What living with eczema is like
Enjoying myself in Japan - I was on oral steroids, hence the clear skin
My Sensitive Skin Care has written many great tips about minimizing eczema, so I would like to write about the emotional side of it.
Living with eczema has many challenges. At the least, the constant itching and scratching can disrupt the daily routine. Although the level of severity can differ among individuals, there is no doubt that eczema can induce some serious physical, mental, and emotional problems.
The three biggest problems I have identified in myself, as someone with eczema since birth, are the lack of sleep, confidence, and support.
The lack of sleep is an extension of the physical aspect of eczema. Sleep is hard to get because at night, there is nothing fighting for my attention, so it is very difficult to not
focus on my itchiness. This inevitably leads to scratching, commonly known as "the itch-scratch cycle." This can go on for hours into the night and by the time I finally do fall asleep, I only end up with 3-4 hours of sleep. This is not enough to function normally during the day, which causes stress.
While stress doesn't directly lead to my skin being itchy, I do have the tendency to scratch more. Because of my incessant scratching, my skin never seems to have a chance to heal. It is truly an endless cycle.
The lack of confidence comes from eczema on my face being more pronounced. I am certain many acne-prone teenagers would agree with me. I feel that our society gives us mixed messages about cultivating our "inner beauty" versus always having to
look pretty and flawless, especially for women.
Having facial eczema poses limitations when it comes to what cosmetics I can use, or if I even want to wear makeup at all. While I don't mind not wearing makeup, I think there are many women with the same problem who are frustrated with their skin.
It's not just facial eczema that makes me self-conscious. When my arms are severely scratched up, I am afraid to wear short-sleeves. Although some would say, "Who cares, just go for it," I wonder how many would openly wear short-sleeves and skirts when their skin is all raw and scratched up.
The lack of support comes from people who don't really understand what eczema is about. I can't really blame the kids who used to tease me for always scratching myself, since kids tend to be ignorant. But it irritates me (no pun intended) when the adults reprimand me for scratching, usually by saying "Stop scratching!" or worse yet, "Stop itching," as if the latter is something I can help.
At the end of it all though, I do realize that I could have it a lot worse. I mean to neither trivialize the condition nor play victim by whining about how hard I have it. It is what it is, and the best I can do is stick to a routine that makes my skin healthier and less prone to itchiness, such as the one described on this website.
If anything, I feel that living with eczema
has taught me not to judge people by their appearance.