To finish off the month of October, which was declared National Bullying Prevention Month by the organization, Pacer, I chose to share my story. This story is personal but it’s also bigger than just me, The National Eczema Association stated that “Over 30 million Americans have eczema” and this helps to remind me that I am not alone. This has been my journey, I am every person who struggles with their self-image, every negative judgment I have reveals an unhealed part of myself.
Some days I feel like this:
Other days I feel like this:
But each and every day I work on my morale so I can feel like this:
Fear is a liar and I am finally at peace with something that’s been holding me back my entire life.
Coming to terms with the fact that I will never have perfect skin. Understanding, that there is no such thing as perfection.
And I’m perfectly okay with that.
My scars remind me I’m a fighter.
Remind me what it means to be alive.
Red 40 dye
Poor air quality
Two steps forward one step back.
Countless ER visits
Endless restless nights
Loud nebulizer machines
Never forgetting to take my antihistamines
The National Eczema Association states that the best way to manage and treat your condition is to learn more about it and understand possible triggers.
Since I have become a vegetarian and have done my best to avoid animal bi-products my skin has never been happier. I have also introduced several holistic approaches like Brag’s Apple Cider Vinegar, 100% Pure Gum Spirits of Turpentine, Indian Healing Clay, Kukul Oil, Tea Tree, and several fungi products (Chaga & Lions Mane powder) into my daily routines. All of these natural remedies have even helped to calm my skin and have made my acne clear up tremendously.
If you’ve read this far and wish to read further. I hope you understand this is a very sensitive subject to me and gives you an insight as to why I am the way that I am.
Whenever I tell people I have the triple threat of allergies, asthma, and eczema. The most common response is that corny vine video. Oh if only it were a joke to me.
Because giving yourself syringe injections of interleukin inhibitors every 2 weeks isn’t a joke. Remembering to take my inhaler every day isn’t a joke. Having a tedious hygiene and moisturizing routine isn’t a joke.
My health has always been my biggest uphill battle.
The thing I worry about the most.
The looming complexity when I look in the mirror and my skin isn’t perfect.
My hardest struggle has always been an internal self-validation for not having beautiful looking skin. However at the end of the day if my immune and integumentary systems are the hardest things I have to put up with, then I can do anything! Every new battle makes me stronger. This life long process has forced me to become more diligent, sensible, understanding, forgiving, and determined.
I would never wish this struggle on anybody but, it is something I was born to live with. It’s a weight on my shoulder and I have let it define me. Define me as someone who can persist even the toughest of battles. Painfully hospitalized for full-blown body infections. Stuck in a vicious cycle of prescription steroid dependency that bolstered mood swings and depressing states of mind. I have seen hell and I am never going back.
Incredible change happens in your life when you decide to take control of what you do have power over instead of craving control over what you don't.
They say that if it doesn’t kill you, it makes you stronger. Well, they are right, because my severe eczema has not killed me, but every day it tries to ruin my life. Having a chronic skin condition has affected me more than I would have ever imagined.
“Stop itching!” are two words that echo in my brain every single day. I have suffered from eczema my entire life and the itch is one of the most troublesome symptoms. The National Eczema Association defines Eczema as “the name for a group of conditions that cause the skin to become red, itchy and inflamed.”
Eczema impacts the physical boundaries and the evolving body image while causing great psychological burdens. It was different when I was younger though, at the age of sixteen I did not have eczema. Eczema had me. It had me in an excruciatingly painful grip, that I couldn’t get out of. I was always so self-conscious and depressed by my skin.
When my eczema is bad, I don’t want the world to see my eczema so I would hide away instead. I wear long sleeves and pants, in 70-degree weather, in hopes of hiding my shameful body and avoiding questions like, “what is wrong with your skin?”
To me at sixteen, being so concerned with self-image seemed superficial and arrogant. So I avoided looking at myself. I walked quickly past reflective windows of buildings. After a shower, I exited my bathroom before the fog had completely cleared from the mirror. I comforted myself with personal strengths, thinking they should outweigh my self-pitying physical image.
But my skin condition reflected my emotional health, and emotional health fluctuated with my skin condition. I would only use my medical creams and topical steroids when my skin was inflamed from allergies, anxiety, and stress. Once it became calmer, I forgot to use them. My sixteen-year-old self refused to have a medicinal regimen, refused to accept that eczema was part of her life.
It frustrated me to know that, behind closed doors, I was dealing with all of this. The tears when I looked in the mirror, the frustration when I could not fall asleep at night because the itching had overwhelmed me, the sadness when I look at other people’s skin and wonder ”why can’t that be me”. I wanted to worry about my education and my loved ones, not my skin. Not something which others get to take for granted.
After about 2 years of feeling stuck, I decided it was time for a change, so my battle of self-restraint and self-acceptance began. I had to fight my disease, my own biology. Out of necessity, I became a flexible patient, and aware of my limitations. My health became increasingly important to me. I’ve started doing all of these things daily: meditating, drinking 70 ounces of water, not consuming dairy and meat products, and applying creams 3 times. I started noticing improvement mentally and physically. On that day, when I decided to take control of my life, I changed. I went from, why am I like this, to this is me and I fully accept her.
Though the creams, scars, itching, and rashes have not ended, I have learned to accept myself for who I am, an eczema sufferer. It took me 18 years to realize I’ve neglected to appreciate my body, myself. I have no accolades or awards to show for this particular achievement. But no academic distinction in the world can even begin to contest what I acquired from my experience with learning to accept myself. Above all, I realized that by accepting my outer appearance, I embellished my inner appearance.
Today I have been liberated.
Tomorrow I am free.