Imagine refusing to wear tank tops out in the open for seven years. Such a scenario illustrates the extent of my self-restriction. I kept covering myself, telling myself, “not yet,” because awareness of my own physical flaws became synonymous with my all-consuming doubt.
I was diagnosed with eczema, or more specifically atopic dermatitis, at the age of 17.
Telltale symptoms would disappear and reappear at will, leaving blotchy scars across my skin, and confidence. The worst period involved itchy, weepy fissures spanning my back, face, right hand and right thigh.
I’ve felt irreparably ugly by myself; I’ve been told no one wants to look at me. I’ve been told no one wants to hold my hand. I’ve wished to drown in a bathtub full of fluocinonide cream for some relief.
During an outbreak from May to June 2017, a professional from Kaiser Permanente asked if I underwent back surgery based on the appearance of my back. I was surprised when her question didn’t trigger any insecurities.
She was the fifth dermatologist I saw thus far. Somehow, I learned to accept my complexion can’t suggest porcelain like I hoped. There are too many scars.
The ensuing years haven’t granted much reprieve either. Eczema as a skin condition has no cure, after all.
In late July 2019 my right hand blistered open, seemingly in response to Sacramento’s heat, to the point where writing or taking photos or even showering seemed too difficult. Yet, I did all those things.
Wounds that don’t remain closed are the hardest to heal. I know this and I’ve carried on despite the fact, despite the pain.
I returned to Kaiser in August to ask about getting a different steroid medication after experimentation with homeopathic solutions didn’t pan out.
Eczema Honey turned the texture of my fingers into cracked leather; Natralia Eczema & Psoriasis Cream couldn’t heal the peeling completely.
That’s the human skin for you. No two complexions are the same, no matter how many 5-star reviews give you hope.
Even though Eczema Honey felt high-quality to touch and Natralia’s formula was soothing, neither product was what my body needed. Even though I didn’t want to depend on topical steroids, my body needs them. I had to push personal ethics and pride aside to get better.
After four days of betamethasone, I can see my skin again in shades that aren’t red, white or yellow.
Skin is a complicated organ often taken for granted. Mine happens to be exceedingly reactive, learning what allergies or sensitivities are from chlorine, ketoconazole and specific organic combinations, then letting out blood whenever it hardened too much.
I still bleed from time to time. But now, when my skin wants to breathe, I let it.
We’ve learned our new air. Welcome outside.
If you liked this piece, be sure to check out “Progress Isn’t Pretty”.