Living with PsA 1

I have an auto-immune disease, called psoriatic arthritis, PsA for short. It is similar to rheumatoid arthritis and many other autoimmune diseases you may have heard of (such as MS, Lupus, ankylosing spondylitis, scleroderma, etc.) in that it is not contagious, but involves the body attacking itself. There are many theories why but no definitive answers. There is a genetic component, and many of these diseases run in families. Some researchers suggest stress or major illnesses can trigger an onset, as well.

PsA often (but not always) starts as psoriasis, a skin condition often characterized by large flaky plaques, scabby dry looking spots, found frequently on knees and elbows. In my case, I had psoriasis as a teenager, but it took a different form: I had small plaques on my scalp (nickle sized patches that were like oily greasy scabs, treated with coal tar shampoo), thick calloused feet, and weeping finger cuticles that would never heal. These are all classic PsA forms, too.

I spent a lot of time in the sun, as a child, and my disease then was fairly mild. It went into remission for several decades, only reappearing in my 40's. It started as a skin condition, but worse: this time, I kept getting what looked like a spotty red rash on my arms (which I now know is the guttate form of the disease.) I kept thinking I was allergic to something I was touching , and that was causing the rash. I also had itchy hives on my torso and face. I spent 12 years going from doctor to doctor, seeking a diagnosis for the rash (and ignored all my other health problems: exhaustion, weight gain, kidney disease, swollen knuckles, painful joints, and more.) I had a hysterectomy. I had a dozen treatments for kidney stones. I was told I had rosacea, scleroderma, or lupus. The first rheumatologist I went to told me he had no idea what was wrong with me, and that we should "watch and wait" for what, I don't know. The second rheumatologist I went to diagnosed me instantly from my finger nails,  and was shocked that I'd gone so long without treatment.

I've spent the years since then on one medication then another, trying various diets and other health treatments. My personal list of co-morbidities grows daily - I call it "the disease of the month club." My story is not unusual and I belong to a dozen or more Facebook groups that share symptoms, treatment info, personal experiences, and more - as there are w many diseases out there. So many folk have it worse than I do, and I have it moderately bad. I write this here to share a few things I have found that help.

I don't claim anything is going to sure PsA......just help you feel better while dealing w it.


Eat clean
Various doctors and groups are always touting this or that fad diet. Vegan, gluten-free, paleo...whatever. What I know is that eating clean, that is, eating real food that is minimally processed, that has some resemblance to actual plants or animals, from all the basic food groups / proportions you learned about as a child, is the way to go. I started this a few years back when struggling w kidney disease- turns out that organic protein bars were the culprit - and feel so much better. It's like night and day.....so I just try to eat what I call "90% vegetarian", a mostly mediterranean diet. Fruits and veggies, little bit of dairy, seafood, meat, and healthy fats like olive oil. I've cut way back on sugar, salt, red meat, but treat myself once in awhile. Drink alcohol in moderation. I eat a little  bread once in awhile but only really good high quality bread. Ask yourself: Is it worth the calories? Sometimes, the answer is , "yes." It's gotten to where if I eat a bit of junk-food, I feel sick. Shop the rim of the grocery store, it's cheaper anyways. Teach yourself how to cook the things you like to eat. Make good choices when you eat out: Whataburger has a fabulous grilled chicken cranberry salad. Choose Panera over Taco Bell. Avoid sugary drinks sweetened w corn syrup. If you do this for two weeks, I promise you will feel better and even looking or smelling junk-food will gross you out.

Pay attention to what you put on your body, as well as in it
PsA is a skin disease as well as a joint disease, and your skin is your largest organ, so it makes sense that you should be careful what you feed it. For years before I was officially diagnosed by a dr., I used organic soaps, lotions, shampoo, makeup, cleaning products, etc bc regular commercial grocery store brands made my skin itch. Experiment with different brands to find what works for you; expense is not a guarantee of effectiveness. Many people swear by Aveno, Pears glycerin soap, and many unscented mass market products. Some people hate Dove soap, but I like it. Even high end brands like Kiehls, although it smells divine, dries my skin out. Mrs Myers is my go-to pump soap and cleaners. I can't really tolerate body care products other than Ahava or Korres, both of which I discovered during a makeover at Ulta - the lady dolling me up said my skin was too dry, and I needed to try these brands. Both make wonderful body wash products that soothe my inflammed skin. I also soak in Ahava mineral salts and wipe off makeup with the ultra gentle non-alcoholic Korres milk protein wipes. I hope these products never go away. Ulta stopped carrying these so I buy them now on amazon or ebay.

Other irritants
I have gradually swapped out, over time, synthetic clothing and household linens/fabrics for more natural brands or items. You spend 1/4 of your life asleep, and commercially raised cotton is one of the most heavily pesticide use products on the planet. West Elm sells organic cotton sheets and bedding at reasonable prices.....I figure, why not? I emptied my house of plastic laminate due to VOCs, and I wish I could do the same at work.

No More Worlds Left to Conquer

At my end-of-the-year teacher review conference, my administrator asked me what new classes/ certifications I was going to pursue this summer. (Thinking to myself, "Hell, none, I'm just skiving for the next 18 months till I can retire.") I said, "Well, this is my 30th year of teaching English. Not to be arrogant, but I am the only member of my entire department who has a master's degree. I am also the only member who is certified in sp ed, autism, reading, gifted and talented, library science, and history/ soc stud. I am the only one who has been a dept chair, a testing coordinator, an admin for sp ed, and has taught every grade level both on level and advanced/ AP/honors. I have been to every teacher training "in-service" offered by DISD, the Texas Humanities Institute, the AP Institute, not to mention the state of Maryland MANCEF. I have passed the teacher exams in Ca, Ny, Va, Md, and Tx. There is nothing left for me to study, unless you want me to start working towards math or science. " He looks at me like I am a trouble maker and says, "Well, you have to put something down. You have to fill the box on the form."

And Alexander wept, bc there were no more worlds left to conquer. 


Get your fashOn 3 quirky retro "indie hipster over 50"

Mostly, this style is about comfort, expressing yourself, and having fun.

 Are you into fiber crafts? You can add your own designs.
 You can pay someone a lot of money to make these for you, or take a pair from a thrift store and make them yourself. Google search "how to distress your jeans". Sew or iron on some patches.
 If you like ruffles, then RitaNoTiara, on etsy, is for you.
 The southwestern look is a timeless classic.

Have a kimono? Mix it up.

Get your fashON 2 winter

 "Lagenlook" or layered look, as it originated in Europe, combines color, texture and shape in ways that will keep you warm but are different from the old ways we had of dressing in layers. The style combines mostly solid color pieces, made of natural fibers such as cotton, linen, and wool that have different proportions than those we grew up with.  Think long over short, short over long, full with skinny, and skinny with full.

You can find these clothes on etsy or ebay or amazon, just enter lagenlook as a search term and your size and fabric preference (cotton, linen, or wool.) You can also find wonderful pieces at thrift stores and your own closet - just mix them up in ways you never did before.

Get your fashON 1 summer

I have several key things working against me these days: I am a middle aged fat woman, I live in a miserably hot climate for 8-10 months of the year, local stores persist in selling only "norm core" polyester old lady outfits, and my community, although changing rapidly, is still very conservative.

However, I stopped caring about most of these things - menopause is great for that; you never knew just how much estrogen was controlling your brain, telling you to do this or that ("be sexy", "attract men", "be feminine", etc) until it fades from your system and you think clearly for the first time in 40 or so years. At some point, comfort matters more than what other people think, and you start feeling it's time to get back to developing your own sense of style, one that reflects your core self. The self that was you as a 10 year old girl, before you started worrying about what others think.

To that end I discovered "Lagenlook", a style that has been popular with young and old women in Europe for a while now, an idea which loosely translates to "layered look".  It is timeless in that it transcends fashion cycles, and focuses on comfort while letting you express your own personality. This is not, however, the layered look we all grew up with in the '70's, of turtleneck dickies under shirts, covered with sweater vests or matching sweater sets, scarves and jackets, etc. You can google the term and select images and you will find it consists of loose flowing layers of clothing that are natural fibers - think cotton, linen, wool. In northern climes there are many layers and lagenlook shoes, stockings, hats and outwear as well. But the concept is particularly suited to hot regions of the globe - you just change the fabrics from thick wool to shear linen and cotton and wear fewer layers.

A few etsy designers I love: Megby Design, RitaNoTiara. An ebay designer I love, also has her own web page, is Skullz London. I also love Eileen Fisher, and FLAX, just in general, try to find them on sale at the end of the season.

A "shark bite hem" is one that is curved, or with points.
The asymmetrical look is big in lagenlook, and takes the viewer's eye away from tummy bulge.