Meter showing different skin tones with eczema and oozing lesions.

The 50 Shades of Me(lanin)

When I look at my face and body, all I can see is a messy mish-mash of many, many different shades of melanin. An ugly tapestry that shows a worn, weathered body that has undergone a constant attack of eczema flare-ups. Some of these flare-ups were aggressive, paralyzing, and depressing, whereas others were fleeting, manageable, and forgettable.

Battle scars from the flares

But, nonetheless, all of them, in their own individual way, left a memento permanently etched on my body to mark their existence. Thus, I am now a walking, talking, existing poster for hyperpigmentation.

A jumble of colors

The living myriad of broken battle scars. I am not one shade of color. I am an intricate shade of tones and hues of brown, a bit like Elmer, the rainbow elephant. A much-loved children's character who learns to celebrate his 'otherness' as something to be marveled at. Except, I am a less glorious version of Elmer. My jumble of confused, multi-colored skin does not make me want to skip, dance or smile. Instead, my skin makes me want to hibernate for an eternity.

Wreaking havoc on my face

My face is the darkest, most malaised part of my body. This is because, in my teens, I was aggressively afflicted by a virulent and unrelenting battle with facial eczema. The flares up were ruthless. All the emollient and topical steroid creams in the seven seas could not ameliorate and alleviate facial eczema. They came without any notice and without any apology. They unleashed havoc on my face, self-esteem, and self-worth. And then, just like that, once they had had their fun and caused irrevocable damage and despair in my world. The evil eczemator would disappear, leaving a trail of damage and hyperpigmentation for me to deal with.

Eczema creeping down my body

Then, later, the evil eczema enemy sought to seek territorial gain, no longer satisfied with its victorious assault on my face. It boldly and brazenly ventured down my neck. So, now my neck became the same, severely discolored, ugly shade of mangled eczematic skin. My neck would weep and ooze. I would wake up in the morning with crusty, scaly scabs, which I had unknowingly and mercilessly torn open during fretful bouts of night-time scratching. My pillow was saturated with the thick, viscose-y liquid that wept from my poor, devastating skin. My skin wept, and my heart bled for the enormity of the physical and emotional burden I was silently crushed with.

Vulnerably visible

I had to applaud this eczema begrudgingly. It had a certain confidence and ballsy bravado about it. It demanded to be noticed and seen...no matter how ugly it was. Hence, its choice of residence on my body. *drum roll, please* Ta-dah! My face and neck. Nowhere to hide, nowhere to run. The most visibly vulnerable exposed parts of my body. Anywhere else, I could have concealed and covered it. Why couldn't it have appeared on my feet or forearms? It could have had a merry dance and lively party somewhere more discreet. No one looked and directed conversation at my feet or my forearms. I maybe/possibly/definitely maybe (circle all as appropriate) could have tolerated and been less psychologically traumatized by that. But oh no, what purposeful effect would have been achieved by affecting a more 'low-key' area of my skin?

The unlaughable irony

Oh, cruel fate, how I secretly prayed and hoped that my eczema would just magically transmute to another more discreet body part. Anywhere…my back, my legs, my buttocks? Anywhere, please God, but not my oh-so, visible visage. I was a walking, weeping woman wailing about the eczema war that I was woefully NOT winning. There was a bitter, mocking irony with the appearance of eczema on my face, especially during the hormonally challenging era of my teen years.

Struggling with eczema and adolescence

Adolescence was a difficult enough life passage to navigate for all teens. But, I found it a particularly grueling and challenging chapter of my life because alongside seeking approval and acceptance from my peers and excelling academically, I also had to grapple with scaly, scabby, reptilian skin, which relentlessly shed and flaked. Skin that was wrinkled and leathery-looking (lichenification) from a decade of mercilessly scratching it until it bled.

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