The Face in the Mirror

Briana Banos graduated from the University of Florida with a B.A. in English and minors in Anthropology and Mass Communications. She worked as a performer and aerialist with a cruise ship line before she began showing signs of Red Skin Syndrome. Once into her withdrawal, Briana sought to raise awareness about her condition. Through social media, she used her voice and pictures to show others of this extremely traumatic, yet preventable, syndrome.

She has been featured on The Doctors show, as well as accompanied ITSAN (The International Topical Steroid Addiction Network) to Capitol Hill in Sept. 2016 to help build bridges in the dermatology community.

Her biggest hope with Preventable: Protecting Our Largest Organ is to bring awareness to the medical community and patients about Red Skin Syndrome and to spur a reform in how topical steroids are utilized.
Tell me about the emotional/psychological impact of red skin?
As time goes on with this condition, the emotional pain and destruction is almost worse than the physical pain. In the beginning, we are focused on the physical because it is the most prominent thing, but when the healing is slow or we find friends and family start to doubt the process, or if it takes away our job or a relationship we are in, the loss of identity sets in. You become so anxious with every encounter, you can't look people in the eye, you start to doubt yourself, the hopelessness can set it, and ultimately, your self-confidence is no longer present. And even when you are healed from this, that anxiety doesn't just go away. You are scarred, and there is a fear that may never leave when it comes to steroids. I know for me the thought of needing a future surgery or if I am ever in a life or death situation and am told I need a steroid to survive, I think the first thought in my mind will be the immense suffering that drug has caused me instead of thinking about my life being saved. That, in itself, is what we are robbed of when we are steroid-dependent. This drug will no longer be a comfort to us in times it is truly needed, but a deep-rooted distress. 
What would you tell anyone going through a condition that affects their looks?
It's never easy to look in the mirror and not recognize the person staring back at you. It's a sadness that you can see in your eyes, like part of you has died. But, you know what? Looks pale in comparison to the remarkable strength you are gaining through this process. And when you are on the other side of this, you not only get your looks back, but you have transformed into an invincible human being who overcame heartbreaking loss and agony. It tore me up inside the day I shaved my head because I allowed my looks to define a part of who I was as a person, and that's ok, but we must realize that we are so much more than our outer beauty. During this time, let your inner beauty shine. Let these dark hours transform you from within. Focus on that aspect instead of the physical and I think you will be a much stronger and more resilient person for it. 

Where did you find support?
I found support in the arms of my family, my friends, and the online community. I am very fortunate to have a family that stood by me 100% and that never allowed me to drown in the physical or mental anxieties. They were compassionate and never made me feel ugly or unloved. And yes, I am now divorced from my husband which happened during this difficult healing time, but even he never once made me feel that I was disgusting or gross. As important as it is to have support for the physical aspect of this condition, the mental is just as important. The online community is definitely there for the mental support of this. It's amazing to be connected to thousands of men and woman who know exactly what you are going through. 

Briana Banos with
Kolkata-based Dr Koushik Lahiri.
Do they know why getting off steroids triggered this reaction?
With anyone curious to my health condition, I try my very best to explain why I have Red Skin Syndrome. Since I am a huge advocate, most all of my family and friends know why topical steroids should not be abused or overprescribed. 

What would you tell someone thinking about using steroids for a skin condition?
 Steroids are such a strong drug and do not get rid of the cause of why your skin is irritated. Is it a bandaid masking the true problem and, if over used, it can create even more problems that are bigger than the reason you began using them in the first place. If someone really wants to fix their skin, then they need to see a doctor who will take their time and truly invest care into a patient. You could have an allergy problem or a contact allergy to something, could be weather triggered, stress triggered, could be an infection, could be leaky gut... so many things you can test out before rubbing a steroid on the skin. 
What do people from the medical or pharmaceutical establishments think about your campaign? Have you come up against resistance?
I haven't encountered resistance to any pharmaceutical companies yet since I am still a very small cog in the machine when it comes to spreading awareness. Have I received resistance in general? Oh, yeah. I've had my fair share of mean comments or pushy comments on my YouTube channel. And I'm sure any pharmaceutical company who sells a steroid would combat our stories as much as possible since it would be devastating to their sales, but I'm hoping as time goes on, the public will become more educated and advocate for themselves and stop relying on these types of drugs. Steroids are not the problem, it's the excessive and blanketed way we use them for everything. They were never meant to be utilized in such a fashion. 
Do we have alternatives to steroids? What are the pros and cons of those?
There are definitely alternatives out in the world other than steroids for our skin problems. Alternative medicine has been coming a long way and integrative medicine is a mix of both worlds. These avenues may take longer than conventional medicine, but they can be safer and better for the body. As of right now, there are other Western drugs as well that are being researched and used on eczema and psoriasis patients instead of steroids. However, they are very new and could also come with dangerous side effects in the long haul. It's up to the discretion of the patient to use these drugs. If someone needs to be able to provide for their family and continue living life, then one of these newer drugs may be a better option for them. 

What we need, in general, is better patient care and more time understanding that each and every human is made differently. One thing will not work for everyone. 

1 comment:

  1. very very amazing explaintion....many things gather about yourself...yes realy i enjoy it
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