My memory of having eczema stretches back as far as the first grade when I can remember talking to my teacher about it. When she told me that she’d also had eczema as a young girl but that it had faded away when she grew older, I was extremely hopeful. The sight of the patches on the creases of my elbows and knees didn’t bother me as a seven-year-old, but the itching was definitely a nuisance.
Eczema, a common name for dermatitis, is a disease that results in skin inflammation that is usually red and itchy. It can be caused by allergies, irritants, or unfortunate genetics, and it is often difficult to determine the exact cause of each individual case. Eczema is generally treated with steroid creams, although these should be used for less than two weeks at a time because of their potential side effects.
I dealt with the itchiness until I was 9 or 10, when it suddenly cleared up entirely. My mother has a theory that our trip the ocean that summer had something to do with it; maybe something in the water or the sand served as a kind of natural remedy.
I didn’t think about eczema again until my freshman year of high school, when it came back. As if high school wasn’t hard enough, I was now dealing with inflamed red patches on the backs of my hands and the sides of my neck. A trip to the ocean before my sophomore year didn’t yield the miraculous results I had experienced in the past. Although the itchiness worsened in the winter because of the increasingly dry air, I rejoiced in being able to wear sleeves long enough to pull over my hands.
The severity of my eczema waxed and waned throughout my high school career, but it never disappeared entirely. I would use my steroid cream before dances and other formal events to temporarily get rid of the worst patches, but the eczema would always come back as soon as I stopped using the medication.
Toward the end of my high school career, the eczema had spread to include my elbows and the front and back of both of my knees. I thought that maybe a change of environment in coming to Kenyon might help to ease some of my symptoms, that I might be allergic to something in my house or school. Unfortunately, it’s only gotten worse since my arrival. I know that a lot of stress can be a trigger for my flare-ups, so that could be the culprit; it could also be the general dorm room environment (see: damp and musty). It has now spread over more of my body than I have ever seen before. My only consolation is that it’s appearing in smaller spots instead of large consolidated patches.
Using an over the counter hydrocortisone cream helps me keep the eczema from becoming too red, inflamed, or itchy, but nothing makes it go away completely. Although, in a way, I think my eczema presents me with a challenge and a good lesson to be learned. I’ve been hyper-aware of how noticeable it is, and it’s made me really self-conscious at times. Learning to be comfortable in my own skin (literally) is so important to my confidence, and I’m really trying to work on accepting how I look. I try to remind myself that I can’t be afraid of how others might react. This is just the way my skin is, and there’s nothing I can do about it.
If you have eczema (or any other skin disorder!) and would like to talk with someone about it, feel free to contact me! We can discuss body image, different remedies, or even just have a friendly chat. Just know that you’re not alone in your condition, and there are people who would love to talk with you about it. We’re all just trying to fit in in our own skin.
Image credits: Medulous.com, Metropolitanderm