I have ‘suffered’ with Eczema since I was born. It has been a curse and something only other people who have the condition can understand. I remember being regularly hospitalised with it as a child, being bullied at school, and having it always affect what I do, eat, and wear. I remember vividly the cruel comments, the ‘special treatment’ the looks, the words, the taunts. Everything. You never forget this and you learn to hide it as best you can. Luckily I have always had amazing friends, and a very supportive family.
As a child, and a teenager, at every visit to the doctor they would reassure me ‘don’t worry – you’ll grow out of it’. With hope and expectancy I went through my teens, and twenties clawing at my skin just waiting for this to happen. I’m still waiting…
I think for so long I’ve just dealt with it by not dealing with it. A couple of years ago when it was really bad a GP said to me (after my second visit in two weeks) ‘you have to accept you have it and move on, there’s no cure’.
I remember ringing my Dad and crying desperately down the phone to him.
Eczema is recognised as a chronic illness. It ruins people lives and inhibits what you do. Fellow sufferers will understand the desperation and frustration at not being able to control this horrific curse. It can make you do crazy things, and act crazy. I’ve scratched myself until I’m bleeding and then carried on, I’ve burnt my skin on purpose hoping it will take away the itch, and I’ve allowed it to stop me take over my life, believing that there was nothing I could do to stop it. I’ve had some really low points, had counselling, and tried every medical treatment going pretty much- from tablets to light treatment. It just appears out of nowhere and I want to get to the bottom of it.
I think as a young person it’s so much harder to deal with- kids are cruel and your skin is harder to hide. I did gymnastics and loved sport so I had no choice but to ‘bare all’. I hated it. Just growing up is hard enough without everyone starring at you and calling you a freak because you have lizard skin sometimes! I also seemed to be allergic to everything- I have to be careful how I sit on grass, be aware of anything that comes into contact with my skin and watch what I eat. I was very healthy growing up- I couldn’t eat sweets because of the colouring and E numbers in them, and food content is a BIG factor in the condition of my skin and always will be. My Mum always helped me with food- keeping me off cows milk and steering me away from processed foods and sweets. She used to make me special gloves that she’d bandage onto my hands in the hope it would stop me lacerating my skin with my nails.
Very few people discuss/recognise the emotional effects of eczema. A dermatologist I was referred to provided me with some counselling which helped a little. I don’t think people realise what skin conditions can do to a person mentally. We live in a perfect photo-shopped world where everyone has flawless, honey coloured skin, and what we see is usually edited so much it’s a far cry from the original. It not only affects how you feel about yourself but impacts on friendships and relationships. I could have the body of a Victoria Secret model and I’d still want to keep the lights off.
Eczema goes in cycles, when it’s not so bad I barely think about it, but when it flares up it’s always in my mind and I feel so low and upset. I don’t even want to think about how much time I’ve spent feeling down about the way I look.
An ex of mine made a joke about my hands once and was absolutely mortified when I instantly burst into tears. I think he was surprised at my reaction, because despite occasionally moaning about my skin, over the years I’ve hidden away how I feel along with hiding my skin.
I must say I am VERY fortunate compared to some people who have it. I have been lucky not to have had it on my face, until a few weeks ago. I think because of this it always amuses me when people find out about my condition and react with surprise ‘I didn’t know you had it!’ Of course you didn’t!!! I hide it well. Why do you think my hands are always up my long sleeves? or that I wear gloves (winter is both a curse for my skin and a blessing as I can get away with wearing gloves all the time). My skin is never on show unless I’m going through a decent spell. Of course you didn’t notice it, silly.
Someone recently said to me when I said I wanted to start an Eczema blog ‘what, so you can show everyone you’re skin?!’ this instantly got my back up. I’m very defensive about my Eczema, the barriers go up the instant someone says anything or looks at my hands. Years of dealing with this definitely leave scars. I get angry and I go to this awful dark angry place where I want to just hide away. It’s not about showing my skin to the world- far from it. I’ve been hiding it for all these years why would I want to show it off?! This is to help me, and to help others. There is a MOUNTAIN of information out there and even more ignorance.
Before my Mum died she was always looking into ways of alleviating my condition. She was an amazing lady and searched tirelessly for things to relive my sores and often mixed aromatherapy potions to help my skin, and most of them did! I need to adopt her dedication into making things better for myself.
The other week my hands were itching so bad I did what I’m sure many people have done and ran the hottest water I could over them. Once it got to the point of scolding and I could barely feel my skin I realised that enough is enough. The doctors are NEVER going to tell me anything different. Their job is to prescribe drugs, which I’m addicted to. Someone suggest Homeopathy recently, but I will blog about this another time, this intro is getting way too long as it is- but it’s quite therapeutic writing about how I feel, which is after all the purpose of this blog.
I know that I am addicted to steroid cream. It’s a fact. This is also a recognised condition (read here for more info) There are many side effects from using Steroid cream, it’s thinned my skin so bad that I bruise like a bad peach now, my hands look like I’m about 90 and they are also teeny tiny. Steroid treatment can stunt growth, this skin, and in my case gave me thin, spidery blood vessels and a lot of damage. You can read more about the side effects here.
My Eczema has got progressively worse over the last few months and I feel exhausted from the up and down emotions, the pain, and frustration. I suffer from allergies and I was thinking of titling this blog ‘allergic to everything’ because I feel like I am, it gets me down and really obstructs my lifestyle. It’s so hard to keep on top of it and I think this blog with encourage me to do so and also reassure me that I’m doing everything I can to help myself. As I’ve got older I never let Eczema get in the way of what I want to do- I’m active, I have a horse (despite being allergic to everything associated with them) and I very outgoing. It does affect some of my lifestyle choices and dietary requirements and it’s important I keep this up. I’m hoping by writing this blog it will force me to be open about my skin for the first time, encourage me to try new things, look closely at my diet, raise awareness and most of all document my condition. I’m tired of hiding it and I’m tired of moaning, because I wont simply grow out of it.