My Quarter Life Crisis and the Mental Impact of Eczema
At only a few years old I was diagnosed with eczema, asthma, and seasonal allergies (the typical package deal) but all were well managed. It wasn't until my 20's that eczema took control of my life and developed into severe atopic dermatitis. What started as a rash around my mouth spread to my entire face and body over the course of a year. The next two years were even more daunting.
I no longer recognized myself in the mirror
Someone would show me a photo of myself from a few years back saying how pretty I was and, fighting back the tears, I could not help but feel like I took those years for granted. Even though I did not recognize the person staring back at me in the mirror, it was not just the way I looked, it was the way I felt. Routine activities like changing clothes or brushing my teeth were a cause of discomfort. Constant itching, cracked bleeding skin, swollen eyes, hair loss, skin infections, the whole list of eczema symptoms had become the norm for me.
As the undiagnosed condition continued to cover 85% of my body in a relentless rash, I also let it take over my mentality and drive for a fulfilling future. With that, my whole lifestyle changed and so did my outlook on life. I stopped talking to friends, stopped going into work, and shut myself off from the world because I did not want to be seen. All I wanted to do was lay in bed and fall asleep. My only healthy coping tool at the time was my dog, Leo, who was always by my side.
Reaching a breaking point
Soon later, I was let go from my job, my boyfriend of three years, who I lived with broke up with me, and I had to move back into my parent's house. I was so ashamed, however, that triple hit turned out to be exactly what I needed. It forced me to make my health the top priority and to finally tell my family how much my condition was affecting me.
With my family’s support, I traveled the Midwest going from specialist to specialist trying to find an answer. No cortisone shot, prednisone pill, antibiotic, or ointment would provide any sense of relief.
One of the specialists I saw was my childhood dermatologist. I remember I was in the patient chair and all the practitioners were called in to look at me. I knew that they were just trying to help, but I felt like a specimen under a microscope as the practitioners huddled over me with my shirt above my back. Pityriasis Rubra Pilaris was one skin disease they considered, but contact dermatitis was the diagnosis they went with. I was sent to another doctor to get three-day patch testing. Although I did not agree with the diagnosis, at this point it was a process of elimination. The results came back negative, and I was back to the drawing board.
Life changing results from Dupixent
Finally, in 2019, my allergist recommended Dupixent and she happened to have samples that I could start on my next visit. One month… one month after my first injection, my skin made a comeback and within three months, it was like brand new. All I wanted to do was yell on top of the rooftops, "LOOK HOW GOOD MY SKIN LOOKS!". I could not believe after three years of searching for an answer, there was finally a treatment that worked for me. Dupixent was truly life changing.
Earlier this year, that is where I would have stopped telling my story. I have come to find as I open up about my eczema journey, my skin has healed faster than my mind.
Reflecting on trauma and my eczema journey
Those three years, prior to being prescribed Dupixent, particularly the last one, were emotionally traumatizing and it has taken me a while to have the courage to face reality. I just kept shoving away any emotions and isolating myself, anything to avoid this horrible situation. I truly believe my eczema journey would have been very different, less challenging, if I used healthy coping methods when I first developed atopic dermatitis.
I want to open up the discussion about all things eczema to not only my fellow warriors, but the public at large to make those affected feel supported with a greater sense of hope for less pain and suffering.
Continuing to heal
Today, I have my own apartment, a job that I love, and a boyfriend that encourages me to talk about my feelings. I may still have healing to do internally and flare-ups to deal with, but I would not change my eczema journey if given the chance as it has led me to where I am today.
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How does your mental health relate to your physical health?