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The Side of Eczema People Don't See

I have had eczema ever since I can remember; from baby pictures, to school pictures, to looking in the mirror everyday. I have additionally been diagnosed with seborrheic dermatitis and psoriasis. I have seen countless dermatologists, allergists, and rheumatologists over the years. People only see the red scratches, band-aids, and scabs — but there is another side to skin conditions that people don’t see.

They don’t see the cabinet full of over 50 prescription creams and ointments. They don’t see the gloves you used to have to wear to keep yourself from scratching at night (that never worked anyway). They don’t see you constantly needing to wash your sheets because they’re always bloody. They don’t see your inability to wear black because the white flakes from scratching would be all over it. They don’t see the side effects of steroids (I still cringe every time I hear the word Prednisone). They don’t see you wiping off your bed each night from the dead skin and flakes. They don’t see you waking up with bloody fingernails from late night scratching. They don’t see your inability to use anything that has any scent whatsoever. They don’t see that if you don’t draw in eyebrows, you don’t have any. They don’t see you absolutely despising looking at yourself in the mirror.

I’ve gotten used to complete strangers coming up to me to comment on my rashes. Some give me names of new things to try (like I haven’t been seeing doctors for the last 20 years), some need the comfort of knowing I’m not contagious, some give me advice, some show pity, some give me their business cards, some just stare. Health professionals aren’t always that much better, either. I have seen many doctors that are rude, abrasive, curt, and just hurtful.

Even though I’m used to people’s comments, it gets old sometimes. And even though allergic reactions and breakouts have become something that are normal to me, it still affects me. Some of my best memories are tarnished because the pictures have a face that was incredibly broken out. I pray that before any big event or anywhere I know that I’ll be taking pictures that my skin clears up…even though it rarely ever does. It’s made my dream of getting a tattoo incredibly difficult. It means bringing an entire pharmacy any time I go anywhere. It means not being able to work out when or where I want to, because the heat toppled with being allergic to your own sweat, makes that very difficult.

I don’t want to sound vain or shallow, I am well aware that there is so much more to a person than how they look. However, it is very difficult to believe that for yourself with a face that is constantly red and swollen and arms that have never been clear. I have held off writing about any of my skin conditions because I know that many people have much worse medical problems with much worse side effects. I’ve never wanted to come across like I’m complaining or making something out to be worse than it is. I’ve stuck to writing about mental health issues because they’re much easier for me to write about —I know them very well. However, they are so intricately connected and you should never be afraid or ashamed to write or express what affects you.

Photo credit: RyanKing999/Getty Images