The Beauty of Eczema
“It's not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” ~Henry David Thoreau
I never thought that I would ever use the words "beauty" and "eczema" in the same sentence, let alone ever describe the experience of my journey with this multifaceted condition. It took years of emotional, mental, and spiritual twists and turns to carry me to where I am today, and I can honestly say there were not many beautiful moments about those years.
Death to rebirth
Recently, I was reading some Buddhist philosophy talking about the concept that “Winter always turns into spring.” I spent time reflecting on what this means for me. What came forward, was the idea that winter can reflect a death of sorts, followed by spring, like a rebirth. Not mortal death, though perhaps it may be a metaphor for an internal death, or leaving behind that which no longer serves. Perhaps it is the death of a perception, feeling, or way of thinking…
The shame of eczema
It is time to leave behind the shame of my eczema, the death of all the suffering. The shame, judgment, and projections of what others had been thinking created a story about myself. This was the reality I had been living. I bought into these beliefs as the absolute truth; I was unlovable, unworthy, terrified of being stared at, pointed out, or rejected because of what my skin looked like.
Ashamed and striving for perfection
This shame had plagued me as far back as I can remember. It held me and kept me hostage from being the fullest expression of myself, always living life from the sidelines, feeling like I didn’t belong, or knowing where I fit. I had lived as a prisoner, resulting in coping strategies that I developed to protect myself so that nobody could ever hurt or reject me. The push for perfection of how I looked on the outside became my life’s goal, which, in the end, was my demise.
In search of solutions
It was clear that it was the resistance to my human experience that was causing me great suffering, my own disgust of having eczema. It felt endless because I wasn’t seeing the results I wanted from medications, diets, or clinical trials. Seeking all the answers, hopes and potential promises outside myself was failing me. Ultimately, what felt like torment brought me to my knees. I knew that if nothing changes, then nothing changes.
So I began to explore below the surface, beyond what was skin deep. I decided to dialogue with the inflammation. I asked it, “What do I need to know?” and “What are you here to teach me?” The inflammation that was ravaging my entire body was trying to get my attention because nothing else was. It was shepherding me to live into a new story, where I create and thrive.
Learning to heal
So, you’re waiting for the beauty part, right? Despite all the peaks and valleys, I’m grateful for the silver lining, the learning opportunity, because I believe that’s why we’re here - to learn how to let go of everything that keeps us from knowing our true nature: Love. That, is the true medicine, the real healing salve.
The power of mindfulness
I was introduced to mindfulness, which didn’t take the eczema away, though it inspired a different relationship to the experience of my suffering. I committed to a mindfulness and meditation practice as if my life depended on it. It taught me how to accept myself and my circumstances and how to be present with all of the pain and emotions, moment to moment, without judgment. I began treating myself with more kindness, self-compassion, and self-love which was shedding the armor of protecting myself from the world.
The perspective eczema gave me
The commitment to both my spiritual practice and mindfulness woke me up to the truth of who I am. Because of my eczema, these practices invited me to cultivate the qualities of a person that I honor, cherish, value, and love today. I have been gifted with new vision, seeing myself and the world through soul-centered eyes and to hear with heart-centered listening.
I began to feel the belonging I longed for because of our shared common humanity, which the world needs to embrace more than ever today. It was in this winter, the death of the shame and judgment, accompanied by self-forgiveness, that I recognized the beauty of eczema. It returned me to the love INSIDE my own heart. The inner peace that revived my spirit was the rebirth of living in a new experience of my human experience.
Have you been diagnosed with atopic dermatitis?