Going through a tough time had really taken its toll… on my mind and my body.
By Sonya Roseman, 32, from Rochester, Kent
I stepped off the plane onto the runway, and felt a wave of tropical heat wash over my pale bare legs.
My partner, Dan, grinned at me in satisfaction, and I said: ‘Ah, this is the life.’
A few weeks in sunny Thailand would do us the world of good. And, even better, I’d get to spend some time with my beloved father too.
He’d taken an extended holiday to Asia after his marriage to my stepmother broke down. He was really taking the opportunity to see more of the world, and he was always jetting off somewhere.
It was proving impossible to catch up with him back in the UK. So, Dan and I shelled out for some plane tickets instead. What better excuse could there be for a holiday?
It wasn’t long before we were sipping fruity, boozy cocktails in a bar, having a good chat about what Dad had been up to.
‘It’s just what I needed, a bit of an escape,’ he said.
I raised my eyebrows and said: ‘I hope you’re behaving yourself though, Dad.’
Knowing he was much more of a party animal than me, I cringed at the thought of him dancing the night away. He just gave me a cheeky wink.
‘And how’s life treating you back in Kent?’ Dad said.
‘It’s dreary, grey and rainy,’ I said. ‘What else would you expect in October?’
We spent a blissful few weeks exploring the beauty of Thailand. Dad was right, it was the perfect escape from the UK.
Then, the day came to go home. Dad put us in a taxi to the airport, and gave me a tight hug.
He turned to Dan and said: ‘Look after my little girl, won’t you?’
That brought tears to my eyes. Dad was always worrying about me, and I didn’t know when I’d see him again.
A few months later, in January, the phone rang.
My heart started racing when I realised it was one of Dad’s mates out in Thailand.
I thought: He’d only call if something was wrong.
‘It’s bad news, and I don’t quite know how to say this,’ he said. ‘Your dad has passed away.’
I nearly dropped the phone in shock. Just a few months earlier he’d been perfectly fit and healthy, loving his newfound freedom. I’d seen that for myself.
How could he be dead?
‘We don’t know what happened, but it seems that he just died in the night,’ Dad’s friend tried to explain.
Apparently he’d been in a bar the night before and there was a suspicion that he might have stumbled on the way home, hitting his head.
I couldn’t bear to think of Dad alone, confused and in pain.
The next few weeks were frantic. We managed to get Dad’s body back to hold a funeral, and meanwhile we were hassling the Thai authorities for answers.
They didn’t seem bothered about getting to the bottom of why he’d died. They didn’t understand.
It was such a comfort to have Dan by my side. He was always ready to be my shoulder to cry on.
But, months later, losing Dad was still consuming me. I felt like I couldn’t rest until I knew what had happened.
Instead of chilling out on the sofa in the evenings with Dan, I’d be checking for updates online. It was all I could talk about too – all our plans for the future went on hold.
One evening at home, in November 2014, Dan reached forward for the remote control and turned off the telly.
‘We need to talk about our relationship,’ he said.
‘What do you mean?’ I asked.
‘Everything’s changed, you’ve changed,’ he said, gently holding my hand. ‘I loved the fun-loving hippy chick you used to be.’
I said: ‘But I don’t feel like that person anymore. I can’t help it.’
Dan was right, and I couldn’t blame him for feeling that way. Consumed by grief, I’d lost my sparkle.
‘I can’t do this anymore, it’s over,’ he said.
I was heartbroken that all this stress had now cost me my relationship too. A few days later, Dan moved out of the flat we shared.
I vowed to get my life back on track, and accept that maybe I’d never know why I’d lost my dad. Perhaps that would even be enough to convince Dan to give things another go.
I was determined to prove that the old Sonya was still there somewhere inside me.
But just as I was beginning to feel more optimistic about the future, life threw me another curveball.
I was in the shower one morning when I noticed a small, scaly and red patch of skin on the back of my leg.
Reaching for the power button, I turned off the shower to get a better look.
As I poked and prodded, I knew exactly what the skin complaint was. Psoriasis ran in my family, and this looked like a classic case.
I made myself a doctor’s appointment and, sat there in front of my GP, I poured my heart out.
I said: ‘Life’s been tough recently, and this is the last thing I need.’
‘Don’t worry,’ she said, reassuringly. ‘I’ll prescribe you some ointment, and this will clear up in no time.’
But, in time, the rash got bigger and bigger. Soon, it was spreading across my thighs, and up onto my torso.
It was almost just as well I was single, as I was up all night scratching at my sore skin.
By March last year, the psoriasis was covering my entire body. I was an itchy, scabby mess.
Glancing in the mirror brought tears to my eyes. I looked like a burns victim!
All my favourite vintage 50s frocks and flirty short skirts were pushed to the back of my wardrobe.
Instead of a choice of flaunting my cleavage or my legs, I was facing a daily dilemma over how to maximise my disguise.
I covered up with uncomfortable layers of long sleeved tops and thick tights, even on the sunniest days.
It was either that or face the embarrassment of strangers pointing and laughing.
When the flakiness spread to my scalp, I rooted through my drawers for a hat and pulled it firmly down over my long blonde hair.
At my wits end, I battled to get another appointment with my GP.
‘You need to see this,’ I said, bursting into her office.
As I stripped off my clothes, I could see she was visibly shocked.
‘Your body’s immune system is attacking itself,’ she said. ‘I’ve never seen psoriasis so severe, and if this gets any worse you’ll need to go straight to A&E.’
I was sent home with bags full of lotions and potions, and in the meantime I was referred to the dermatology department at Basildon University Hospital.
The specialist confirmed what deep down I already knew. My extreme flare-up was stress induced.
With the loss of my dad and the split from Dan, my poor body just couldn’t take anymore.
‘Can you fix me?’ I asked, as the doctor peered closely at my skin through a magnifier.
He said: ‘It’s likely you’ll still be left with some scarring and discoloration, but we’ll do our best.’
Now I’m having treatment at the hospital twice a week, for at least three months. It’s a two hour round trip from my home in Rochester, Kent, but it’s worth it.
I get dunked into a bath filled to the brim with a special solution to make my skin extra sensitive to UVA light.
Then, I get zapped with a high strength beam.
Already my sorest patches of skin feel less raised and bumpy. I’m keeping everything crossed this is the answer to my curse.
I can’t wait to get on with life again.
Dan’s got a new partner, so we won’t be getting back together. I’m getting over our breakup though, and maybe soon I’ll be able to date.
At the minute romance is off the cards. I can’t imagine taking my clothes off in front of a man, and revealing the scaly secret I’ve been hiding. They’d run a mile.
I can’t believe that heartbreak left me like this.