Ready to Advocate?
I constantly advocate now without even realizing it, wherever I go. Luckily the people that ask me about my skin are super nice. I was at my first appointment at the physical therapist today (who I found out had eczema as a child and luckily outgrew it), when a sweet older lady named Ursula shifted to a seat closer to me, asking me if I wouldn’t mind telling her about what condition I’m dealing with. I greeted her with a warm smile and went into my spiel about topical steroid withdrawal and eczema. A spiel. I have a spiel now. After over a year of openly talking about my story, the information just rolls off my tongue, in a pretty succinct, very easily digestible format for the listener.
Talking about eczema isn't easy
Before, when someone would ask me about my condition, I wouldn’t really know where to start. I would either just brush off their question and tell them I’m fine - which we all know is a complete lie - or I would tell them that my skin usually itches at the most inopportune times, especially at night when all I want to do is sleep, and that basically, in a nutshell, sucks. Not very informative. This information doesn’t do much for the listener and therefore doesn’t help our community much.
You don't have to be a spokesperson
You don’t need to advocate. I’m not saying that each and every time you go out, you have to be the spokesperson for eczema. Of course not. Especially when that annoying rash on the joint of your right arm has been particularly itchy, and that’s all you can stand for the day. And for some of you, you would rather fly under the radar than ever strike up a conversation with a stranger. And I totally understand. I’m writing this for those of you who are bursting at the seams ready to talk about your condition - just give it a go! Next time you go in for a haircut, talk to your stylist about it. Next time you order takeout and the cashier asks you about your skin, tell them all about eczema/TSW!
Spread awareness of eczema by advocating
- Smile. People like smiles. Return the person’s question about your condition with a smile, to show that you understand that their question comes from a place of concern and curiosity, rather than from a negative place.
- Ask their permission to show them a patch of your eczema. Do this in order to show both the listener and yourself that your condition is nothing to be ashamed of. Because it isn’t. Show off those battle scars!
- Maintain eye contact. As with nearly everything in life, confidence is key. Maintaining eye contact will show the listener that despite the difficulties that your condition has put you through, you are still your confident self, and that in the end, no matter how visible an illness one has, we are all just people craving to be understood.
- Drop some interesting facts for them to walk away with. For example, eczema is not contagious. Eczema impacts every facet of your life. It affects nearly 40 million people in the US alone and 330 million people worldwide.
- Thank them. For their time, being curious enough to care, and for listening to your story.
Good luck to all of you who are ready to share our truth! Please report back on your experiences. I’m ready for the conversation around eczema/TSW to be a normal thing - aren’t you?
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