Facial Eczema is Such a Drag
Today I am very pleased that the UK is in lockdown (Nov 2020). This is because I've just finished wrenching my skin to bits and I don't have to see anyone. There is a reason why this current itching fit has not long happened. It's rare for me to have a fit like this at midday - it normally occurs in the evenings after a long stressful day. Today I embarked on a little experiment that was fuelled by desperation and impatience. It didn't go quite to plan. Not a great combination of feelings to start experimenting, I know, another lesson learned!
An itch inspired article
I always intended to write an article on facial eczema after reading another advocate's story about their struggle with it. My intention was to write it at the end of the month but after today's itching fit, I thought what better time to start.
Organizing any social appointment is always anxiety-inducing. If friends want to meet up at the pub for drinks, you say, yep count me in...knowing full well it all depends on how you're looking and feeling on the day. Sometimes your skin won't be too bad and you'll go just so you're not letting anyone down.
However, you never enjoy it because you can't fully concentrate. You're super aware that people are looking and thinking bad things about you. Sometimes you can see people looking and because your skin might not be really bad that day, you can see them reacting in a way that suggests that they're not quite sure what to think but they know something doesn't look quite right.
Have you ever received a hurtful comment about your skin?
Depression and anxiety
I've had people say to me, "Oh, you look quite tired today," which to me, means they are confusing tiredness for eczema lines around the eyes that have deepened over a period of long and intense flare-ups during the previous week. Another thing that gets said to me when my skin isn't totally obvious to others that I have AD is, "Have you got a cold?" It's so depressing. I have no doubt that there is a link between depression/anxiety and AD.
Are depression and anxiety connected to eczema?
In fact, there was a recent study published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. The study followed over 500,000 adults with atopic eczema and over 2.5 million without eczema over time to see if they were diagnosed with depression or anxiety.1
If I'm having a really bad time with my skin, I will cancel all appointments because I refuse to put myself through the anxious run-up to a particular event. This course of action means that you will annoy many and come across a bit blunt or standoff-ish , but it's another thing that highlights the huge lack of understanding around this disease.
Someone reading this might say, why don't you forewarn people before the time comes that you might cancel so they are aware. I have tried this but it's not that simple. On the third or fourth time of pulling out of an event, you can feel people thinking, he's just using this as an excuse. I promise you this isn't paranoia! Which is why I frequently lie about my reasons for pulling out of social events. It just helps to ease tensions all around.
What's the answer?
I wish I had the answer to this but I don't. Hopefully one day there will be a cure for this and I'll be able to live my life like a normal human being. That said, I've been close before in managing this to an almost near perfect way so I do believe I will get there again. I just don't know when.
Oh, and my silly experiment this morning involved me mixing Rapeseed cooking oil with my Epaderm emollient and applying liberally to my face. Do not do this!
On an average day, how would you rate your level of anxiety related to atopic dermatitis?