College and Eczema
College is supposed to be one of your best years. It’s a time of exploration, identifying who you are, defining your purpose, and connecting with people who you hope will be longtime friends. It’s also a time to major in a subject you enjoy, study hard, and get good grades.
But what happens when you live with eczema and are going to college? The stress could add up pretty quickly.
My college experience
I grew up in a little town called Fair Lawn, NJ, where everyone knew everyone. When it was time to apply to college, I knew I wanted to get away and explore another place! So I decided to attend a college all the way on the other side of the country in Los Angeles, CA. Moving to an unknown state, without the support of my family and friends, all while being a first-generation college student AND living with eczema… yep, it was as risky and scary as it sounds!
Eczema, stress, and school
While I ended up loving California and making the most out of my college experience, my eczema was definitely an interruption in what was supposed to be my best years; it got in the way of truly fulfilling all that I wanted to do during that time. From playing a sport to involving myself in multiple clubs to taking on leadership positions, to going out with friends more often, I held myself back in many ways due to my eczema.
Here are a few things I wish I knew and did in regards to my eczema that would’ve made my college years better:
Be vulnerable with your roommates
Living with others who didn’t understand my eczema was challenging. They didn’t understand:
- Why I needed the fan on while sleeping
- Why I needed the apartment cleaned and vacuumed all of the time
- Why we couldn’t blast the heat during the winter time
- Why I had jugs of Vaseline
- Why taking a shower and getting ready took me so long
It was because of my eczema. If I had just shared with them, vulnerably and authentically, about how much my eczema impacted me aside from the physical part, I think my living situation would have been smoother.
Eczema is a priority
So be clear and direct with your roommates (if you have any). Don’t be afraid of over-explaining yourself, until they get it. Your eczema needs specific care and that should be your priority, not whether people would understand you or think you’re weird.
File for disability support services
I never considered having eczema as a disability. However, after talking to administrators of the school after I graduated, I realized that this was an option for me due to the severity of my eczema. My college defined disability as a physical or mental limitation that hinders the student in a major life activity. In my opinion, eczema can be both a physical and mental limitation that hinders anyone from functioning and accomplishing day-to-day tasks.
Receiving eczema support
Eczema can create intense flare-ups, itchiness, anxiety, stress, discomfort, etc. and can, therefore, have a direct impact on a student’s concentration, ability to get homework done, prepare for an exam, and so forth. Talk to your school about disability options and possible accommodations that can be made to support you and your eczema.
Seek out a support group
There were times when I felt alone in college like I was the only girl in all of the school to have eczema or suffer from a chronic condition. Having a support system of people who are going through a similar condition would have been helpful.
Find others like you
Unfortunately, I did not realize my school had a support system for those living with a chronic condition until after I graduated. If this is something you would be interested in, reach out to your school to see if they have a club or a support group that you can participate in. If there aren’t any support groups in your school, check your local area. And if you are risk-taker and go-getter like me, and there are no options in or around your school, create one!
Have you been diagnosed with atopic dermatitis?