I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t itchy and uncomfortable in my skin. Though I may have periods when it’s not as bad, I have yet to master getting my eczema to a place where I can truly love my body.
From acupuncture and anti-inflammatory diets to allergy testing and rounds of cortisone, I’ve done it all in an attempt not just to treat but really heal my skin. While certain things have helped (and others have harmed, if we're honest), I have yet to maintain healthy skin for any legitimate period of time.
If you’ve ever suffered from eczema, you know my struggle.
Most days, my skin is itchy, tight, swollen, scaly, burning, flaky, cracked, and bleeding. Not just a spot on my ankle or behind my knee though, my eczema covers approximately half of the skin on my body (though it used to be more — I can remember a dermatologist saying it was over 85% of my skin at one point).
My hands carry the largest burden of the disease though, which means there’s no hiding the condition of my skin from anyone. From shaking hands to taking notes during a meeting, even waving hello or goodbye, I feel self-conscious about how my hands appear to others. For years, I’ve worked to hide my hands under extra-long sleeves (so grateful for that trend) or bury them in my lap whenever possible.
But now I’m done hiding.
Instead, I'm pursuing healing and loving my skin from a different perspective.
When we work to heal an “incurable” disease, we often go through phases of thinking we know what we’re doing. However, sometimes we need to completely re-think our approach to illness. Recently, I was watching a youtube video about healing eczema, and the sufferer mentioned how they were grateful for every flare-up since it meant their skin, the largest organ of elimination, was supporting their body and getting rid of something unhealthy. Mind blown.
As a child, my parents took me to a Traditional Chinese Medicine doctor who said whatever condition you see on the skin reflects an internal condition that is up to ten times worse. As a kid, I didn’t care so much about what my liver or spleen looked like — I was vain and wanted pretty skin, dammit! But now, as an adult, you bet your bottom I care about what my insides look like. And if it’s true that my skin is flaring up to support my body in ridding itself of something toxic, damn straight I’m grateful for the rash from wrist to elbow on my right arm, across both palms, down the back of my left leg, and across my bra strap.
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With this changed perspective on what my skin is doing when it’s flaring up and a sense of gratitude for the amazing ability of my body, I decided it was time to love my skin — even if it was making life difficult by looking and feeling awful all the time.
So, how does one love their skin when it’s making them miserable?
Well, I’m working on it. I started by painting my nails. I usually don’t because I feel it draws attention to my hands, but I’m trying something new so crimson rose it was!
Next, I got some new rings. One, a snake curling around my finger, holding its tail in its mouth, with a stone on its head, was a gift from my sister on one of our sister dates. This one happened to be special as we went to a local crystal and Mala shop where the owner does Vedic Astrology readings. Whether you believe in this stuff or not, acknowledge the alignment of this moment: the shop owner says to surround myself with reptile or amphibian symbols, like a snake, to encourage healthy, resilient skin, and my sister is literally about to give me a new ring with a snake on it.
I’m also trying therapy specifically to address my skin. I’ve participated in therapy many times previously for a variety of reasons, but this type is new. I found a somatic therapist who does trauma and body work, and I’ve been going to therapy with the goal of resolving whatever emotional issue is the cause of/contributing factor to my eczema.
All of this is on top of everything else I already do to take care of my skin. Which, in case you were wondering is: special soaps and detergents, coconut oil, infrequent washing, avoiding doing dishes (my favorite chore to skip), fragrance-free everything, daily meditation, sweat-free workouts, a vegan diet, a handful of herbal supplements as well as extra zinc, etc.
So no, I don’t have the whole “loving the skin you’re in when you, in fact, hate the skin you’re in” thing completely figured out, but I think I’m on the right path. And honestly, whenever I look at my hands and see that fierce snake looking back at me, I know I’m getting there.