A woman is shown in three phases, walking from a place engulfed in flames, through a door to a peaceful place in the clouds.

Being Thrown Into the Fire & Facing Your Fears

This past autumn, while typically being my favorite season, was much different and certainly more difficult than past ones, to say the least. I was looking forward to enjoying the fall weather all year long, but instead, I was faced with one of the most difficult experiences of my life.

What happened in November?

In early November, one of my close family members had a serious health emergency and ended up in the hospital for quite some time. This, of course, put a lot of stress on me, as well as my skin. After being bedridden for many years through topical steroid withdrawal and dealing with the after-effects of that, this entire situation was quite shocking to me.

I have dealt with PTSD most of my life, starting with coming to the US as a refugee from a war-torn country. Then, in addition, the PTSD that comes with topical steroid withdrawal and eczema as well, not to mention the panic, social anxiety, and other mental health conditions. I had just started doing exposure therapy with my therapist prior to this. One of the goals was to get out into the world and interact with others more - by easing into it slowly. However, the universe had a different plan for me.

How did my priorities change?

When my family member was in the hospital, being one of the only people he even had and has by his side, I was essentially thrown into the fire, so to speak. I suddenly had to manage going to the hospital every day to be with him, take care of him, etc. This, of course, was all while still dealing with my own itchy and irritated skin and having to suddenly face my fears and anxieties about the “outside world.”

Evidently, life decided I didn’t need step-by-step exposure therapy. Instead, it just forced me to reintegrate all at once - and in an intense and chaotic way, at that. I went from being mostly isolated, to taking trips to the hospital and offices every single day, going grocery shopping, taking care of things around the house, and even taking care of another person while still dealing with my own fragile health.

How was my eczema impacted by the change?

While dealing with and focusing on someone else so much, my skin was no longer center stage. Being so immersed in everything else, and having something (someone, that is) who I love so dearly needing help after nearly losing his life, took priority over everything else. Surprisingly that included my skin, which usually tends to rule over my entire life.

One day, while I was visiting in the ICU, I rushed to the restroom while I had time. I remember looking at the mirror (in bright fluorescent lighting at that - which is usually a big trigger for me) and being shocked at how good my skin looked. I didn’t see any red, open wounds on my face, neck, chest, or anywhere they typically appear. In fact, my skin looked completely healthy and normal. I was incredibly grateful for that. But still, I had other priorities at the time and didn’t have much time to think about it.

What has the experience reminded me?

Now, as this whole situation starts to settle a bit and I am able to reflect, I see what a long way I have come. I see how everything in life happens for a reason. Even when it's extremely difficult. Sometimes we just have to be thrown into the fire and face our fears head-on. Then, we come back out of it, rising like the Phoenix we are. We eczema and chronic health warriors truly don’t give ourselves enough credit for what we go through on a daily basis with our skin and health alone - let alone everything else in life on top of it. This entire experience reminded me of the strength I hold within that we all hold within. And how we forget about it far too often.

Sometimes, it takes a drastic change and life putting us to the “test,” so to speak, for us to be reminded of it. And that’s okay, too, as it’s all part of life. Every experience is another experience for growth and expansion if we want it to be.

What should you do for yourself?

So, if there’s one thing you do for yourself today - look at your own life and yourself - skin and all. Truly look into the depths of your own soul and give yourself the credit and love you deserve. Not only for what you go through but for who you are. Be proud of the warrior that you are… because that is what you are. And you are worth it.

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