Eczema & Post-Traumatic Growth
I heard of the phrase “post-traumatic growth” for the first time after listening to a podcast with Jay Shetty and Jim Kwik. I thought to myself, “I’m familiar with post-traumatic stress, but I have never heard of post-traumatic growth before.”
What is post-traumatic growth?
Post-traumatic growth is the perspective that some individuals can be radically changed in good ways from their struggle with trauma. That at some point in their healing or recovery, there is a point where the person begins to see themselves and the trauma from a strength-based perspective, instead of a weak-based perspective.
Eczema can be traumatic
Or at least it was for me. The process of going through eczema or atopic dermatitis (or any disease in this case) can be a traumatic experience. And it was for me personally. As I wrote in a past article about TSW, the side effects of losing all of my precious, curly hair and becoming unrecognizable was a traumatic experience for me.
Many don’t see our condition or AD as traumatic because we are currently living in it. We are in survival mode, just trying to get by minute-by-minute without being over consumed with the side effects.
Has eczema been a traumatic experience for you?
The trauma and stress of eczema
Even though I am about 98% clear from eczema on a given day, I still behave as if I have it, physically and mentally. Sometimes I’ll scratch myself for no other reason than out of habit or I’ll be afraid to play in the grass or be in the same room as a dog for the fear of how my body will react. Other times, my mind will race to how things “used” to be, how painful being bedridden was. In all honesty, sometimes I even avoid certain people’s pages or visuals of eczema because my body goes into reactive mode.
These are all signs that I have experienced something traumatic and in this case, it was chronic eczema.
Overcoming the trauma of eczema
However, over the years, I’ve been able to put these physical and mental reactions into words. I’ve been able to connect the dots and understand why my mind and body react in a certain way. I’ve been able to understand that I am not going through that physical pain anymore. I’m not bedridden from TSW anymore. I am not that girl who would cry herself to sleep asking, “Why do I have to suffer so much?” anymore.
I am past that. I am healing. And I get to embrace this stage fully without the fear of who I used to be and what I used to go through.
Shifting your perspective
This ability to shift my view of trauma was no easy task. It took work, a whole lot of therapy, consistent action, and most importantly time. Time for the mind and body to process what had occurred and then time for the mind and body to create a new story - a strength-perspective story.
I may not be able to go back in history and decide not to have eczema (wouldn’t that be a nice option), but what I can do and have done is change my perspective of eczema and therefore how I see myself in relation to it.
There are different ways in which my traumatic experiences with eczema have empowered me and can empower you:
Changed perception of self
My experiences with eczema have taught me how powerful and resilient I am. It’s given me that unbreakable mentality that nothing nor anyone can make me feel the level of pain I felt when I went through the worst of the worst with eczema. If I can overcome eczema, I can overcome anything.
Relating to other eczema warriors
The ability to relate to other eczema warriors is probably the best “side-effect” of seeing the positive side of eczema’s traumatic experiences. As soon as I started openly sharing my story, it was like I gained 100+ friends who understood exactly what I was going through.
Changed philosophy of life
One thing eczema has taught me is the appreciation of life’s greatest gifts -- gratitude. The ability to be grateful for the simple things people take advantage of on a daily basis: going outside, getting a tan, having the choice to wear whatever I want whenever I want, intimacy, swimming, doing outdoor workouts, and so much more.
May you choose to create your own strength-perspective story and truly see how eczema has made you stronger.
On an average day, how would you rate your level of anxiety related to atopic dermatitis?