A Black woman with reddened patches of skin sits on the floor and hugs her knees to her chest, with a sad expression on her face.

The Emotional Cost of Eczema

Eczema impacts a person in a multiplicity of ways. Many deem the impact of this debilitating ailment to be mainly explicit and visible. After all...it is on the surface of the skin, right? However, that viewpoint is quite reductionist and overlooks the myriad of surreptitious, sinister, and sneaky ways that this affliction can impact or damage the overall well-being of an individual.

We live in an image-obsessed society

Firstly, there is the emotional cost of having eczema in an image-obsessed society, such as the one we live in nowadays. More and more people are arguably (often unknowingly) sucked into a vortex of shallow, vacuous content consumption. We all want things that are seemingly perfect...glossy, plastic, fantastic.

The advertising world insists on brainwashing us into gormlessly accepting their unobtainable ideal of 'beauty' and 'health.' We are deemed as "lesser than" or lacking if we do not submit and follow the flock of frazzled and frenzied sheep. Very few of us have the inclination, desire, or forbearance to seek or tolerate the imperfect facets of our humanness.

Pursuing perfection and control

It is why managing and maintaining a grizzly and gnarly skin condition, such as eczema, can prove to be such a tricky task. Don't ever underestimate how hard it is to walk around with scaly, weeping, itchy, blemished skin. Skin that causes pain and skin that is pain...personified. Fighting with skin that simultaneously sheds and flakes like a snowy, idyllic wintery morning while resembling the parched, dehydrated terrain of the Sahara desert. The harsh, non-sugar-coated reality is that living in this weathered and worn body really knocks and saps your confidence and self-esteem. The battle for control and some semblance of victory is tiresome and illusionary. It is often a case of one step forward and 12 steps back. I feel like I am constantly trying to cover, conceal or control the impending flare-ups.

Hiding my pain from the world

On a really bad day, this eczema can debilitate and render me immobile in a way that is disconcerting even to me. I am engulfed in devastating depression and find the physical and emotional pain of having such broken skin too much to burden. I feel unable to muster the courage to physically face any other human life form. I am too ashamed of this eczema that blights my face. I feel excessively apologetic. I have not chosen this skin affliction. It often has a mind of its own, so why am I sorry for something I have little control over?

The voice that kicks me further down

The inner critic in my head roars in my head. He goes into overdrive during casual exchanges of conversation. He goads me. He reminds me of how ugly I truly am. He makes me feel so stupidly sorry for the person looking at my face. I want to shield and protect them from having to view the monstrosity...that is my face. He mysteriously turns into a magical mind-reader at these trauma-inducing moments. He loudly shouts in my head…

  • "Hmm, what are they thinking?"
  • "Are they disgusted by my visible disfigurement as much as I am?"
  • "Oh no, is that pitiful shame I detect emanating from them?"
  • "I bet they are genuinely grateful not to be you… not to be marred by this malicious malaise."

And on and on…the vicious, vindictive dialogue circulates and consumes my consciousness. I desperately grapple for a MUTE button. But, I have no such luck. The voice is loud and is the victor in my mind…for another day.

This mind-reading escapade is emotionally destructive and draining. It is the primary reason I retreat when a flare-up rears its ugly face (pun intended). I just want to hibernate and resurface when my skin has once again reset, recalibrated, and decided to act like some semblance of 'normal' skin.

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