For as long as I can remember until I entered high school, I dealt with a skin condition called Atopic Dermatitis, better known as eczema. This condition, caused by underlying inflammation, typically made my skin look dry, red, scaly and overall just irritated. Eczema can grow anywhere on the body depending on the person, but for me, it grew on my hands, fingers, the insides of my elbows, and the back of my knees. Thankfully it was not as serious and widespread as it might be for others who deal with eczema, but it was definitely still visibly noticeable and affected my day-to-day life.
Dealing with eczema from such a young age was both hard and not hard in a way because of the fact that I did not know what life was like without it. So I could not compare it to a time when I had perfectly normal skin. It was still hard though, because my life revolved around it. I was constantly worrying about it as a kid hoping that I would not have another flare up due to small things like the fabric of my jacket that would make my eczema get itchy. Sometimes, I found myself just feeling numb because no amount of remedies or creams my mom bought me ever seemed to work. Each month would be a new experiment with a different topical product to test out and sooner or later, there would be a whole pile of products that did not work just sitting there in the corner of my bathroom cabinet. It was overall very discouraging and left me feeling hopeless.
When it came to my childhood, I was faced with many limitations especially when it came to the summer season. I never really looked forward to summer because I know what that meant. It meant a whole lot of pool parties and skimpy summer clothing. Even though I was not supposed to expose my skin to chlorine because it would dry it out and irritate it, I still did once in a while because I wanted to swim and have a good time with my friends. I do not necessarily regret that decision to this day because it created lots of fun memories to look back on, but summer also meant wearing things like tank tops and shorts which exposed my eczema. Regardless, I barely ever wore short sleeves or tanks, and instead I wore thin long sleeves or cardigans to hide the eczema on the insides of my elbows, where it was the worst. My friends would always ask me “are you not hot or something? Why are you wearing a long sleeve right now?” I would always try to brush it off trying to move on to the next subject because I never wanted to bring attention to my eczema.
Living with eczema opened my eyes up to the randomest of things that would irritate my skin. I had to be very mindful of what type of fabric I was wearing. Wool was my worst enemy because it made my eczema so itchy and would cause a flare up every single time. I would try so hard not to itch it. The itchiness would go on for days and it would later sting badly. I had to be careful with making sure all the products I applied to my skin were natural, gentle and unscented. I tried to stay away from processed foods like chips and other snacks others around me were eating because believe it or not, a flare up would creep up on me slowly! Carelessly rolling down a grassy hill with my friends was a no for me after I learned my lesson the hard way after the first time I did it with them. Even the sweat I accumulated from running the mile during P.E. stung my eczema spots.
Nonetheless, growing up with eczema came with built up self consciousness from a young age because I was afraid people would judge me for it. I wish I would have told my younger self that there is no need to feel ashamed of something like this because it does not define who I am. If I wanted to wear that short sleeve shirt, I should have just gone for it regardless of what other people might see. I regret putting the thoughts of others above myself and my well-being.
I am thankful to have finally found a cream that was prescribed by my doctor that magically worked for me and cleared up my eczema in the beginning of high school and since then, I have not had any flare ups. I never thought that day would come. Normal things like wearing a regular short sleeve top felt so abnormal and freeing since I was so used to only wearing clothes that covered my eczema.
I hope that sharing my experience provides a better understanding of what it might be like to deal with a skin condition like eczema, although my experience is just a small part of all the eczema experiences out there. From this whole journey, I realized how important it is to take care of your body based on your own needs. Whether it was food or skincare products, it became vital for me to really pay attention to what I was putting into my body and what products I was using for my skin.