Is Living With Eczema "Normal"?
In 2016, I remember being in a boardroom meeting discussing eczema. I was nonchalantly expressing to them how atopic dermatitis had limited my life growing up. “I couldn’t play sports outside because the weather and my eczema were too unpredictable. I couldn’t go to my best friend’s house because she had a dog. I couldn't lay on the grass or play outside because I was had so many environmental allergies." As we all know the list could go on and on.
Are the limitations of eczema normal?
And sympathetically, one of them responded, “But that’s not normal, right?”
As soon as she said this, it was like a light bulb went off. “I guess you’re right,” I tilted my head in curiosity, “I never really put it into that perspective. My childhood wasn’t normal.”
How can we have a normal life?
Til this day, I remember how I felt at that moment and thereafter hearing that statement. No one - no doctor or person - had ever told me that what I was going through wasn’t “normal.” No one said, "Well, wait a minute, how can we get her to experience the sun without pain, or play sports without flareups? How can we give her a normal life like the rest of the kids?"
Living a lie
It was like up until that point, I had been living a lie. I had unconsciously accepted that this way of living with eczema was normal. And that mentality was dangerous. Because I was so used to eczema and its symptoms, everything just seemed normal to me -- the itchiness, the sleepless nights, skipping out on school, and so forth.
But she was right.
Eczema isn't normal
Eczema isn’t normal. Its symptoms aren't normal. What we go through because of eczema isn't normal. The way many of us live our lives - in fear, stress, anxiety, insecurity - is not normal. These itching attacks are not normal. Sleepless nights aren't normal. Parents fearing for their child’s health isn’t normal.
It’s in knowing that something isn’t normal, that we can then create change. It’s in knowing that there is better out there, that we can then imagine a better life. But up until then, what is deemed normal, will have us and our situation remain the same; it will have us thinking we're stuck or that this is just the way life is.
But it's not.
Finding a new normal with eczema
Finding a “new” normal can be scary and really uncomfortable; it can have one feeling vulnerable and uncertain. To step into your new normal, here’s a journaling exercise you can do on your own time in order to create a new normal.
Write your current “normal” with eczema
Reflect on what you go through on a day-to-day basis because of your eczema. Think about the thoughts you have about yourself and your body due to eczema. Reflect on what you think other people think about you and your eczema.
Write what you want your “new normal” to look like
Reflect on how you would want to experience life. How would you like to feel, regardless if you had eczema or not. What would life look like? What would you be doing differently? How would you see yourself and your body?
Write an action plan
Given what you had written in step 2, write an action plan of what you can do every day or every week to experience and create your new normal. Maybe it’s looking into the mirror and saying “I’m beautiful” every day. Or maybe it’s wearing that skirt you want to wear even though your legs are flaring up. Or perhaps it’s setting up an appointment with your doctor to discuss alternative treatments.
Do it every day. Do it even when you don’t feel like it. Your new normal will only happen if you CHOOSE to make it happen. You are worthy of a new normal. Create it. Your mental and physical health depends on it.
Which best describes you?