Since she was a pre-teen, scaly plaques have periodically overtaken Sabrina Speaks’s body.
Sabrina suffers from plaque psoriasis, a chronic skin condition likely caused by a dysfunction in the immune system.
After her diagnosis at 12, Sabrina struggled with confidence issues in her teenage years – constantly trying to hide the scaly plaques on her skin.
Due to the sometimes unbearable pain, the now 23-year-old is unable to work and has to take great care when she wants to play with her children.
Residing in North Carolina with her husband, Daniel, and her two daughters, Sabrina says that her family and motherhood have been the things to keep her afloat and out of the grasp of depression.
And thankfully, Sabrina has found more confidence in her own skin over the last few months and now hopes to educate people on something that is much more than ‘just a skin condition.’
Sabrina Speaks, 23, says that 90% of her body is covered in white and red scaly patches from plaque psoriasis, an immune system condition that also leaves her exhausted and in pain
Sabrina told Barcroft TV: ‘Psoriasis has affected my entire life.
‘It is an autoimmune disorder. I want to make more people aware of that.
‘Basically, it doesn’t allow my immune system to work in a way that it should.’
Instead, her body over-produces skin cells, which pile up in plaques that can burn, itch and be extremely painful.
Plus, Sabrina’s particularly severe case comes with psoriatic arthritis, which makes her joints ache.
She’s also often exhausted, in addition to enduring the pain, anxiety and depression that come with her condition.
Sabrina was once ashamed of the plaques, visible on her arms and hands (left), which was diagnosed when she was 12, and became a subject of bullying for her cruel classmates. At times, her psoriasis itches, burns, swells and even becomes unbearably painful
‘I can’t work because of the pain it causes and also the reactions that I get from people seeing [my psoriasis],’ Sabrina says.
While psoriasis isn’t a rare condition, few people develop as serious a case as Sabrina’s.
‘It can be brought on by many things. Stress or even a simple cold can start your symptoms straight away,’ she explains.
‘But a lot of people do not have it as severe as I do, where a lot of treatments don’t work.
At many times, Sabrina says upwards of 90 percent of her body is covered in plaques.
She has recently started taking injectable medication to treat her condition, and has begun to see improvements.
‘I’m clearing up a bit now I’m taking my injections, but prior to this, I was way more covered from head to toe,’ Sabrina says.
Sabrina (left) once feared going out in public, but her husband, Daniel (right) encourages her and sees her no differently for her condition
‘According to my doctor, I am one of the worst cases they’ve ever seen.’
The toll of psoriasis is much more than physical to Sabrina.
‘I’m unable to be the person I want to be,’ she says.
‘I want to be running around with my children and doing things in the world without getting stared at, or without feeling pain.
‘Unfortunately, I just can’t.’
There is currently no cure for psoriasis, but Sabrina and her doctors are hopeful that her new injection-based treatment plan may ease the pain and the number of plaques she has.
It all started out as just one spot on the back of her head – a spot that suddenly turned really itchy and into a crusty patch.
Sabrina said: ‘It kept getting worse and worse.
Daniel (left) and Sabrina (center) now have two daughters Madison (center) and Sophia. After Sophia was born, Sabrina was determined to set an example of confidence for her children
‘At first doctors said it was ringworm, but eventually, we found out it was psoriasis.
During her teenage years, Sabrina says she struggled to make friend, and felt judged by her peers.
‘A lot of people were like ‘who’s that girl that has all that stuff on her skin’ and ‘why is she always tired?’ Just so many questions.
‘I endured way too much bullying as a child and teenager.’
Thankfully, Sabrina has since found her happiness in the shape of her husband and two daughters, Sophia and Madison.
At times, the plaques flare up due to illness or even stress, covering more than 90% of Sabrina’s body
‘My babies are my life,’ she said.
‘If I’m anything in this world, I’m a mother. That’s what I am first and what I’ve always wanted to be.
‘On a daily basis, they drive me bonkers. But they have also improved my condition.
‘They make me happier, they take a lot of stress away too.
The birth of Sabrina’s first daughter, Sophia, changed everything for her.
‘The moment I saw her, I knew I had to be more confident for her sake,’ Sabrina said.
‘Whether that meant me suffering or not.’
And Sabrina’s husband, Daniel, 28, added: ‘I would describe Sabrina as a beautiful, loving mother and wife that would do anything for anybody.
‘She’s got a heart of gold.’
Unlike her cruel schoolmates, Daniel Sabrina as a whole person, regardless of her immune condition.
‘When we first met, she told me about her condition. I was just like ‘you’re a really nice person and I want to get to you know you better’ – I didn’t mind it. We clicked right away,’ he says.
‘I try to take good care of her when she’s sick. She struggles a lot sometimes, I so want to make sure I’m there for her.’
Sabrina has a tricky time when out in public and tries her best to cope with the stares and pointing.
She said: ‘Adults are definitely more harsh than children.
‘Children will come up and ask me about it. Whereas adults will just whisper, point, give you dirty looks and stares.
‘They don’t bother to just ask. It’s really hurtful.
Plaque psoriasis is incurable, but Sabrina’s new injection treatment plan has started to help some of the patches clear away, providing some pain relief as well
Her condition has altered Sabrina’s life forever, but she is determined to spread awareness and to devote all of her energy to being a mother and role model to her daughters
But instead of hiding away to avoid the unkind looks and whispers, Sabrina hopes that by telling her story more publicly, more people might understand her plight, and treat those who might appear different with more respect.
‘I hope that with certain people reading and watching my story, they won’t be that person in the future.
‘To not just me, but to anyone living with a disease or illness.’
Sabrina is now focusing her attention on raising more awareness for psoriasis and those who live with similar conditions.
‘It’s so important to raise awareness for this because there’s just not enough information out there,’ she added.
‘We’re tired, we’re exhausted, we’re in pain – it’s a lot to handle.
‘I am proud of everything I am trying to do in my life now, despite my condition.
‘I have a loving husband and two wonderful children, so what more could I want?’