Confession: I once thought I was incapable of being loved and accepted by a man due to my psoriasis.

“Your skin is ugly…”

“No one will love you…”

“You’ll never feel comfortable enough to have sex or be intimate with another person; that would mean showing your ugly skin…”

“You aren’t attractive…”

In the past, when it came to dating and relationships, I heard these comments often. But I didn’t necessarily hear them from those around me. They were mostly the thoughts that circulated in my head any time a guy approached me or asked me out on a date, or I started crushing on someone.

Don’t get me wrong — I’ve encountered some cruel people. But the thoughts in my own mind have been the most hurtful and vicious, had the most long-lasting effects, and, sadly, are something I could never escape. When someone is mean to you, picks on you, or bullies you, you’ll often hear advice to avoid them at all costs. But what do you do when the person who is bullying you and being negative is yourself?

I’ve dated quite frequently, and I honestly haven’t had many negative encounters. Still, having a visible disease makes the getting-to-know-you period of a potential relationship more strenuous. While some 20-somethings are just looking for a hookup, my condition forced me to get to know someone on a different level. I had to ensure that the person on the other end was kind, gentle, understanding, and nonjudgmental. All of the factors of this disease — like bleeding, scratching, flaking, and depression — can be very hard and embarrassing to reveal to another person.

The very first negative encounter I remember when dating with psoriasis happened during my sophomore year in high school. To most, I was an ugly duckling. A lot of people referred to me as the tall, unattractive girl with the bad skin. At that time, I was about 90 percent covered with the disease. No matter how much I tried to hide the flaky, purplish, and itchy plaques, they would always make themselves known in some way.

Around the time I was 16, I met a guy who I started dating. We hung out and talked on the phone all the time, and then he abruptly broke up with me, without giving me a real reason. I think he was getting teased about dating me due to my skin, but I’m not 100 percent sure if this is a fact or something I’ve made up due to my insecurities.

At the time, my thoughts were:

“If it weren’t for this psoriasis, we would still be together…”

“Why me?”

“I would be so much prettier if I didn’t have this stuff going on with my skin…”

This next confession is something I have never told anyone, and I’ve always been afraid of what people would think of me, especially my family. I lost my virginity when I was around 20 years old to a man who I felt I was truly in love with. He knew about my psoriasis and my insecurities about it. However, even though he knew about my skin, he never actually saw my skin. Yes, you read that right. He never saw my skin, even though we were having sex.

I would go to great lengths to ensure he never saw the severity of my skin. I would wear thick, thigh-high leggings with a long-sleeve, button-down pajama top. Also, the lights would always have to be off. I’m not alone in this. Years ago, I met a young lady with psoriasis who had a child with a man who had never seen her skin. Her reason was the same as mine.

And then I met the one I thought I would be with forever — my now ex-husband. We met on the campus of the university we both attended. From the day we first laid eyes on each other, we became inseparable. I immediately told him about my psoriasis. He immediately told me he didn’t care.

It took me a while to get comfortable with him, but his constant reassurance that he loved me regardless of my disease helped to ease my insecurities. You can check out our story in more detail here.

Although we’re now divorced for reasons unrelated to my psoriasis, there is one thing I will always remember from that failed relationship: “I have been loved. I will be loved. I deserve love.”

Any time I start to worry about whether someone will accept me and my disease, I think about the two men I mentioned above who never shamed me or made me feel bad for having psoriasis. They never used my disease against me, and when I think of those things, it gives me hope for the future. If I found love twice before, I can find it again.

If you are having issues with dating due to psoriasis, please remember, “You will find love. You will be loved. You deserve love.”