Beautiful and statuesque, you could easily assume Alisha Bridges is a model. She emanates a glow from within that lights up the room, and is the epitome of confidence. When introducing herself, she says with a huge smile: “Hi, I’m Alisha Bridges. I am a psoriasis patient advocate and I am a blogger for beingmeinmyownskin.com.” Bridges graciously took a few moments to speak candidly about her battle with the disease.
How old were you when you were diagnosed with psoriasis?
I was first diagnosed at the age of 7 years old. I had chicken pox … but my grandmother noticed that the chicken pox scars that you normally get from scratching didn’t look normal. They just started to kind of crust over. She took me to a dermatologist who then diagnosed me with psoriasis.
So is this a typical disease for children at that age to contract, or is this out of the ordinary?
It’s not a typical disease at all. The way that psoriasis works, it’s something that can be environmental, it can be genetics, it can be an allergic reaction, and for some people living with the disease, they don’t know why their bodies start to fight against them. I’ll tell you psoriasis is not contagious. It’s your immune system that is over reactive and your body believes that you need to create new skin cells, but you really don’t need them. For someone who doesn’t have psoriasis, their skin replicates in 28 days and then flakes off. For someone living with psoriasis, this process happens in three days and your body is unable to shed the skin and thus it builds on top of the good skin.
What type of treatments have you been on?
I have been literally on every type of treatment you can think of for psoriasis. I’ve been on topical cream … phototherapy … pills … I’ve done biologics, which are injections that you give yourself. I’ve literally tried everything on the market for psoriasis trying to clear it. I’ve even tried some holistic treatments as well.
What has been the most painful part of having this disease?
The different encounters I’ve had with people while having this disease. There’s a misconception that psoriasis is contagious. It’s a very visible disease, so it’s not something you can hide. I remember when I was in my early 20s, this guy comes up to me and he literally says, “You’re a pretty girl, but you have ugly skin.” The hardest thing for me to overcome internally was being able to love myself regardless of the disease, and being able to find self-esteem. To be able to know that I’m worthy regardless of living with this disease. Just really accepting myself.
What can we expect from you in the future?
Right now, I’m currently attending Georgia State University and taking classes to apply for physician’s assistant school. I want to help patients living with skin conditions in a greater way and I know that I couldn’t do that unless I added some expertise to my belt. Next month in August, I will be volunteering at Camp Discovery, a camp for kids with skin conditions. I volunteered at the camp last year and it was eye opening for me. Camp Discovery is designed for kids with all kinds of skin conditions, not just psoriasis. The Walk to Cure Psoriasis is happening in October. We’ve been doing it here in Atlanta for the last three to four years, and so far, we’ve raised about 100 thousand dollars for people living with psoriasis
Bridges went on to add that until recently, she had never enjoyed some of the simple pleasures that others take for granted, such as wearing shorts, a bathing suit, or even getting a pedicure due to her psoriasis. Now that she is plaque free, she has found the confidence to do things that previously terrified her, such as going pantyhose free for the first time in her life. Her newfound dedication to living her life boldly has even led her to venture into doing stand-up comedy at the Laughing Skull in Atlanta. Bridges admits that she still wrestles daily with her fears that the medication may fail and the disease may come back, however, she has decided to live her best life and is determined to spend her life helping others who are living not only with psoriasis but other skin disorders as well.
You can check out Bridges at www.beingmeinmyownskin.com or at @AlishaMBridges on Twitter and Instagram, and Alisha Bridges on Facebook or contact the National Psoriasis Foundation for more information on how you can help.