Wellness coach Reena Ruparelia shares how she dealt with the debilitating skin condition of psoriasis for years. Now, she finds healing while inspiring others.
At the age of 14, Reena Ruparelia was diagnosed with psoriasis. She had no clue what that meant.
“It was absolutely devastating,” the 42-year-old Toronto native said. “There was no Google back then to look it up. I didn’t even know how to spell it.”
Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune skin disease that speeds up the growth cycle of skin cells and causes patches of red skin and silvery scales that are typically found on the elbows, scalp, lower back, knees, face, and feet. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, psoriasis occurs mostly in adults and is not contagious.
A lonely existence
Once active in sports and various school activities, Ruparelia became withdrawn because of her skin and made a point to cover up with full sleeves, bulky shirts, and long pants.
“It was time-consuming, and I felt dirty and yucky. I remember wondering how I could get rid of this condition so that I could get back to living my life. It was horrible. My skin felt like a prison.”
Tired of dealing with treatments that provided only short-term relief, Ruparelia felt like giving up on what she saw as a mediocre existence.
“What was the point of having any dreams if I was just going to be in pain, and no one would ever love me? I was really hard on myself and didn’t want to be a burden.”
Ruparelia, a human resources specialist, recalls attending a retreat to deal with work-related stress. While sitting on a meditation cushion, she came to a realization.
“That experience raised my awareness that I was living with a chronic condition. I could outwardly acknowledge that I had psoriasis. It opened my eyes, but not enough to make a change. I still felt like I had no options.”
Ruparelia’s lowest point came in 2015, when she suffered a panic attack at work.
“I was holding the computer mouse and dropped it. My hands were cracked and oozing. I couldn’t breathe. I was overwhelmed and began crying. I realized that something had to change.”
A new attitude
After discussing the breakdown with her boss, Ruparelia left the office and went home to bed. She knew it was time to focus on how to better deal with her skin issues and stop feeling defeated.
“I came to understand there’s no weakness in taking time for yourself to try to pick up the pieces.”
Getting to know herself for the first time, Ruparelia was determined to get to a better place. She began putting her thoughts and feelings on paper, even writing a love letter to her skin. In addition to her journaling, she started a confidential Instagram page, without sharing her photo. People responded, and before she knew it, Ruparelia was helping countless others, eventually attracting 17,000 followers.
“With time, I learned not to hide or edit myself. On Instagram, I would do a lot of education and sharing,” explained the self-proclaimed psoriasis warrior.
Promoting skin positivity
Once resigned to living a life restricted by plastic gloves, ointments, and shame, Ruparelia now looks forward to what’s ahead. She’s responded to a new medical treatment and is more committed than ever to helping others battling pain, fatigue, and self-esteem issues.
“It’s so important for people to realize that they don’t have to go through something like this alone,” Ruparelia said. “When I shared my feelings with a friend or online, it helped to free myself from my own head.”
Having been featured in numerous magazine articles and a national campaign focused on dry skin, Ruparelia continues to gain popularity through podcasts, mindfulness courses, and virtual meetups. Sessions include advice from dermatologists and nutritional counselors on skincare and overall wellness.
“Making a difference is truly rewarding,” she added. “It’s made my journey a lot more meaningful.”