Living with the incurable disease.

Before everybody gets worried no I am not dying, so we can all breathe a little easier now.

I realised that before actually sitting down and typing this out I have not really reflected on how much this one thing has affected my life for about 15+ years. My self-confidence was literally at its lowest from middle school until high school because when something happens externally that everybody can see it makes you beyond self conscious.

You don’t get to hide it with a band aid, you literally have to live through the ten thousand questions’ “what is that? What causes it? Why don’t you see a doctor?” and while you being pulled apart piece by piece as a teenage girl you just start forming a cocoon and begin to hate yourself more and more because you literally wonder why are people so comfortable with interrogating you about something without even thinking about your feelings?

So if you have ever commented or questioned somebody over something they have or don’t have control over physically or mentally then you are an ASSHOLE ( I’ve become a little more blunt lately ).

My life long friend has reared it’s ugly head again. I tried to ignore it but in just a few days it has spread itself making sure I can’t. Insecurity greets me like an old acquaintance knowing I would be back . Its a little heart-breaking knowing no cure has been found yet and that I am stuck with it for the rest of my life, while it makes any part of my body home and all I can do is watch and try to control it.

I’ve spoken in enough riddles I guess I should welcome the star of the show so that we can get to know it a little better. I would like for everyone to give a not so warm welcome to the incurable, life long nomad…Eczema.

Eczema is a group of medical conditions that cause one’s skin to become inflamed or irritated. The cause of eczema is still unknown hence why there is no cure for it yet. The most common eczema (which I have) is known as ‘atopic dermatitis’ -its the severe and chronic form of eczema but there about 6 other types. Each eczema type has different triggers, symptoms and treatments.

Please beware that eczema is not an isolated phenomenon other allergic conditions can also contribute to it e.g.; asthma, hay fever, etc. So seeing a GP and dermatologist is a great move.

Not sure if you have eczema?

If the area of skin is very dry, thickened or scaly and is itchy then it could possibly be it. The area can also flare up due to certain substances or conditions;

  • The skin can flare up in response to certain substances/ conditions.
  • Some it could be due to a clothing material.
  • Changes in weather condition. (very hot or very cold).
  • Exposure to household products.
  • Stress and physical activity.
  • Animal dander’s.
  • Respiratory infections or colds can be triggers.

The treatment prescribed normally involves lotions and creams as they will help keep the skin moist and relieve itchiness.

Okay now that I’ve done the Grey’s Anatomy part lets look at how eczema affects other parts of your life.

Firstly my self-esteem took a dip, woah man! It took years before I was given medication that was able to help with clearing up my skin quicker and offering relief. For a good 10 years my eczema would flare up in noticeable areas such as around my eyes, back of my neck, both inner elbows and the back of both knees. The skin would look flaky, dry and just visibly different and school children are not the nicest of human beings.

It does sometimes still get to me that people might notice my flare ups when they happen and I tend to retract in public spaces. The scarring and discolouration don’t help either instead serve as a constant reminder of the demon you’re fighting.

Taking part in physical activities also doesn’t help this skin disease much. Getting sweaty and then relaxing afterwards allowing the sweat to cool will affect your flared up areas meaning more itching and discomfort, so sometimes I weigh out is working out even worth it. I however didn’t have this choice in high school as sports was compulsory so you can guess it was pretty unpleasant at times.

We know sleep is important but if you tend to sweat and Mr.E has come for a visit then know there no peaceful sleep.

About three years ago my work environment was beginning to stress me out and my body was showing it when I finally saw my Dermatologist and explained my general life structure he made me aware that stress can also cause for it to get worse. So mental health is also a big contribution to this unforgiving disease.

“30% of people with atopic dermatitis were diagnosed with depression/ anxiety. They are more susceptible to such due to how our bodies communicate with our brains during an inflammatory response.”

OMG and lastly medication is expensive and if you have a Dr like mine who is booked for two months it doesn’t make your life any more easier , not even one tiny bit but at the ripe age of 26 I am slowly getting used to it ( I guess).

The best advice I can give is see a dermatologist and find out everything you need to do to make your life easier from what soaps to use, fragrances, make-up , clothing, linen , whether to shower or bath, water temperature etc. all of this will be of use.

It is really a mater of trial and error you will eventually be on top of it.

Having a supportive system helps. Not so long ago it got bad and I wasn’t able to see my Dr yet and didn’t have medication I literally took a shower looked myself in the mirror and cried must looking at this thing spread and knowing I could do nothing about it, calling my Mom helped because she has seen it and knows how it has affected me.

I genuinely cannot wait until someone has a cure for this even though it is said to be hereditary basically a win-lose situation.

It’s sometimes tough loving yourself when you feel you can’t have full control over something but if anything it reminds me that life is abtut constant change and treating yourself with kindness and love.

It will be a slow journey but one day I will make peace with it.

(If you are looking for a support group or want to do more research check out: nationaleczema.org).

Love

T.I.N