Growing Up With Eczema.
Eczema is a term for a group of medical conditions that cause the skin to become inflamed or irritated. The most common type of eczema is known as atopic dermatitis, or atopic eczema. Atopic refers to a group of diseases with an often inherited tendency to develop other allergic conditions, such as asthma and hay fever. Source
I was just explaining to my friend how I grew up with a bad case of atopic eczema and I thought, maybe I should let you in on that one too. It all started when I was barely 2 months. That’s when my eczema broke out as my mum would tell me. It was dermatologist to dermatologist to figure out what was going on because I would have insistent rushes on my body. They established it was atopic eczema but none of them gave proper treatment that would cure the skin allergies. It got worse every time the weather changed or I wore certain kinds of clothing.
She told me how she once bought a cute woolen headgear (otherwise known as “boshori”). She was so excited to have it on me, little did she know that my delicate skin was not so welcoming to certain cloth materials. As cute as it looked, it looked even cuter on me, but the itching was in excess and when she got it off, there was a collection of rushes on any part of my face the headgear had touched.
In most of my kid photo’s, my skin was patched, a little lighter here, darker there, rushy here. It was not pretty (at least that’s what I felt then), not on pictures and I guess not in person too. I think I plucked & hid so many pictures from the album so that my friends don’t see them and make rough comments or ask who that was. It reached a point after many appointments and many ointments, that she decided to take matters to her own hands. She’s nurse by profession, a good one at that. She did her concoctions and somehow, it worked for the better part of my life. It would heal then recur with seasons (when it’s hot, when it’s cold), environmental changes (occurrence of pollen, dust), food (we tried weaning off many foods – dairy, wheat, protein, but never quite identified anything I was allergic to), clothes materials (wool, silk, net). I had somehow already gotten used to it.
The eczema was mainly on my face and joints (back of my legs, on my hands, neck – technically, the rashes would appear anywhere but those were the most concentrated areas). How I handled it? I think I owe it to my mum because it would’ve easily been worse. She explained to me from a young age what eczema was and what it wasn’t. She told me it wasn’t contagious and it wasn’t a disease (contrary to what other kids would tell me in school). She told me it was allergy, allergy to certain things which we were slowly discovering together. Of course sometimes I would turn a blind eye to things I was told to avoid. Like when I was told to avoid eggs. I was that kid at birthday’s asking, “does the cake have eggs”, it was always yes, but I sneaked a bite or two. You can only deny a kid so much.
It became my way of life and I got used to it. When it recurred, I would apply the ointments then it subsides and life goes on. At some point, I used to thank God it’s eczema I have and not something else. I came to accept it. Even though at times when the skin gets dry & flaky I’d try conceal it. Sometimes I’d just expose and prepare myself to explain to anyone who asked why my arms have rashes or my face patches. It was the story of my life.
In high school, I got away with eating special diet and not touching dirty water, which meant I didn’t do difficult duties. Reason, I was “allergic” to them. I didn’t even have to get a note from the doctor as it was evident on the skin. I kinda used it to my advantage. By then I was so used to managing it, since I always had my ointments with me. Also lotions were a no-no, most of them were watery which didn’t get along with my skin. So Vaseline and it’s variants worked just fine. Make up, also a no-no, because I could easily react to the chemicals.
Then for some reason, I outgrew it. The eczema cleared off. My skin color became even, no patches. There was no trace of eczema. Isn’t that miraculous? Sometimes I get a slight reaction and it bugs me. The small doses of it – from small rashes from reactions to the unknown, allergies (eye itching, sneezing), but they’re manageable and containable. Sometimes, I forget what it felt like to be that girl with heavy rash patches on my joints. It’s easy to forget, when you can pose for a pic with flawless skin or zero patches. I don’t take it for granted, because at one point in my life, I experienced the stigma that comes with eczema.
If you’re going through that phase, you’ll get past it, it’s not permanent and even if it is, that’s just part of who you are. Visit a good dermatologist (in my 27 years I’ve never gotten one that I can vouch for), get an ointment that your skin approves of (and that’s devoid of steroids or that you can apply systematically), an oil that blends with your skin and let it run its course. Don’t let it affect your personality or self-esteem. Those that love you, will look past your skin.