The battle against her autoimmune disease is far from over. Psoriasis fighter Rocyie Wong is using her journey to help others fight similar conditions that have eroded their self-esteem and confidence.
She runs her fingers slowly down the menu looking for the right item that’s safe to eat. Rocyie Wong, 25, has been doing this for the most part of her adult life. In the profile of her Instagram she has described herself as a Psoriasis Fighter. Psoriasis, the autoimmune disease that leaves her otherwise flawless skin, with patches of irritated and painful sores, is what Rocyie is battling with.
But what’s admirable about this young adult is that she has decided to take this fight to another level and turn the situation around to make it a fight against social prejudices against people with similar diseases or ‘flaws’ that make them stay away from public eye.
“A lot of times when people don’t understand our situation they would make assumptions and could not empathise with our struggles. I want to help create a more accepting society,” Rocyie’s online platform of a Safe Space has attracted the coming together of people with different sufferings to share their ordeal. Even people with depression have found their way into her Safe Space platform.
She writes: I want to provide a platform where people can improve, heal physically and emotionally, and be more mindful of the things around us. Rocyie began by showing them her personal journey through a project called “Naked” to explain the chronic skin condition that causes excess of skin to form as scaly, red patches that are itchy and painful. Often, the flare up on her skin is triggered by food.
There is a list of food taboos that she has found out, mainly by trial and error, that would cause the skin to flare up. When she turned 22 and after having moved from one doctor to another, Rocyie decided to take charge of her own condition by doing research and taking note of her reactions to different kinds of food.
“My worst experience was a couple of years ago when I consumed black beans and it landed me with such a bad flare up that it took a month to clear. I couldn’t do anything but just to lie down and rest without aggravating the condition further,” she recalled.
Growing up as a teenager took a lot of courage and tolerance from her. From being conscious and embarrassed by the dust of dandruff on her shoulder to why she had to wear a cap always were just some of the trying times. Removing her cap to reveal her face was a small but significant steps to come out to brave the unwanted attention, “…a part of me is still not ready to deal with people who stare when I wear shorts.”
On bad days, she is floored by her emotional roller coaster of feeling helpless, self-doubting and at a lost to what to do about her future career. “And when my skin flares up I would just lie in bed to rest and not feel like doing anything. And the fear of never getting any better is very real.” But her spirit is buoyed up by followers in her social media who also share about their conditions. By connecting via each other’s vulnerability has made Safe Space a powerful platform.
Rocyie will soon launch another campaign #Beinghuman. It is a non-judgemental zone with talks, workshops and exhibitions to create a supportive community and for the people with similar conditions. “What do I stand for? I would ask this, Are you in love with who you are? Right now I am very comfortable of being who I am. And who I am believes in authenticity, courage and to let the way I live speak for myself.”
Rocyie dreams of being a public figure one day so that she could cast her net farther in reaching out to touch more lives. “But my mum’s dream is that my skin will clear one day. Cause she fears that I can’t get married!” she laughs it off as her focus is now on planning the workshops for her next campaign.
Text by Yy Chen. Photos by Yy Chen & Rocyie Wong