Atopic dermatitis (eczema) is a recurring, inherited, inflammatory skin condition. Symptoms include patches or areas of dry, itching, scaling and reddened skin.
When I was born, the doctor reassured my parents, “Don’t worry, she’ll grow out of it”. As I grew older, they passed these words onto me and my young self took them in, hope forming into a future of silky smooth perfect skin.
As far back as I can remember, I have always struggled with my skin. The itchiness, the dryness, the redness, the infections, the bleeding, the pain and for a very long time it was the crux of a huge personal insecurity. I hated swimming at the beach because of the stinging that erupted all over my body as soon as the water hit my skin. I hated washing my skin in the shower because the body wash would hurt too. I even hated putting on cream cause, yes, that hurt too. I cannot count the amount of different lotions, moisturisers, ointments, oils and prescribed steroid creams I’ve gone through. My bag is always stocked with moisturiser (fragrance free, of course) as well as prescribed creams during bad days. I cannot use soap on my body and I need to shower in a way that ensures the shampoo doesn’t run down my skin. If it’s windy, that equals a flare up. If it’s too hot, that’s a flare up. If I forget to wash my hands after cuddling my dog, that’s a flare up.
The start of high school was the worst of it. The worst of the pain, the worst of the discomfort, the worst of the infections, the worst. I hated the pitying and disgusted looks I got from other students. I felt like a freak. I felt ugly. I felt unlovable.
As the years went on, I noticed a decline in the number of flareups I had per year, and a decline in the severity of each case. I thought to myself, “The doctor was right. I am growing out of it”. And you know what, for a good few years, I rarely had a sever flare up. As far as anyone could tell, I had perfectly normal skin with the occasional chapped lip. While I was away in Europe, I rarely had issues with my skin. Nothing worse than a few dry patches. I hardly touched the prescription creams I had brought over with me.
It is only now that I am back in Australia that I am experiencing issues and I can’t for the life of me, figure out why. For a notable amount of time, I haven’t had to worry too much about my skin. I’m talking years here. The last time I’d had a serious flare up was in high school (from what I can remember). When the flareups began, I thought I knew the triggers and didn’t think too much of it. I knew the protocol. I had the creams ready at hand. Nothing new. But as the days passed to weeks with little to no improvement I felt like I was at a loss. The rashes spread from my face down my neck and all over my body. My skin lost its elasticity, especially around my eyes which in turn, interfered with my ability to see properly. My skin started to swell. I had red patches all over. And I had no idea why.
I’ve tried everything I can over the years. I’ve had tests done to see what I’m allergic to. I’ve identified triggers, but the thing is, I have not changed a single part of my routine. I have not done anything out of the ordinary that could potentially be the reason for why my skin was reacting the way it was. I’ve been on a full detox for well over a month now in an attempt to cleanse my body of unwanted toxins and hope that my skin will react positively. Speaking honestly, I personally don’t think it has done all that much. Just when I think there is improvement, another area of my skin thinks otherwise.
I still haven’t found a solution. My skin is still dry, it is still flaring up, it is still how it has been since I was a baby. Hopefully one day, just as my doctor said all those years ago, I will eventually grow out of it.