Imagine having clear skin, using any lotion, detergent, fabric softener, or body wash that you like. Picture eating meals including seafood or any foods that have dairy in them. Imagine being able to be around plants, flowers, pollen, and any animal imaginable, and one day it all changes. Well, for me, this is where things went from being normal to life-changing.
Growing up with rashes
Growing up, I was a very active kid. There was nothing that would stop me from going on an adventure, playing outside, or being heavily involved in sports. Nothing could stop me from enjoying my day-to-day adventures. My skin was clear, smooth, and radiant. During the school year, there were no issues when it came to my skin. The only time I remember having any breakouts was during the hot summers when I thought they were just rashes. Little did I know, it was eczema. I would have breakouts along my sweat glands, i.e., on my arms, behind my legs, and neck. I didn’t think anything of it, knowing it would subside and eventually go away.
My mother worked at a hospital, so she would come home with Keri lotion where I would apply it to those areas, Vaseline or Jergens. Everything was normal from my adolescence to my early teenage years. Things began to change during my junior year.
My junior year of high school
During my high school years, I was a tri-season athlete playing football, basketball, and track and field. It wasn’t until my junior year that things began to change. We just finished losing the semi-finals during the basketball season, and I took no break between sports and transitioned to track season.
A memorable flare
While the weather was transitioning from winter to spring, despite the team practicing indoors, it was still cold in the building. Under Armor compression pants and long-sleeve shirts were commonly used to keep warm. I could not afford Under Armor clothing, so I layered up and wore long sleeves. One day, I was running late to practice. As I walked into the locker room, I saw a piece of Under Armor clothing on the floor that was not claimed. I decided to pick it up and wear it. I went through practice and it was a normal day. I continued to wear Under Armor until I started noticing some changes in my skin. I didn’t think anything of it because I would get seasonal rashes growing up and they would “eventually” go away. Well, this time, they didn’t.
The beginning of my eczema journey
What started as a rash on my sweat glands began to spread throughout my arms and legs. I continued to push it to the side and go about my practices and track meets. This “rash" began to spread to my neck. It went from feeling like a rash to feeling like my skin was on fire. My skin peeled from any movement that I tried to do. It eventually got to a point where I had to see a dermatologist. Once I was there, they told me that I had eczema. I had no clue what it was. I thought it was another form of rash that would go away. I was prescribed not only ointments and creams, samples as well to see how my skill would react to them. The itching and uncomfortable sensation would go away with my prescription medications, but the eczema came back 2x as bad.
My senior year
My senior year was an absolute nightmare. Whether it was 90 degrees or 20 degrees, I would layer up to hide the fact that my skin was different from everyone else’s. The first time my skin began to peel and stick on my clothes was when I took my senior pictures. I would see flakes of my skin on my clothes, my sheets, and basically everywhere. I wasn’t sure how I could be cured. I was embarrassed, shy, and became a shell of myself, asking, “Why me?”
Everything was going wrong
There was a time when I thought I was “cured” when I was prescribed steroids. However, my pigmentation changed and my skin began to thin out. Whenever I scratched myself, I would cut my skin open, making it take longer to heal. People wouldn’t make any comments, but they would just stare. I often wouldn’t give them anything to look at because I layered up. However, because the eczema spread all over my body and face, I could not hide it. Things from getting haircuts, taking showers, and applying any lotions appeared ineffective. The only comfort I had was sleeping. I was stressing out, feeling lonely and depressed, and life changes were happening at the same time.
On an average day, how would you rate your level of anxiety related to atopic dermatitis?