Meet Emma Townley

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Name: Emma Townley

Age: 31

Occupation: Currently a MSc Student and Sales and Marketing Manager

Location: Southampton, UK

Skin condition: Psoriasis

I feel like people with skin conditions often have a one-line explanation that they use to explain their skin condition to others. Tell us yours.

Psoriasis is an incurable immune condition/disease which means it's more than just what people can see, affecting people physically, psychologically and emotionally.

What are you up to in life right now?

I am currently finishing a project paper for my MSc in marketing which focuses on the marketing of creative art therapy and wellbeing services to children and adolescents. Despite wanting to continue work in the mental health sector, from experience and since doing this project, it has really taken it's toll on my own mental health so I will be looking to return to work in the media industry and very much looking forward to having more time to getting back in to filming, photography and art.

You talk about psoriasis a lot online, but you're also very open about your mental health and diagnosis with borderline personality disorder. Clinicians are just beginning to understand the link between the skin and mental health, so I'm curious about your experience. How are your skin and your mental health connected?

My struggles with mental health started years before my diagnosis of psoriasis. However, as child and teenager I already struggled a lot with my body image which led to problems with eating and dieting. When I was first diagnosed with psoriasis my self-esteem completely diminished and I spent years hiding away, feeling like a hideous monster, it also led to compulsive skin picking (dermatillomania) as I felt the need to make my skin as clear as possible—something I still struggle with now. Since starting my blog to raise awareness about mental health and psoriasis, and engaging with others within these communities, I have found a new self-worth and have started to love myself for who I am.

I believe that psoriasis has a huge impact on people's mental health—leading to anxiety, depression, loneliness and increased stress—and studies have also proven this, so it's why I feel it's so important to raise as much awareness as possible and create safe, positive communities for other Psoriasis warriors to receive support and know they're not alone as well as being able to find resources to help them. I wish I had more of this when I was first diagnosed.

You have so many interesting tattoos—tell us about them! Why did you decide to get them, and how did it impact your skin? It strikes me that tattooing can be a way to reclaim ownership of our skin—I'm curious about your thoughts on that.

I got my first tattoo when I was a lot younger (which is now actually covered by a new tattoo). From that point I was hooked, as most people are, and if I had the money I would keep going to get more work done.

All of my tattoos have a story or a meaning and each one is important to me, and I would love nothing more than to be absolutely covered in them. Sadly, for me, psoriasis makes this a problem. I have had a lot of tattoos done since being diagnosed but it has been a big risk. Because psoriasis can flare up when it thinks your body is being attacked my infection, it works the same when you have a tattoo, as technically it's a sort of scarring. I will only make the choice to get new ink if I know my skin is in a good enough state and I think it will be able to handle it. If your tattoo starts to become covered in new psoriasis patches then you run the risk of infection and the ink bleeding out faster than it should, which doesn't look great.

Parts of my body also have a lot of self-harm scars, and whilst I am not ashamed of them, I do find that I have covered a lot of them with tattoos—most of the time this is unintentional, they just happen to be in the place I want a certain tattoo. I have found that getting new work helps with my self-confidence as my psoriasis doesn't seem to come back as bad on the places I have had tattoos, which just makes me want to get covered up even more (I don't recommend this though, as it's not the same for everyone). I figure that I have this one body for the rest of my life so I'd like to customise it to how I want it and I have absolutely no regrets for any of the tattoos I've had and will have in the future.

You can read more on this subject via this blog post I wrote in July 2018 - Psoriasis, scars & tattoos

Where can we keep up with you?

I haven't been writing on my blog for a while as I've been focusing on finishing my work, but I am hoping to get back in to it once I have finished Uni.

Blog: Red Silver Mountains

Insta: @redsilvermoutains / @rednsilver_photography / @psoinspiring /

Sarah Harris