BEYOND MY SKIN
When you look at a dish, what you see first is kind of like the flavour. What you can imagine, what we see, is the skin is sort of the window to the soul or the skin is a window to what is going on inside of us.
My name is Chhayden, and I have psoriasis. My passion in life was to become a chef and it was almost taken away from me. This is my condition. It’s all over my body, it’s so severe that I can barely sleep. It started off when I was about 19 years old. I went to the walk-in clinic, they gave me prescription – it comes back again. Every time it comes back it was always worse, and that’s when I met Dr.Vender.
When Chhayden came in at the worst he ever was, his skin, arms, stomach, back, scalp, ears were covered with white, thick, scaling, bleeding plaques of psoriasis. He also had involvement of his nails and his nails were crumbling, and they were getting caught on some of his clothes, and he was quite embarrassed to come in. He would come down with his head hanging low, and really not wanting to wait in the waiting room, in case other people were staring at him.
I’ll meet new people, and they’re just like “What’s that, on your arm? Is that a burn? Is that a scar?” That’s part of the reason I want to do this documentary, is to explain to people, it’s like, it’s a condition, that we can’t help ourself. It hurts, it blister, it bleeds, but we can’t do nothing about it.
He hid away for a while, I know that. When I know him he don’t communicate with his family because of his skin condition, he hide away for a while. I didn’t even know that my wife has an uncle, at the time.
Psoriasis is not just a skin problem, it’s a systemic problem. Very few find that they have friends and have a social life, and so their whole outlook on life becomes very limited. And some patients have even committed suicide or attempted suicide because of this. So it can affect people psychologically very, very drastically. They tend to lose hope.
To help me cope, I have taken sleeping pills and sometimes that doesn’t even work. I drink in order to sleep, but when I’m awake it affects my life, my family, my friends and my work. Because when I wake up, I’m numb. Not from the psoriasis, but the alcohol that I take in, in order to control.
He became, certainly more withdrawn. Didn’t really want to probably face it – the facts. It was a young man who had so much promise in life, but was just being bound down and kept from doing what he really wanted to do because of his skin problem.
I was working with him during all this. Sometime I had to go wake him up and stuff like that and he don’t show up for work just because you know, he has to drink his night away, because sometime that psoriasis gets bad. Very bad and you know, he- Understand he needs his fix, which is to put him out, it’s the alcohol. Right, and sometimes he don’t get up for work and I have to go wake him up. And then we get into an argument and fights and so on and so on. We get into a lot of fights for us to understand each other.
There was a certain time where I couldn’t get a hold of him and I was concerned that something had happened to him. I had tried to contact some of his family members that were part of Chhayden’s life, and I had a hard time even contacting them, and I was quite concerned that something bad had happened to Chhayden. That possibly he had such a severe psychological burden on himself that either he admitted himself to a psychiatric ward or even had, hate to say, but even attempted suicide.
My family look at me like I’m a disease. I understand that and I’m on my own. My family is everything. My family is everything. When I have to close myself out of my family, it hurts me. I suffer by myself, I live by myself and I deal with it by myself. But I’m not going to let it go. I am not going to accept it. I have to get help. My doctor is still researching to clear my condition, but when you’ve lived with psoriasis for so long, it’s hard just to believe that it’s going to help. I don’t know, but I’m looking forward because it gives me something to look forward to.
Finding the right thing for Chhayden was difficult. It was a lot of trial and error. Finally, had biologics that were available and we happened to hit the nail on the head and got the right medication for him. It just took a bit of time but he’s so happy that he was able to find, sort of the rainbow at the end of this yellow brick road.
For me as a chef, this is my life. Without this, I don’t have as much passion to do anything else. This is what motivates me. This is what gets me up in the morning. Creating food, cooking food, having happy customers, every day that I wake up, this is what I look forward to.
I continued going and I wouldn’t quit. I wouldn’t walk out. How my life changed from being cleared is that, I don’t drink a twenty-sixer or a forty or sixty ouncer a night to go to sleep. I don’t take sleeping pills. I don’t do drugs anymore. I’m actually starting to go to the gym now. Now I can take my shirt off, I might as well get buff. Before it was like, I don’t want to go to the gym because when I sweat it’s irritating. So now it’s like, this is good, this feels good. I like this pain in my muscle. I don’t need alcohol, I don’t need cigarettes, I don’t need the drugs. It’s just a positive for me and my family sees that as well. By them being happy for me, makes me happy for myself, for my family and it makes me feel better about who I am – who I really am, without the psoriasis.
My name is Chhayden, and I am a chef.
Drew’s first film, OUR MAN IN TEHRAN, premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2013. The film examines the events surrounding the Iranian Hostage Crisis and the joint efforts by Canadians and the CIA to exfiltrate six American diplomats. It went on to win numerous awards at film festivals and 5 Canadian Screen Awards including Best Documentary Program and Best Direction in a Documentary. He, along with his brother Matthew, recently made RON TAYLOR: DR. BASEBALL, a film on his father’s transition from professional baseball to medicine.
He is currently working on BUYING TIME, investigating efforts to combat aging and increase longevity.
What is Real LIFE STORIES?
Real Life Stories is a collection of documentary films about the impact of serious medical conditions on people’s lives. Directed by some of Canada’s top documentary filmmakers, each film brings a unique perspective of a patient’s own journey to healing, coping and seeking wellness. The intention of the series is to empower the voice of patients, raise awareness, understanding and empathy for those living with chronic disease. The 1st series focuses on Psoriasis.