Despite her blotchy diagnosis, she’s found her sweet spot.
In January, Ashling Armstrong thought she was suffering from a mild sore throat and a slightly unsightly case of acne.
But when thousands of small, red and scaly teardrop-shaped spots surfaced across her chest, torso, arms, legs and back, the newly qualified nurse knew her skin was in for a bumpy ride.
“It started on my chest in mid-January … It was very mild at this point,” Armstrong, 22, from Belfast, County Antrim, Northern Ireland, told Kennedy News. “When I was younger I used to have really bad acne so I didn’t think anything of it.”
But as the blotches worsened in size and color, Armstrong grew more concerned.
“My mom came up to Belfast the following week and asked to see my back and I hadn’t seen it myself and she said ‘Ashling, your back is completely covered,’” she recalled.
And when physicians weighed in on the matter, the prognosis sent Armstrong into an emotional black hole.
“I went to the doctors and they diagnosed me with Guttate psoriasis, which got me down a lot,” she said, adding that her medical adviser said the sore throat likely caused the sudden rash.
Guttate psoriasis is a skin disease, common in children and young adults, which often erupts after an infection like strep throat, per the Cleveland Clinic. The flare-up isn’t a chronic condition and usually goes away on its own after a few weeks.
However, in Armstrong’s case, the breakout has persisted for nearly six months.
But, on Thursday, she revealed to her more than 400 TikTok followers that after five sessions of “light treatment,” her blotches were finally beginning to fade. The recovery comes after Armstrong’s nearly unbearable term of “embarrassment.”
“At the beginning, it made me very angry and a wee bit insecure,” she said. “I was covering myself constantly. I was wearing a North Face coat when the sun was shining outside and was just really embarrassed by the whole thing.
“I just didn’t want anyone to know about it so I was constantly wearing jeans, jumpers and just anything to cover it.”
But when the rose-colored blotches began appearing on her cheeks and forehead, Armstrong knew she could no longer hide her spotty shame.
“It came onto my face and that’s when I was like ‘I can’t hide this anymore,’” she remembered.
Shortly thereafter, Armstrong decided to unveil her skin to her social media subscribers on TikTok.
“I was just sitting in my room one night and I was like ‘Should I talk about this?’ I’m just sitting here, fighting with myself and it’s making me more stressed not telling anybody and hiding it,” she said.
On Easter this April, Armstrong boldly shared a video of herself in a halter crop top, which failed to hide her blotchy red marks. And she’s so glad she did.
“I posted it and it’s literally the best thing I’ve ever done in my life. I feel so amazing about it,” she said, adding that her TikTok followers have since relentlessly lavished her with love and support. “My confidence has skyrocketed, I can’t even describe it, it’s amazing. I feel really powerful.”
And that self-esteem boost has helped mitigate the sting that comes from passersby, shamelessly gawking at her “leopard-printed” skin out in public.
“[The blotches are] everywhere — my ears, face, the bridge of my feet, legs, hips, bum cheeks — everywhere,” said Armstrong. “I get people staring every day. I honestly don’t care anymore, I’m so past the point of caring.”
The spunky brunette added: “What I thought to myself one day, when I was walking back from the gym [when] I was just wearing a wee gym set with shorts — if you actually do look at it, it kind of looks like burns.
“So I understand people staring and probably thinking ‘Oh God, what’s happened to her? Is she a burns victim or something?’ I’ve thought like that as well.”
And whenever the demons of insecurity unexpectedly resurface, Armstrong fights back with poise.
“Sometimes if I see a large group of people walking, sometimes I will put my head down but I do try my best to keep my head up,” she said, noting that her newfound calling to normalize the beauty of her condition is her motivation.
“[Now] I feel powerful walking down the street, everyone’s looking at me. I take it as a positive thing,” she remarked. “It looks like leopard print. I’m pretty unique, aren’t I? I stand out in the crowd.”
And her social media supporters couldn’t agree more.
“I’ve had people message me saying that it looks like art on my body. It actually nearly made me cry, it was amazing and I thought that was so nice,” Armstrong gushed.
Other psoriasis patients have also reached out online, thanking her for shedding a positive light on their condition.
“Posting on TikTok genuinely just makes me feel good about myself and when people comment and say I’m beautiful, I feel good,” she continued. “Especially with this on my skin, being called beautiful makes me feel a lot better because you do feel that you’re ugly with that type of thing.
“It’s one of those things, at the end of the day, we need to normalize it,” Armstrong insisted. “Everyone’s beautiful in their own way, shape or form.”
This story originally Appeared on Nypost