After living with psoriasis for most of her life, Nitika Chopra has dedicated herself to supporting others with chronic conditions, which is why she started the online community Chronicon. We talked to her about how she learned to love and accept herself while managing a chronic condition, and how she’s passing those lessons on to others via the platform, social media, in-person events, and more.
How did your journey with psoriasis start?
I got psoriasis when I was 10 years old, and it started with one small, sort of dot-sized spot on my left arm. I didn’t know what it was. We ended up doing a biopsy and finding out that it was psoriasis. Within a year, I was basically covered from head-to-toe.
It changed everything about my life. It changed everything about my self-esteem. My biggest wounds were out there for everyone to see. It was a really challenging experience, especially to get it so young and at such a formative time. I still have it, but I lived with it in that kind of severity for 17 years— it even got a little bit worse. I ended up getting psoriatic arthritis at the age of 19, as well.
How did you manage your condition?
I would say it’s not a one-size-fits-all thing; so many things were a part of the journey. Initially, and especially because I was so young, my parents and I worked hard to try to find a solution. We would go to different natural doctors, we tried all kinds of ointments, we just tried everything.
After about a decade, there was an internal thing that I also had to reckon with. It wasn’t just the condition externally, it was also finding peace with the fact that I had it, and learning to love myself even though it was hard (especially with something so challenging). So, it was a combination of bringing that into my conversations and into my journey, after a certain point.
After overcoming your own challenges, what led to you to start helping others?
Ever since I was a kid, I had a really strong sense that this path I was on with this disease wasn’t just about me. It was clear that this condition (how hard it was, all the things I was going through) was not only about me. It was a hard thing to understand as a teenager; I didn’t know what it was supposed to be, I just knew it was the truth. So, in my teens, I recognized that this was about something bigger than me, and that was my anchor for the rest of my life.
How did you and your family go about finding support to help you navigate your diagnosis?
I didn’t really have a ton of emotional support; that’s the thing I wish people knew more about. At the time, we didn’t really think about this having an emotional impact on me. We thought of it just as a skin disease, but it did take an emotional toll. Besides my mom being there for me to make sure that I had the medical attention I needed, there wasn’t much support — I had to create it on my own throughout my life.
Now, after more than 30 years of having this condition, I have support. Now I know how to advocate for myself. Now I’ve created a place for support for others.
What led you to start chronicling your journey and advocacy work on social media?
I always noted my psoriasis & my conditions online; it was never something I was ashamed of or tried to hide. However, I didn’t necessarily lead with that conversation — it wasn’t something that I put out there a ton. But I did find that there were folks who would come to me specifically because of my psoriasis journey.
At one point, I found myself really thinking about what I wanted to be talking about. I was feeling a bit lost at the time, so for a year, I introduced myself with a different job every time I met someone, since I had all these titles (talk show host, beauty expert, event producer, etc.). One of the things I would introduce myself as was “chronic illness advocate.” Every time I did that, I noticed the connection I had with the person I was talking with became so much greater. There was a richness to the conversations that I hadn’t felt with any of the other topics. I decided to start practicing saying that, then I started Chronicon shortly after!
What do you want people to know about Chronicon?
People might see Chronicon as just a chronic illness support group because that’s what they’ve seen before, so that’s how they characterize it. Chronicon is so much more than that. Obviously, we all have chronic illnesses, so that unites us, but it’s actually about going beyond your chronic illness. It’s something you don’t necessarily understand until you experience it in our app or at events, because it really is set up to have us go beyond our conditions and actually believe that we have the right to thrive in our lives, when society tends to put us in a box and tell us that we don’t.
Finally, what is your view on skincare for psoriasis treatment?
I always felt like skincare was just a means to an end. I used skincare to get through my psoriasis, or my flare up, or just to try and prevent it. Things really shifted for me when I started to see skincare as an access point to self-love.
For me, skincare is the one moment of the day when I stop running around; I actually take the time to feel the cream on my skin, notice things about my face, and just spend a bit of time with myself in the mirror, which I don’t do often. It’s a wonderful moment to center yourself, feel nourished, and really take in that love on a cellular level.