3 Ways to Redirect a Bully's Focus on Your Eczema
Last updated: August 2023
One of the hardest things for me to hear about and read about as an eczema veteran of over 30 years is about people who get bullied while having eczema while at school, work, or just existing in the outside world, running errands, going to appointments, etc. I have so many painful memories of my own: of people judging me and being repulsed by the appearance of my rashes’ appearance. Sometimes, those painful memories happened in my own family, in my own home.
I wish I had the wisdom and experience I have now to respond to those past experiences with more dignity and self-respect. But hindsight is always 20/20. So now I share these tips with you and this community in hopes that it will help someone feel more secure and ready to handle rude stares, negative comments, and confrontations much more easily. I hope this advice from a distance will save you the time and struggle that I went through to get to the more empowered and confident state I am in today.
Now, how do we bully-proof ourselves when we have eczema?
Develop a talent. This can be creative or useful. It doesn't have to only be artistic. Your talent can also be handy and practical, applicable to everyday life. Maybe you are a math wiz or good at fixing things? Maybe you have a great sense of humor? Or an interest in music, writing, crafting, or illustration? Maybe you’re passionate and very knowledgeable about a particular topic?
Developing a talent of some sort when you have a very visible chronic illness will make you a more interesting person and will create something that stands out about you besides your skin. You get to form an identity outside of your skin. You’re not just the person with rashes, allergies, and sensitivities. You are someone with passion, talent, and valuable information that is useful to others, that enhances the quality of life for you and those around you. This will in turn increase your sense of value to other people and sense of self-worth. Talents and hobbies will also help distract you from the pain and become a type of therapy, which kills two birds with one stone: you get to do something that is therapeutic for you while increasing your social value and confidence.
Become an expert, advocate, or leader in health education of your sensitive skin. If you have it in you to be a leader and a teacher, you can embrace the role of becoming an educator of eczema for others to learn from. This will benefit you because you will be seen as someone with valuable knowledge that will be useful for other people to know: an authority on the topic. This will benefit others because you can teach them how to be more savvy when it comes to meeting and interacting with people with sensitive skin like you.
I have accidentally fallen into this role over my life, finding friends, relatives, coworkers and classmates coming to me for advice and consultation on what I like to use for my skincare and makeup. Or asking me what food I liked to eat or avoid so that they could be more informed when getting gifts for their own loved ones who also had sensitive skin. Because of this, my rashes were not seen as a negative thing but they became proof that I knew what I was talking about and that I was speaking from genuine experience.
Not everyone has it in them to be a health leader or educator, though. And not every eczema warrior has to take on this role if it is not in their heart. So, if this does not connect with you or you do not feel ready to step up to this plate yet, being supportive (silently or obviously) of those who are is just as valuable and needed.
Know what your triggers are so that you can inform others. This is one of the fastest ways I have found to get people to stop commenting on my skin because knowing what my triggers are at least makes my rashes seem less mysterious.
If people know that my triggers are food allergies, certain climates, or certain fabrics, then they can be informed that my rashes are not contagious because the source of them was not another person. It was just my own body’s and immune system's reaction to something I consumed or that was in my environment. It is not a threat to their well-being at all. This makes others realize that the possibility of getting rashes from you unlikely and everyone can relax a bit more.
What type of infection do you deal with most often?