Person embraces younger versions of themselves

One Of The Hardest Things About Having Eczema

One of the hardest things to realize when having eczema is that not everyone is going to be able to step up to the plate to support you the way you need.

Why were people so mean?

When I first developed eczema as a child I used to feel so resentful of other people who would judge me, make rude comments, and give unsolicited advice. I wanted so badly to have acceptance. I wished so much to feel supported and comforted by others. But that is not what I received. And in my hurt, I would accuse these judgmental people of being mean, heartless, and not understanding. And there were certainly people who fit that description.

How did my perception of the commentary change?

But the older I've gotten — especially when I reached my thirties — I started to turn a corner with this kind of thinking: I went from feeling entitled to people immediately being understanding of a skin condition that they've never had to developing compassion for how they could have absolutely no idea how to react to skin that looked like mine. As I've gotten older, I have reflected on how I used to react to things that surprised me or things that I did not understand at first. And through this self-reflection, I realized that I have not always been perfect in being immediately accepting and understanding of things that I don't understand and experiences that I have never had.

There is certainly a learning curve and as well as a desire to learn that needs to be in one’s heart for there to be compassion; and therefore an openness and receptivity to learning new things and expanding one's heart to accept and receive education on the differences of those around us — even if we will never have those experiences ourselves.

Are people more kind or cruel?

Considering all of these parts of our shared reality, we as eczema warriors need to be realistic and realize that not everyone online or in-person is going to be kind or understanding to us — even if it is obvious that we are in pain and unhappy. But what is also true is that there are more kind people than there are not. Just because one person is unkind does not discount the majority of people in the world who do have the capacity in their hearts to actually wish you well, want to help (even if unsolicited), and a complete recovery. Or who are just neutral and who do not have an extreme emotional reaction one way or the other because they are too caught up with their own lives and problems.

Do people really know your experience with eczema?

People's reactions and responses to you say a lot more about them than they do about you. We are all just reflections of each other, mirroring each other’s projections of our thoughts of ourselves and our interpretations of the world around us based on the education and experiences that we have had up to any given point in time. How people respond to you is a reflection of how they would feel about themselves if they were in your shoes, but without your specific experience. Unless someone actually knows you personally, they don't really know you, your experience, or how you even perceive yourself and your experience with eczema. So it is impossible for them to really know how to fairly judge you or treat you without knowing your full story and how you've interpreted and understood your experience up to the point of interacting with them.

How do I try to let the commentary go?

It is in these cases that I humble myself and remember that not everyone has been exposed to eczema and may not know how to properly conduct themselves or respond to noticing rashes on strangers. I am not entitled to special treatment and not everyone in the world is as compassionate or considerate as I would like. If someone’s negative reaction hurts me, it is probably because on some level, I agree with them and it hurts. But if I can be mindful of my emotions and reactions enough, I can also just give them the acceptance and understanding that I would like myself and let it go because I choose not to let my pain and these interactions define who I am. I just appreciate those who have the strength to be supportive and the kindness to be compassionate regardless of having a shared experience.

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