Surprising Ways Eczema Has Improved My Life
I know what you’re thinking. The idea that eczema can improve anything is far-fetched. At first, it also seemed like this was the case when I looked at my experiences from the surface.
How did I come to this perspective?
When I use an objective lens to review my experiences with having atopic dermatitis, a very different picture develops. Suddenly, experiences I thought only contained discomfort and embarrassment reveal moments of resiliency and humility. Finding the lessons and recognizing the things we have learned in these experiences makes going through them a little less horrible.
Practice makes perfect
I have also learned these types of things take lots of practice to become engrained as behaviors. At least for me. So, with the intent of practicing this skill, and with the hope that my exercise in learning to identify strength in my adversity will help you to recognize your similar demonstrations of such. I truly believe that practice makes perfect. So today, I’m going to use this article as an opportunity.
What have I learned?
I hope that my exercise in practicing my ability to identify meaning through my experiences with eczema will act as a reminder for you to recognize the resiliency you hold within your own experiences.
How have my social skills improved?
(I think) I have better social skills because of eczema! I have had eczema flare-ups both as a child and as an adult. I generally get them on my face and neck too. So, it’s visible. Having people ask all sorts of questions is exhausting. Receiving unsolicited advice can feel frustrating. When you have something painful and visible, you are uniquely aware of it. It is too bad many folks who do not deal with visible and disabling medical issues have zero concept of that.
Atopic dermatitis has taught me to be mindful of not staring inappropriately, making comments, or asking questions. I have met many people who feel entitled to a response from persons with visible disabilities when they ask what is ‘wrong’ with them. Having had similar experiences, I try and be considerate and not think myself to be entitled to any such information from anyone. As a result of personally experiencing the humiliation and shock of encounters such as those described above, I continue to try to be a better ally to myself and my peers with visible disabilities.
How do I respond to myself and others?
Having atopic dermatitis has also changed the way I directly respond to myself and others. I try and be thoughtful and conscientious of how I interact with other people with visible dermatological conditions. I try and be more conscientious about how much I let myself assume about others based on misunderstood physical, physiological, and psychological aspects of their lives.
Many studies have produced data to inform statistics that show how people with acne vulgaris are treated worse in general by their acne-free peers. Given that, it is hard not to hypothesize that this extends to folks with other visible skin issues.1,2 I invite anyone with doubts to do a quick review of ANY patient support forums for cystic acne, rosacea, psoriasis, and more. Not that I believe anyone who is reading this would doubt my hypothesis.
I reason that this is because we share common ground. Atopic dermatitis communities, like this one, usually have a common theme in all the contributions, editorials, and other content. Words like empathy, education, empowerment, and community come to mind.
What benefits come from communities?
I am not perfect in my empathy and being non-judgemental, much to my annoyance. There is a massive benefit to belonging to communities that recognize lived experiences, honour them and work together to create positive changes for people who will come into the communities in the future.
In a perfect world, communities like ours wouldn’t have to exist. Accurate and empathetic patient support and education would be readily available. It would be available for any diagnosis or condition. We wouldn’t have to have advocacy groups because there wouldn’t be stigma, marginalization, or misinformation. However, the world is not quite there yet. I cannot accurately voice how impactful it has been to be a part of communities that fill those gaps. I certainly have benefited personally from their wisdom and understanding on many occasions.
It is bittersweet, I suppose. A kind of feeling like, “I’m not glad you are going through hard stuff because you also have eczema. However, I am relieved not to be the only one having the unique and sometimes annoying challenges atopic dermatitis brings. I appreciate feeling understood and accepted.”
How has community changed me?
I have felt this way both as a direct contributor and as someone who has just silently participated in online communities like this. As a contributor, I desire to create meaningful content.
My desire led me to further my education and complete dozens of courses via online education to improve my writing and style. It has led to lessons in trusting myself and not being so darn self-critical. All of that has come from the unfortunate circumstance of having eczema on my face. All that thought, growth, and change.
Why am I trying to find positivity in eczema?
Having eczema undoubtedly sucks. And, if I had a magic wand, I wouldn’t hesitate to ‘Avada Kedavra,’ my eczema to hell. However, I am here for the long haul. So I feel it is crucial to recognize that it has brought some positives. I try and be a bit more thoughtful of how my words and actions impact people who are struggling with similar issues. Having eczema has made me seek community and self-improvement. All because I wanted to improve how I meaningfully contributed to the community!
Neither life nor atopic dermatitis is all sunshine and rainbows. Nevertheless, I’m grateful that even though eczema has been a dark cloud over my life, I can see some silver linings.
Which allergies do you live with? (Select all that apply)