The Hands of Eczema
When I was a child, there were times when my hands were soft, almost normal, in between the almost constant terrible flares of eczema. But there were also times when the oozing sores of weeping eczema were the painful, itchy result of touching the wrong thing, eating the wrong food, or even breathing the pollen-laced air. Then I knew it would take forever to clear, trying not to scratch, not to get blood on my clothes or sheets. Always trying to hide them from friends, or even from strangers.
70 years with these hands
Now, 70 years later, those hands are the gnarled hands of age and arthritis. Still extremely dry, still at times painfully itchy. Still occasionally cracking and peeling. The skin is scarred, thinned with age and steroids. But how many things those hands have done, how many places they've been!
Building a home
They've held the hands of a husband, held the hands of our children, a grandchild, held the hand of a dying friend, a parent. They've changed diapers, soothed fevers, and picked dandelions. Guided paths, braided hair, cooked and cleaned. Dealt numerous decks of cards, even milked cows! They've played with, among others, golf clubs, although I have to admit, not very well, and curling rocks, a little better.
Looking for a magical remedy
These hands have pushed strollers in Canada, steered bicycles in France, driven cars in different countries; even, for a time, a huge 2 1/2 ton truck in the North. They've gardened, digging in the dirt, growing some of the food we've eaten and flowers we've enjoyed. These herbs went into my homemade creams and lotions — always looking for that one combination that would magically "cure" or at least help this atopic dermatitis that often seemed never-ending.
Dry and itchy from labor
These hands have done honest labor, often rough, covered with blisters and callouses. Sometimes peeling, cracking, other times just dry and itchy. They've sewn the soft weight of silk into beautiful gowns, the royal blue satin into a prom dress for my beautiful daughter, and turned heavy velvets into draperies. They've dug ditches for electrical and plumbing lines, painted houses, offices, and radar domes. Patched roofs, built fences.
Losing the ability to sew
There were years when eczema was barely a passing thought, but there were also years when it was always top of mind, and the eczema on my hands dictated what was possible. Sewing wedding gowns became history when the constant work with fabrics didn't allow time for them to heal, and bandaids either got in the way or fell off.
Reading and writing
They've held the books which were read for enjoyment, both to others and to myself as well as those that were needed to learn something. Now they're typing on an iPad, using a computer, a smartphone. After practicing desperately to perfect cursive. Who could have dreamed 70 some years ago?
The hands of support
The work of these hands supported me for many years. Then came the time when they supported me on crutches, canes, and walkers after two hip replacements. They may not be pretty, but they show a life well-lived, enjoyed to the fullest despite atopic dermatitis.
How does your mental health relate to your physical health?