"We're still beautiful... We are who we are" - Joleen Watson

"We're still beautiful... We are who we are" - Joleen Watson

Joleen Watson, Psoriasis Warrior, and moderator of the Facebook Support Group ‘Overcoming Psoriasis Australia’

This World Psoriasis Day, we interview Joleen Watson who has been managing the Facebook group ‘Overcoming Psoriasis Australia’ for four years. An offshoot of the original ‘Overcoming Psoriasis’ group founded by Todd Bello in the USA, the group currently has 2500 members, all people who have or know someone who has the chronic, inflammatory skin condition psoriasis.

Joleen, an ex-model and actress on the popular Australian television series ‘Home and Away’ shares her personal journey through overcoming the negativity, accepting her skin and finding fulfilment helping others with the same condition.

  1. When did you notice you were developing psoriasis?

I first noticed it when I was 17. At the time, I started partying, drinking, smoking… stressing my body out. It was around the time I moved to Sydney and was starting my modelling career that it appeared on my elbows and knees. I would go to my modelling jobs and the make-up artists would just cover my elbows with foundation, so it wasn’t a big deal.

  1. Did you know what psoriasis was?

Not really. My Dad and his mother had it too, but they controlled it well enough that I didn’t investigate. I was young and busy at the pub, having a good time with my mates to really be aware of it. This was before Facebook and Instagram. Social media has been a really good way for me to navigate all this information about psoriasis and find a support network. Todd Bello has taught me more than any dermatologist has!

  1. How long did it take you to get diagnosed?

A few years. When I first got psoriasis, they put me on Daivobet ointment which I was on for over 20 years. 20 years I used steroids for! I guess it wasn’t understood back then, and mine wasn’t really addressed until it became severe. So, I was probably 32 or 33 when my real psoriasis journey started.

  1. Being a model and an actor, a lot of the focus is on you how you look. Did your psoriasis diagnosis affect your career?
Not really… they were okay with it. It was mild at the time, and I was done with modelling and acting before it became severe. The make-up artists were happy to cover my psoriasis and I used to have spray tans for my legs.
The hardest part for me was the anxiety and depression that came with it. I internalised everything, I grieved my beautiful skin and my stress-free life before I had psoriasis. I finished my career at the age of 28, and moved back to Western Australia to be with my family. I also wanted to find a beautiful WA man… these Bondi kooks were just not my style.
  1. What were the biggest challenges you had to overcome having psoriasis?

For me step therapy, jumping through the hoops to get the biologics from the government was hard. And the cycle of trying not to stress but stressing out because I had this disease that was there for everybody to see. I felt dry, exposed. It was hard to go out and at times the pain was unbearable.

  1. Who has been your biggest support?
Well, I met my husband when my psoriasis ‘switched on’ and he has been a massive part of my healing process. I didn’t much feel like going outside, I didn’t feel like going to the pool or beach like everyone else. So, he would put me on his boat and take me out to the little islands of WA, to the secluded beaches and just let me be with my skin. He accepted me for who I was. He just loved me anyway.
I’ve also learned to change my language – the way I speak to myself, friends, family and to the universe. It’s about having an ‘attitude of gratitude’. I spend the time to check my thought process through meditation, staying grounded and positive.
  1. Since building the community ‘Overcoming Psoriasis Australia’ how is your life different?
It’s my gift to the universe, to other people. I do it for free. It’s rewarding and humbling helping people. Most people are grateful and appreciate it, but sometimes they are frustrated when nothing’s helping. I just use my language of love and I am kind to them, that’s all I can do.
I’ve introduced Janelle Hayes as a moderator, she is now helping me when I take a break from social media. It’s got to the point where the group organically runs itself - it used to be me responding to group members, but now others in the group contribute.
  1. Where are you at with your psoriasis? How are your currently managing it?
I’m on Cosentyx, a biologic that targets specific inflammatory markers (interleukin 17) which contributes to the inflammatory response that causes psoriasis. I take the injection monthly, and it’s one of the more modern ones. The older ones target other inflammatory markers, and some like methotrexate, wipe out your white blood cells. A lot has changed… there are even some newer biologics that don’t pass through the placenta if you’re pregnant.
I also use Abundant Natural Health’s Ocean Soothe® Gel on my elbows, as well as their Scalp Serum in my hair at night. I then soak my scalp in ANH’s shampoo and finish up with conditioner. Those and the biologics seem to keep it under control.
  1. As a person with psoriasis, do you think World Psoriasis Day is important? Why/why not?

Absolutely. We need to politicise psoriasis as a disease that is not contagious, just an overgrowth of skin cells. And to make it known that (as a person with psoriasis) we’re still beautiful, we are who we are! It’s important to spread information and for the government to hear us.

  1. What are you doing to celebrate World Psoriasis Day this year?

I will check-in and reach out to my support group on Facebook and take some time to be grateful and humble. Any day I can meditate, get out of myself is the ultimate goal for me.

This World Psoriasis Day Abundant Natural Health is offering 40% OFF all Ocean Soothe products. Order today before stocks run out. Sale ends midnight on 30 October 2022.

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