As with any illness eczema can range from mild, moderate to severe but not many people seem to realise this. Here, I’d like to talk about how eczema as a condition can be debilitating; making leading a “normal” life difficult.
I’ll start off with my daily routine. It consists of waking up, often having to pry open swollen eyelids that have wept and become stuck together during the night, deciphering how much agony I’m in, and looking in the mirror to see the extent of the damage. The looking in the mirror part isn’t the most constructive thing to do, but helps me to understand why I’m experiencing a certain amount of pain.
Next I’ll pill pop some antihistamines and hop in the shower after I’ve slowly prised clothing, and even my hair, off my body that has become stuck to weeping sores. Depending on exactly how my skin is, a hot shower might be necessary to get rid of the stinging the water creates as it hits open sores from nightly scratching. Doctors always advise against this as hot water dries out the skin, but I find it helpful to give me some form of respite from the pain. It can take me hours just to shower when I’m in a bad way. Not just because of the pain or the worry of the pain, but because being as relaxed as I can be is beneficial for my skin. I find my only way to truly relax is to lay in the bath tub with the shower on my feet. Not exactly the best when the water bill needs paying, but I find bathing doesn’t quite work for me.
After liberally applying Hydromol I get out and after getting dry enough, immediately slather my skin in white soft paraffin. It can take hours for the white soft paraffin to soak into my skin but I find that if I don’t apply enough it just gets so sore and dry. Given the thickness of this ointment is a bit worrying that it still dries out my skin! If it’s a particularly bad day I’ll just whip out some Hydrocortisone, Eumovate or Betnovate steroid cream and even have to apply this to my face on a very regular basis. I haven’t experienced any thinning of the skin per say, and have been doing this for more than 10 years.
On the days that my skin is so bad I often find that I can’t actually get myself dressed because it is so sore, and covering myself up with clothing just exacerbates this. Instead I find I heal faster if I stay naked in a regulated temperature, applying white soft paraffin regularly throughout the day. Because I have to do this to cope, I find myself becoming increasingly lonely as I can’t have visitors seeing me in this way. It also means that I am often off work ill due to my inability to get dressed, and the soreness would obviously prevent me from going.
Work have luckily been quite understanding and allow me to take shift swaps or holidays if I need it. This does however mean that I will never be able to withstand a full time job because I would require far too much time off. I’m happy with working short hours at one end of the week as the time around it allow for more recovery periods as it can take me hours and hours just to get myself ready to go somewhere.
I miss the days where I could get up at 8am, take a quick shower, or not even shower at all, just have a quick wash and be able to be ready to be somewhere for 9am. Nowadays I tend to wake up at 5:30/6am to ensure I can be ready for such a time. I envy those people who can just pop to the shop for some milk first thing in a morning, it just wouldn’t be possible for me to do this. And it’s such a simple thing. People take their quick routines for granted, not having to worry about the implications things can have on their health. I have to think about how I will dress that day not because of the weather, but what my skin dictates itself to feel most comfortable in.
I thought I’d also include this extract I wrote in an email to a friend when I was feeling particularly down as it gives an even better stand point:
“I just really am coming to the end of my tether with all this. One day I’ll wake up and be absolutely fine, the next without warning I am so ill that I need emergency medical help. I’m not sure how much longer I can go on with this for. It impacts every single aspect of my life. Getting washed and dressed on a bad day can be one hell of a chore, not to mention time consuming and completely energy-zapping. Then there’s work. No one wants an unreliable colleague, no matter how much they say they’ve got your back and wouldn’t want to see you have to leave because you’re a hard worker and you do a good job of it. But you’re only a hard worker when you are well, that is the fine detail. My love life suffers greatly as well. Most days I can’t even let Shane get close to me, or even to brush passed me accidently because it can trigger my skin to flare up, which sometimes means he will sleep downstairs, despite us having a king size bed because I just can’t bare the extra warmth. I can’t see my mum as often as I’d like because of my severe allergies to the animals. I can’t even enjoy my hobbies any more because I’m allergic to textiles and of course, dust. Which in turn means, all my dreams and ambitions have had to come to a complete halt until my health improves, which seems ever unlikely with each passing day. I have to cancel so many plans and trips, which has meant losing many friends along the way as well.
I do try to keep optimistic with everything by being realistic but it is so terribly difficult when your illness defines you because there’s no way you can bypass it. It can only be managed and coped with so much until you lose your motivation for everything, which I have done so many times now.”
It’s a tough life when the hard times take over.
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