The Phases of My Eczema Life
Last updated: September 2023
My identity as a chronic eczema survivor has shifted with every decade since about the age of 5 years old to now, my late 30s. I swear every decade of my life feels like a different lifetime lived by a different version of me. And every day, I feel incredibly grateful that I have survived this long having lived through as much physical and mental pain as I have.
As a child, I felt very overwhelmed by eczema. I felt confused, lost, and out of control. I had many times where I had suicidal feelings I felt like I was walking on eggshells with my own nervous system. It seemed as if anything that got me off balance or brought any discomfort would set off what felt like a volcanic tidal wave of itchiness all over my body. It always felt worse on my face, especially my eyelids.
Would there ever be an end?
I felt so much shame and embarrassment for having no sense of self-control. And I panicked while using an endless lifetime supply of steroid creams and ointments of various concentrations. I didn't know if there would ever be an end to this painful cycle though I always had hope. Because of all of this instability and pain in my life, I became very jaded and sarcastic and embraced gothic themes in art and fashion (when I wasn’t feeling shy about expressing myself).
My teens were not that much better, and I often felt very left out of life. I couldn't play around with makeup or do much with my hairstyle because I was just constantly trying to cover up my rashes and be invisible because I didn't want people to notice my patchy, red skin. I had gotten so used to being judged and getting unsolicited advice that hurt my feelings that I became a loner. I am already an only child, so it wasn’t difficult for me to keep to myself.
How did I get through high school?
Amazingly, I still somehow had a good solid group of nerdy friends to get me by in high school. I found my voice through creative writing, and becoming the Editor-In-Chief of my high school's literary magazine gave me a place to express my feelings and show a natural talent that got people to see past my skin. I went from being bullied for being a nerd to being recognized by all the cool, popular and athletic students. People who barely looked at me during my freshman and sophomore years suddenly started greeting me by my first name and showed me respect in my junior and senior years. I actually started to gain a sense of self-respect because I had a leadership position doing something that I loved which is creative writing.
Now in my adulthood, I have lived so many lives and have learned so much through my own research and experimentation with different types of food, treatments, and cosmetic products. I have found what works for me and what doesn't. I have a better sense of what will protect me and what will harm me. I have better boundaries and self-control. I have a sense of empowerment because I know myself better and have more life experience. I know that everything changes, including the painful times. And with enough effort, good intentions and self-observation, anyone can learn about what will help or harm their skin.
Where am I now?
Do I still have eczema? Yes. Do I still have times when I struggle? Yes. But now I have the wisdom to know that it is all temporary. Just as we have our downfalls we also have our upswings eventually.
What type of infection do you deal with most often?