By Josh Saunders
A psoriasis sufferer who used to hide her skin is now showing off her spots in a bikini considering them like an ‘accessory’ and even dresses to enhance their appearance.
Katrina Desjardins, 21, from London in Ontario, Canada, was fearful when the blemishes that previously only affected her scalp for a decade, spread across her entire body last year.
The painful marks that range from the size of a spot to large ‘beachball’ patches would dry-out, crack and bleed, causing her discomfort and embarrassment.
Constant stares in public led the former-telemarketer to cover herself in lengthy layers regardless of how hot it would get outside.
But after supportive comments from boyfriend Jesse, 22, and an eight-day cruise with best friend Victoria, 21, she has started to see her psoriasis in a new light.
Now instead of being ashamed of her patches she’s embracing it, even selecting colours to compliment the spots pinkish-red appearance.
Last month, she has found the strength to wear a bikini in public this summer and now reveals her skin online to stop others from hiding away.
Katrina said: “To me now, when I look in the mirror it’s just familiar and part of me that I’m used to seeing. Sometimes it feels like an accessory if I’m wearing clothes that match the colour.
“I have always loved pink, so I have lots of nice pink pastels that go well with my psoriasis.
“If I try to look at myself and think how I would appear without psoriasis, it feels so weird and I think I would feel naked.
“Sometimes when I see my friends’ bare stomachs it’s weird because I’m so used to seeing colour on my own body now.
“I have accepted it as part of who I am. I take a peaceful attitude towards it, rather than struggling and wanting it to be different, I want to love and accept myself the way I am.
“It’s pretty fantastic now, I can leave the house and not even really think about other people looking at me.
“Recently, I walked through a big crowd wearing a crop top and shorts and didn’t think about anyone looking at me. It wasn’t something that was on my mind at all.
“Now I’m trying to display and show to other people that it’s ok and not the worst thing in the world, hopefully they will feel more comfortable about their psoriasis tool.”
Katrina’s psoriasis spread rapidly last year, spreading from affecting her scalp to her entire body in varying sizes spots.
The condition that affects over 125 million people worldwide.
Katrina said: “It spread to my entire body, my scalp, forehead, the back of my ears, torso, arms and legs, the only place it isn’t is my hands and feet.
“It’s not just painful it cracks and bleeds, when I was working in telemarketing I would cry in the bathroom, but I’ve taken steps to take care of myself and have grown to accept it.
“On my stomach they all expanded together so it’s almost my entire torso that is covered, a similar size to a beach ball.
“I felt like something foreign on my body that I didn’t want there, it was a constant sight every day and I wished it wasn’t on me.”
The sudden onset left Katrina uncomfortable in public believing strangers were staring and led to her covering her body.
She added: “I struggled to come to terms with it for a long time and tried to hide it for as long as I could.
“I was working with food and didn’t think people would understand, so I would wear black long-sleeved shirts because I feared offending people.
“I was always trying to cover my skin, I wore long sleeves and pants, no matter how hot it was, so I was always uncomfortable.
“I was covering my skin all the time because I was pretty ashamed, it happened so quickly that I didn’t have time to adjust and it was a shock.”
But during a cruise ship holiday in April, she was forced to confront her fears and wore a bikini.
Encouragement from her friend Victoria, led her to develop enough self-confidence to stop caring about what others thought.
Katrina said: “I’m so fortunate to have a great support system, my boyfriend and best friend helped me to remember what’s truly important in life.
“When the weather started to get nicer my boyfriend encouraged me to wear crop-tops, despite knowing I didn’t like showing my skin.
“Then I went for a cruise with my best friend for eight days and that was instrumental in helping me.
“Because I was always with her, she was constantly telling me that I looked great and not to worry about my psoriasis.
“On the cruise, people were very open and curious, one person told me about their husband having it and kids came up to me interested in what it was.
“I figured out it’s better to face your fears head on then hide them away longer, it wasn’t doing me any good to hide it.”
Since then, Katrina has been unafraid to reveal her skin in public, donning bikinis and clothes to compliment the colour of her psoriasis.
She now documents her progress online in the hope of encouraging others within the community to feel empowered too.
Katrina said: “I didn’t expect everyone to be so overwhelmingly supportive, people have told me they love seeing my posts.
“Now I borrow all my friends’ clothes, I wear cute summer dresses and feel great wearing crop tops and shorts.
“I saw one of my friend’s recent and they couldn’t believe all the progress I’ve made, saying they could see how confident and happy I am.
“Before I used to be anxious and sad, I used to break down crying to my boyfriend all the time, psoriasis was one more stress to deal with. He can attest to me being happier now.
“But now, I have decided this is what I am. People can judge me but I know I have friends and people who love me, so I can’t be doing too badly.”