3 lessons I learned from living with eczema for 25 years

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Eczema has been causing a bright red rash since I was a baby. I had a few happy years in my late teens when my symptoms cleared up and I thought I had outgrown the condition, as at least 80% of children with eczema seem to do.

But a few years later, he came back with a vengeance. My face was covered in a scaly rash and my eyelids swelled up so much they crusted shut. That’s when the eczema started to really interfere with my self-esteem and had a significant impact on my mental health.

It took me a long time to come to terms with the chronic nature of the disease and develop strategies to reduce its impact on my physical and emotional well-being. But living with eczema for so long has taught me important lessons about the disease and about life itself.

Here’s what I learned from living with eczema for 25 years.

Meditation can be a surprisingly effective eczema management tool. I discovered this firsthand when the agonizing itch of a flare-up made it difficult to sleep, and decided to try yoga nidra (a type of guided meditation that induces deep relaxation).

Meditation did it a lot easier to fall asleep at night, even while I slept with cotton gloves and socks on to avoid waking up with bloody scratches.

After the success of my first session, I began incorporating other guided meditations into my daily routine. It helped me detach from my physical discomfort and control my negative self-talk. It also taught me to be more patient with myself.

If meditation seems overwhelming, I would recommend starting with a 5 minute guided meditation on a free meditation app. My favorite is Insight timer.

And if meditation isn’t working as well for you as it has for me, remember that there are other ways to support your emotional well-being while living with eczema. It might mean taking up a relaxing hobby that occupies both your hands and your mind, like knitting, embroidery, or coloring books.

You might also consider talking to a mental health professional or joining an eczema support group. The key is to develop a set of tools to help cope with the emotional and physical aspects of the disease.

I have spent years (and thousands of dollars) researching cures for my eczema throughout my life.

My experiences with all the treatments on the market, including elimination diets, lotions and creams, acupuncture, weekly injections, supplements and immunosuppressants, have taught me one thing, however: there is no there is no one “right” way to treat eczema.

A “miracle cure” for one person may not work for another, and what works for you now may change over time.

As a kid, topical steroids cleared up my rashes overnight. But these creams stopped working when I became an adult, forcing me to explore stronger drugs, like biologics and oral steroids.

I was wary of these medications at first, as I tend to prefer a more holistic approach to my overall health. But I realized that I had to give myself some grace and indulgence in order to find an option that would give me relief.

I have since found a treatment regimen that works. Still, I know that I may need to make adjustments and swap medications in the future.

If your eczema treatment is no longer working, try not to be hard on yourself. Eczema is a progressive disease that can present itself differently throughout your life. It’s not your fault that the medications that used to relieve you no longer relieve your symptoms.

Treatment options continue to evolve and there is reason to be optimistic about the future of eczema research. Even if you feel like nothing has worked for your eczema in the past, contact a medical professional to see if there are new treatments to try.

Living with eczema is a roller coaster ride. There are times when my skin is so clear and itch-free that I completely forget about the condition.

Other times the itch interferes with almost every aspect of my life. The ups and downs have taught me that nothing is permanent when it comes to eczema and that life should be lived in the moment.

When I have periods between flare-ups, I try to appreciate whatever my fair skin allows me to do. Swimming in the ocean without my skin burning, feeling confident at social events without hiding my face, and being able to fall asleep peacefully become experiences worth celebrating.

Yet I know that eczema lurks and will disrupt my life again one day. And while I endure sleepless nights from scratching and another frustrating push, I try not to fall down the rabbit hole of feeling worthless and living in fear. I remember that, like the previous times, this will be pass.

Living with eczema has taught me to stop trying to control every aspect of my life. Although I wouldn’t say I’m grateful to have eczema, I a m grateful for the character he helped me build in myself. He continues to teach me to approach life’s challenges with gentle strength.


Madeleine Tibaldi is a Los Angeles-based writer who covers health, lifestyle, and travel. She has previously written for The Houston Chronicle, Backstage Magazine, The USC Center for Health Journalism, and more. When she’s not writing, she enjoys hiking with her dog, being creative in the kitchen and going to the beach.

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