I've had atopic dermatitis since at least high school. I say "at least" because I always just assumed it was dry skin and everyone had something like that on their bodies. Because of that, I never really talked to anyone in my life about it. But when you get married, you enter into a different kind of relationship--one where you see each other all the time, one where you need to talk about the things that bug you or make you uncomfortable so that the other person knows what to be sensitive about....or at least that became a part of my marriage...one that includes atopic dermatitis.
Haircuts can be a way of life!
You may wonder what haircuts have to do with my marriage... But I will tell you that I LOVE having short hair. It is completely freeing for me. My husband is not as big of a fan as I am, and often asks when I'm going to grow my hair out. But as a mom with two younger children (one in preschool, and one who's a toddler now), I need freedom from worrying about my hair of all things! I have grown my hair out and then chopped it off at different times throughout my life. When my younger daughter realized I had hair that was pullable recently, I knew it was time for it to go. Chunks were being ripped out on a daily basis while breastfeeding or reading books, and it also didn't help that my post-partum hormones were all the rage and I was developing bald spots around my face! So I am now sporting a lovely, super-short pixie cut and couldn't be happier!
The Dragon Skin Checker
When I started dating my now-husband, I tried to have this same haircut. The only thing holding me back was some sort of weird dry skin patch at the back of my neck. It extended up into my hair, and while it occasionally went away, it sometimes was a red, rough, scaly, bleeding or scabbed up mess! My husband jokingly named my dry, scaly patch "dragon skin." So that's how we talked about it. Was my dragon skin bleeding? Did my dragon skin look like it needed some cream? Was the dragon skin visible through my hairdo? It was kind of nice to have someone be my personal dragon skin checker. After all, what are husbands for?! But I couldn't have short hair with that all hanging out back there! Someone standing behind me might see it and I (maybe luckily?) wouldn't see the grossed-out look on their face. What if I got a bunch of scaly skin flakes on my shirt and didn't even know it? What if people saw it and thought I had some kind of gross dandruff problem? WHAT IF.....???
Time to DO SOMETHING
I couldn't walk around like that, worrying about the what ifs. My husband was super supportive of me. I had pretty good insurance at the time and I decided I needed to do something. He came with me to get allergy tested. He was thinking that the medical alert necklace I wore for my Type 1 Diabetes might contain nickel. I knew nickel bothered me from reactions to earrings I'd had. And nickel showed up as an allergen in my tests (as well as paper tape which they used to hold all the other test spots on my back for three days...but that's another story!). My necklace, it turned out, was stainless steel. No nickel in there...
The doctor decided to try a biopsy. Maybe he could tell what was going on if he looked at my skin under a microscope. After the painful removal of the first few layers of skin from a tiny patch of dragon skin at the back of my neck, the results were inconclusive--it might be eczema, it could be psoriasis... The doctor sort of shrugged his shoulders at me, telling me that the skin was so damaged, he couldn't make out what was going on, and that it didn't really matter anyway because treatment would be relatively the same. We decided to try a variety of creams, gels, and other topical medications to see what would work best.
I'm a Survivor!
I tried lots of different medications on my red patch of dragon skin, and later had it diagnosed as atopic dermatitis. Some medicines worked better than others on my neck (and some worked better in my ears, or on my hands, or....you know, any of the many other places on my body affected by atopic dermatitis). Finally, I got my hair cut nice and short! I still get an occasional flare up, but I treat it as soon as it starts up, so it can't reach dragon skin level! And, luckily, my husband is still my dragon skin checker and medication applier!
Did you know October is eczema awareness month?