Eczema: Letters to my Frenemy

I was recently reflecting on how different life may have been had I never got an eczema flare up at 16 which persisted on and on. I can imagine life would have been different and I would have viewed things differently. To share this with you, I wrote two letters: one to my enemy Eczema and the other to my friend eczema.Writing letters in this way can be therapeutically rewarding, so if you are struggling with eczema why not give it a try?

To Eczema, my worst enemy

To put it simply, I wish I had never met you. When I was 16 and you first entered my life I just thought it was a one off but how wrong I was. You just couldn’t let me be. I tried to get rid of you but you came back fiercer every time. I remember you at my year 11 prom when I had completed my GCSEs, back then it felt like you were minor – nothing to worry about. But a year or so later, You were still there. I couldn’t bear to stay at school because of you. Do you remember that time I cried, I just cried and cried because I couldn’t face having to be around people anymore acting as though things were fine. I couldn’t take it anymore – you had not left my side and I was exhausted. I didn’t understand why you wouldn’t just leave and give me back the life I had before you. The one where I didn’t have to worry about my appearance and could worry about the things a 16 year old should worry about: passing my exams, boyfriends, friends, make up….but you still didn’t relent did you. Being at home without eyes on me helped, you calmed and allowed me some hope that this wasn’t forever. That week helped but I couldn’t just stay off school for my skin. I tried and tried to focus in school but you just wouldn’t let me do it alone. You were always there. I tried to be a teenager – meet new people, live life as though my social life was key. But how could I when you made me feel so low? I felt embarrassed around new people – how could they like me when you were always there. You ruined the confidence I had. I never had body issues before I met you but I found myself hiding my arms, never wearing sleeveless clothes for years. It took me 9 years to gain the confidence and relief from you to do that, and still it was hard. It IS hard. The stares of those who don’t know you as I do, the wonder at what it is on my arms. Night time was easy, no one could see. Uni felt easier – I could be in a night club or bar and feel as though I fit in. With the lights down, who would know you were there but me. It felt great! But the fear I felt when the lights came on at the end of the night. The fear that someone would see you! That fear has never disappeared. Even now when I control you, you still leave me with a fear that I will never completely lose. A fear that you could change my life at any moment and I may not be able to do anything about you. Do you remember the days of uni when I would wake up, shower and then cry as I stared at my reflections? Stared at the red, flaky face which seeped? Do you remember when I couldn’t even bear to wake up and shower until the afternoons because I didn’t want to have to face you? You took my time. My spirit. I hate myself for allowing you to but I did. How could I win against you? I could laugh with friends and forget for a second but the mirror brought it all back. The sleepless night, the constant urge to scratch I couldn’t get rid of it. The guilt at scratching and making you worse. You caused me so much pain. Physically I was tired but more than that emotionally you tore me apart. You left me damaged. I had to repair my inner psyche…my confidence…my ability to see beyond you….see who I really was. But you made it hard. Every time I thought I was rid of you you came back. Even when you were gone you left me with scars – scars I still have today. You left me with different shades of skin all over my body from the scars of itching and inflammation. You left me with a constant reminder of what you are capable of. What you did. Only an enemy could wish that torment on somebody. The pain, feeling emotionally drained and helpless, feeling weak….you took happiness from my eyes at many turns in life and no matter how many tears I shed you didn’t waiver. And so Eczema to say that I loathe you doesn’t feel enough but it’s all that words can give me. You are truly an enemy that I wish I had never met.

 

To Eczema, my friend

Before I met you, I had been a somewhat typical 16 year old girl. I liked boys, I gossiped all day with my girls and school was a chore that had to be done to do well later in life and to please all of the adults around me. I didn’t care for much other than having friends, feeling liked and passing my exams. I had a brother with vitiligo did you know? He had it from so young I can never remember him without it. Until I met you I hadn’t really thought too much of it as it was just a skin disorder and I didn’t think it made such a difference. After all, I saw passed it. He was my brother so why would anyone else not do the same? You opened my eyes Eczema. Without you, I would have never felt the impact that appearance can have on you, the effect physical difference can have on every other aspect of your life. You gave me depth and insight I would never have found without you. You taught me very harshly to never judge a book by its cover even though others may do so. You helped me to be more compassionate – to understand that every individual has their own fight and inner turmoil and kind words don’t hurt anybody. You made me truly empathise with my brother. Someone I had lived with for 12 years before you and had never given a second thought to in terms of his skin. My brother developed depression because of his skin but without you being there for me I may never have understood him. You made me acknowledge that complaining about a spot – a typical teenage problem – isn’t something a person with a skin disorder may want to hear. You taught me to think about my complaints and truly consider whether they were need for anger or negativity, even more than that you made me begin to put my problems into perspective of those around me. You made me grateful for all that life was giving me – a real focus on the good rather than the bad. And on top of that you gave me drive. The feelings I felt whilst being with you urged me on towards helping those like me in so many ways. Without you I would never have published two journal articles and developed a patient rated outcome measure for vitiligo. Without you I would never have this blog – a blog which has given me a sense of pride in knowing that my journey with you can help others and which has given strength in facing that you are a part of me. Without you I truly believe I may not have stayed on the path I have taken with my career with such determination either. I may have given up easier when I hit a wall but instead you taught me that life can be hard but that things can work out. I’m training as a Clinical Psychologist, how amazing is that? How amazing that 10 years on I’m actually in a position where I know that in just over two years I can help people who aren’t coping. You gave me strength and determination at every rejection I got because I knew that sometimes you can fail but there is always a way forward if you want it. I knew that this was what I wanted. You helped me to realise that mental wellbeing is so important and gave me the passion to take this forwards in a career which sits so close to my heart but is competitive in nature. It was hard but you gave me a determination to succeed. More than this though, you helped me in improving my own wellbeing too. I began to think about my diet, my exercise, the products I used, how I managed stress. I questioned my lifestyle choices and without you I would never have thought twice about any of that. I never would have become pro-green living, but you made me realise what I put in can make all the difference. You taught me that I can take control, that I can make a difference. But most of all though, you taught me to love myself, imperfections and all. You taught me that there is a beauty in embracing my own imperfections as it gives me a self confidence that no one can touch. As I look around me, I see the importance appearance has on today’s society however you helped me to look past it. You helped me to think on a deeper level and become more spiritually connected with myself. You gave me resilience- a strength I never knew I had. Without you I don’t think I would have that because you challenged me in such a personal and intrusive way that the only way forward was to be strong and truly work on my inner self. Without you Eczema I don’t believe I would be the person I am today. So I thank you for teaching me that I have the power to change things. My life is in my own hands and that is something you drove home. Thank you for helping me to truly learn to love myself for who I am, accepting the good, the bad and the ugly and helping me to realise that I am in control.

If you could speak to your eczema what would you say? Would you say kind words, harsh words? Eczema is a constant struggle and sometimes when we sit with the good and the bad we can begin to find glimpses of positivity through the darkness. Never lose sight of who you are. Eczema may be one part of you, but you have so much more to offer. Writing letters in this way is actually so therapeutic! If you do this make sure you write the enemy letter first so you are left wth the gratitude you feel for how eczema has made you better.

Eczema isn’t great and it’s been a right pain, but it’s also built me as a person and so why don’t you give it a go? I’d love to see what you come out with.

Comments
6 Responses to “Eczema: Letters to my Frenemy”
  1. I loved reading this. I am also an eczema sufferer, had it since I was a few months old. I admire your strength because some days I can’t face getting through the day or looking in a mirror. However there’s days I’m grateful I have imperfections as I would not have been through the things I have and would never have made my blog! We are all in this together, to share and care. I hope you find something to help make it easier. I’m sure trying to lol. Anyway keep it up, some people will never understand and others will relate fully (like myself!) I hope to read more posts like this in the future xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Selina says:

      I’m really glad you understand both sides of the journey too. It doesn’t always seem easy to think of why eczema made me the person I am today as it means accepting the good, the bad and the downright painful! The strengths gained and the happiness lost all at once is hard but compared to when I first started this blog my skin is doing well so I’m grateful for this. Like you my blog would never have happened without eczema either. Not everyone understands but everyone who sees this blog does share this and it makes it feel so much less isolating! It gave me hope that actually I don’t need a cure I can manage this and I’m not going to let it take control. Took some time to take that lead but it’s been amazing since!

      Good luck on your journey 🙂 xx

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Tina says:

    Hi Selina,
    When reading your letters especially to the eczema my enemy, I cried and felt the pain.
    I understand the depth of each and every word you expressed. You are doing so well. Having eczema has taught me to see the souls of people and be compassionate. I get people staring at me everyday and I just smile back at them. It’s hard to stay positive but only I can try and maintain a positive aura. I am hoping to get on a clinical psychology doctorate also .
    A massive congrats to you Selina on getting accepted for the clinical psy training. I am truly happy for you and you inspire me to keep pushing boundaries and reaching new limits.
    I wanted to ask whether you were still interested in hypnotherapy?
    Also have you tried meditation? It relaxes the mind and can aid a better night sleep?
    Kindest Regards
    Tina

    Liked by 1 person

    • Selina says:

      Hi Tina

      Great to know there’s a fellow psych here 🙂 good luck with getting onto the course! Re hypnotherapy it has been amazing to train and see such positive change in people, I was trying to get people on my blog to have it for free to see if it helps. I listen to the hypnotherapy audio on nights I find it hard to sleep and it really helps! Re meditation, I do mindfulness (trying to do it more regularly!) and the yoga challenge I posted about is a good one when I can’t switch off!

      What has been working for you?

      I’m really glad my letters are something you can relate to. Eczema is such an intrusive journey that I feel so positive that so many of us have come out the other side giving strong. It’s what life is all about!

      Like

  3. Scott says:

    Wow that is a very powerful but also touching and sensitive letter. It was very good to read as I could relate to it and I am sure others can too. It is a very good point. Without Eczema I am 100 percent sure my physical healthy would be much worse than now, as Eczema promotes us to eat healthy and also exercise. I believe it is very important to stay positive, even though it is easier being said than done, and I am sure the disease called Eczema can actually do you more good than harm. Luckily, my eczema has been very manageable now and it is nearly gone. But when it was bad I did not even go out at all and it was mentally very hard.

    Anyhow thanks so much Selena for the great read. And all the best to everyone who suffers from eczema especially facial eczema.

    Like

    • Selina says:

      Thanks for your comment. I’m really glad that you can relate to both sides of having it too. I also think it’s easier to do this when eczema is manageable as in the middle of a flare up, eczema is something I definitely resent! It has definitely improved my health though like yours. I really think I feel a lot more in control of it now compared to when I would just follow doctors order. Doing something ourselves really gave me the boost that what I do can make a difference. I hope others begin to realise they can take control too!

      Like

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