A heart is broken by a spiked speech bubble

*itch session: Navigating Heartbreak With Eczema

Navigating relationships tends to be a bumpy road overall, and certainly has been for me most of my life. Unfortunately, dealing with a very visible skin condition like eczema and TSW (topical steroid withdrawal) down the line only added to this difficulty.

How have my views on relationships changed?

When I was in school all throughout my childhood, kids often made comments about my skin, and that included any potential romantic interests as well. I’ll never forget the first time a boy I really liked asked me about my skin, while we were just sitting on a bench in the park. We were kids, though, and life was different back then.

As my skin worsened over time though, it certainly exposed me to the darker side of romantic relationships. For many years now while going through TSW, I have been very isolated. Most of the time, romantic relationships haven’t been on my mind at all. And recently I was reminded of the last time I did give it a real shot.

What was my last relationship like?

A few years ago, I got into a relationship with someone for the first time while going through topical steroid withdrawal. The first few months of the relationship, I didn’t have any severe flares, so it wasn’t much of an issue. However, I recall feeling terrified of it happening one day and how my ex partner would respond. I was quite literally waiting for the other shoe to drop. We had conversations about it, and he assured me he would be by my side and wouldn’t leave me if/when it were to happen.

How did my eczema flare up affect our relationship?

However, things quickly took a turn for the worst when I experienced my first severe flare up in the relationship: I had wounds all over my face and became mostly housebound again as I was dealing with so much pain and discomfort. This, in itself, started to cause a rift in the relationship. He wanted to go out to bars, while I couldn’t do much at all. I certainly started to question the relationship, and understandably, feeling like he didn’t want to spend time with me.

What led to the break up?

Things came to a boiling point one cold and snowy Valentine’s Day. He had moved into a new apartment, and I was okay to leave the house more as I started to recover from the flare up. I had spent the night at his house, and an argument started over something. At this point, I honestly can’t even recall how it started. What I do remember, though, and likely will never forget, was the moment he uttered the words, “You should feel lucky I’m still with you through your flare, no one else would be.” It shattered my heart into a million pieces in what felt like a second.

Shortly after that, the argument escalated as I was extremely hurt, and we ended up breaking up. I packed up my things and called a taxi to take me home. After he said those words, I didn’t want to be anywhere near him. I cried the whole way home, and we haven't spoken to each other to this day.

How have I felt about relationships since?

Since then, truth be told, I’ve been weary of relationships and commitment – understandably. However, I don’t regret standing up for myself that day. I had to choose between a relationship that was causing me emotional pain and my own well being, and I am glad I chose the latter. I realized I couldn’t allow someone to make me feel ashamed for a condition I had no control over, and something that was essentially part of me, ever again.

While the situation wasn’t pleasant, it was an important and necessary step toward healing for me. It allowed me to truly start to recover my self-esteem and find the strength within to not be defined by eczema, TSW, or my skin in general. Eczema may have brought me painful experiences, but it also led me to the realization that I am deserving of love and should never settle for anything less.

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