decrease my caffeine intake, make sleep a priority, and even start exercising more consistently. These are all things I’ve tried to do in the past, but they were hard to stick to. Now, my clearing skin was begging me to commit.  

Shake, Risk, Psoriasis, Autoimmune Disease, Hollywood, Actress, Self Care, Acceptance, Holistic, HealthI start small.  I know that if I go extremely hard, I will fall off into binge-land.  So, without being too hard on myself, I incorporate more whole foods into my diet and naturally start to let go of processed foods. I opt to calm down using books instead of my television. Journaling is becoming my companion.  I used to think that I didn’t have time to do self-care activities, but I start to realize that these tools actually make me more productive!

Let’s be honest, I do not practice all self-care tools every single day, but if I can do at least three of them, I am able to achieve AND sustain consistency.

Today, I’m not 100% clear, but the spots have become my friends!  I give them love, but I’m ready to let them go whenever they are ready. My bumpy skin is a part of me, and I feel healthier and more energized than ever before.  

If you are reading this and struggling with any kind of illness, please know that you are not alone.  No matter who you are or what you are dealing with, your body is a miracle. It is yours and it cannot be forgotten.  I simply urge you to love it with all your might. Nourish it, move it, feed it healthy foods, and be open to try something new.   I wish your journey is one of radical empowerment and radiant health.

I have an audition at 2 p.m. and I plan to wear a sleeveless top so that my arms are seen and I am seen…spots and all!

Aloe, It’s me. AND my psoriasis. It’s nice to meet you!

Sonal Shah

Author Sonal Shah

Frequently dubbed a ray of sunshine, Sonal Shah is obsessed with making people laugh. Unabashedly charismatic and shamefully insecure, Sonal is an Indian-American actress, comedienne, and vegetarian. A Hollywood Hill-ite with roots from a big family in Chicago bursting with culture and tradition, her definition of success is raising the frequency of the planet by loving yourself and others in a constantly evolving journey. Sonal celebrates living life to the fullest. A warrior of amour, perpetual learner, and (self)certified badass, she seeks to inspire and be inspired by creative, authentic dreamers. Sonal is an alumnus of Second City Chicago and has appeared on such shows as Scrubs, New Girl, Spaced Out, The PTA, and Transparent. Currently, she recurs on animated shows, The Powerpuff Girls and Costume Quest (which has made her niece and nephew very happy.) She earned her BA in Theatre from Loyola University of Chicago and studied with The Moscow Art Theatre School at Harvard University, The Groundlings, Upright Citizens Brigade, and Improv Olympic. Sonal was selected to perform in the NBC Diversity Showcase and teaches acting at John Rosenfeld Studios. Also a standup, she has hosted such events as the Asian American Institute for Congressional Studies Gala where she welcomed President Barack Obama.

More posts by Sonal Shah

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Great article with a positive outcome. My dad had this dreadful disease and I often wonder if it will affect me one day. Good to hear you have been able to help it somewhat with acupuncture, more sleep, exercise and eating well. Seems to be the answer to everything these days. Healthy lifestyles certainly trump all others when it comes to all facets of our lives. Thanks for the insight.

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