I have always suffered from mild Eczema on my arms. When I was about 14 it became uncontrollable. It was really distressing experience, very painful and traumatic. There were days I would not want to just hide, not get out of bed and bury myself from the world. 3 showers a day to stop the dryness were normal for the worst part of it. I still can’t leave the house without showering in the morning even if it’s just to go to the gym and I am now 28.
Those years are probably to blame for the confidence issues I still face today. The tough and rough exterior you see today is just a mask at times, however happy and smiley you may feel.
Hormones kick in and you are starting to fancy boys. Imagine when you are aged between14-17 and have no boys taking any interest in you, no one asks you out to the school or disco and your hormones are running around like crazy psychopaths. The last thing you want to think about is the itching, irritating, atrocious ugliness that covers your face, arms, neck, scalp and backs of your legs. Everything that was visible. I automatically became ‘one of the lads’ – the agony aunt, best friend type, who you could go to if you had a problem.
Being an ugly duckling and being pretty quirky it was a major knock to your self confidence at times being ignored by boys and not having a first kiss in your teens. Imagine you’re 15, there’s this boy or girl you like, you get so nervous around him or her and imagine your skin is so dry and tight that you have to lather yourself in cream; 3, 4 maybe even 5 times a day. The itchy, flaky, sore skin that is a constant fret. It doesn’t make you feel young and vivacious but more dehydrated and thirsty. Moreover the friends you have are beautiful. This knock may set you up for how you will be in your later life. The stress from Gcse revision made it even more unbearable. I wasn’t ever pressured to do well but I was afraid of disappointing by parents so I tried my best and that anxiety made the eczema worse. I just wanted to lie in a steaming bath and soak away my skin. Imagine the temper tantrums teenagers throw combined with the distress of Eczema and Gcse pressure. If you are reading this I imagine you know how I felt at the time, especially having it on your face.
The condition comes and goes in phases today but not as badly as it used to be, I have been left with scars on my arms, legs, forehead. I guess due to Teenage hormones it spurred out of control at that point. My poor mother tried everything. Homeopathic medications, strong steroids. We discovered an African cream called Wa Wa cream and whatever was in it kept it in control up until about age 21-22. After that time it became a lot better and I am now able to keep it in control with Aveeno.
It was hard for me to talk about it at the time as I didn’t think anyone understood. 15 years ago I didn’t have the support that is available today. The scars are still physically there maybe even emotionally in a small way that have held me back. I think the older I become the better it gets and it just pushes to the back of my mind and I sometimes even forget it is there.
About a year ago I read a book called ‘The way things look to me’ by Roopa Farooki where the main character is autistic but her sister Lila suffers just like we have. Lila’s character in ‘The way things look to me’ just perfectly described the feelings and issues I have faced with my image in all those years up until now and the jealousy I feel towards some people with perfect skin. Even though now it is not so bad I still can’t have a shower and not have to lather and immerse my whole body with moisturiser afterwards – it’s not just a vanity thing, it’s a way of life. I do it for sanity and comfort! (Aveeno for extra dry, irritated skin is my fave)
We are just simply beautiful. If you read this and think you are alone in the scrubbing, peeling, flaking, weeping skin, not wanting to face the world and just staying in bed all day I don’t blame you. But you’re not alone. I was the same but you can’t let it affect you and you won’t. When I was recently sent the article about the 13 year old from Manchester who hung himself because he was being bullied about his eczema my heart just broke. The more you try and hide it the more damage it will cause to your insides and in turn the itching and scratching and weeping will just spiral until you just cant take it anymore and think about ending it as this little boy did. Just believe it will get better and it will get better. You are amazing and you are beautiful …not just on the inside but outside too.