Traveling After Being Housebound with TSW & Eczema
Many individuals going through topical steroid withdrawal or struggling with severe atopic dermatitis go through a period of time where their condition is not manageable. Many of us have trouble even functioning at all on a daily basis. If this applies to you as it did to me, you will reach a point where your symptoms no longer fully control your life.
That point differs for everyone. But once you can be out of the house without constantly fixating on the state of your skin, everything starts to improve slowly. Step by step, you find yourself doing things that you used to take for granted. The "little" things like going for walks or going out to lunch with a friend become huge milestones.
Traveling is something that was always a big deal and something I love to do. While my skin is not perfect right now (and might never fully be), I'm extremely grateful it reached this point.
Why did I feel imprisoned by my skin?
As anyone who has gone through TSW or struggles with severe eczema will tell you - the bad days, months, and years feel much like a prison. So, the minute that you are able to push yourself and do something you haven't been able to do, you jump at the occasion.
My skin left me housebound for several years while I was going through TSW. I was unable to do much other than watch TV. Sometimes, I couldn’t even do that due to facial and eyelid flares. So once an opportunity to travel came up, I took it – both excitedly and nervously. There was a part of me that was nervous that my skin would flare up while I was away, but I persisted and went anyway. For that, I'm very proud and grateful I reached this point.
What did freedom feel like?
The amount of freedom that I felt simply by being in a different location is indescribable. I spent so much time in the same small room in my small house. It felt almost shocking in a sense to be somewhere beyond the confines of what felt like a prison for years.
For about a week, I no longer had to be in the bed I spent years in or the shower that I spent so much time screaming in. Everything was different. It was like breaking free from a time loop. I was no longer reliving the same day over and over.
Like a child experiencing things for the first time, I allowed myself to take it all in.
How did my skin handle the trip?
While I was in a great place emotionally during this trip, my skin did flare up a bit. I'm very thankful that it was nowhere near as bad as my skin has been in the past. However, it was still enough for me to notice and be a bit bothersome. I immediately knew I'm going to have to take it easy and take time for myself now that I'm home.
While staying with my family abroad, there were a lot of changes. I was in a car that had dog hair all over it, the relatives I visited had some kind of pets I was allergic to, and none of the showers I used had filters on them like my shower at home does. All this, coupled with anxiety about the trip, irritated my skin a bit. I was definitely more itchy than usual and had a few small patches on my hands, arms, and legs worsen a bit.
How has it been now that I'm home?
Now that I'm home, I am doing my best to manage my stress and take it easy. At this point, I'm confident that my body knows what it needs to do to get back to normal.
During that period of time when your skin is really bad, and you can't do anything, it can be really easy to slip into learned helplessness. It's hard to know when you are actually unable to do something or if you just assume you can't without trying. It's extremely hard to tell when you can actually push yourself to try a new thing after a long period of being sick. It is such a fine line, and we always have to listen to our bodies extra carefully.
Either way, at the end of the day, I'm really grateful I took the chance.
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