While I wouldn’t even think to go so far as to consider myself bullied as a kid, I do remember a few instances (one or two started by my own brother! Thanks, Matt.) of being taunted and called, “Eggs on her legs”. I have no idea who started that one, (probably before mentioned brother) but on occasion it was my nickname.
Explaining to a bunch of 3rd or 4th graders that, no, I had eczema was near impossible. Explaining that as much as I would like clear, non-itchy skin, I would unintentionally scratch myself all day and night until I broke the skin into huge ugly blisters.
My parents tried it all, to their credit. I remember being slathered in Crisco, wrapped in plastic wrap, and running around the house before bed screaming, “I’m a sandwich!” because someone told them it would help. (I was super stealthy and peeled off the plastic wrap at night to itch, then would re wrap myself.) There were cold showers on hot nights, oatmeal baths, bottles of refrigerated aloe vera in brown glass bottles, weekly allergy shots, and steroid creams that would permanently leave me with spots where, to this day, I never tan.
As I grew older, I got a little more used to it. Tanning and salt water help, so the summers I spent diligently earning wrinkles with my friends in the sun weren’t for nothing, I suppose. I learned to avoid any and every scented body wash or lotion – my skin would burn and itch at any application. Sensitive skin, no perfume, no added whatever everything became my life, and cortisone creams are a lifeline.
In September of 2013 I found out we were expecting Ryan, which was awesome except my eczema flared up. It continued to flare on and off through nursing him, (regardless of the fact that I was off dairy and soy for much of that time – dairy is considered a big trigger for eczema sufferers) and when I became pregnant with this baby, I reached my breaking point. I now have days where bending my fingers hurts because they are so covered in eczema. Most nights I sleep with an ice pack to ease the hottest of spots, and Alex is constantly saying, “Stop itching!” whether from the dead of sleep or another room. Hormones can exacerbate eczema, and I think my body has been so overwhelmed with them for so long that it has just given up.
Here’s the thing about eczema – no one really cares that much about it. In most cases, it’s a condition that is seen in children and then is grown out of. In the vast majority of adult cases, it’s totally livable. Embarrassing, uncomfortable and annoying? Yes. Livable? Yes. It doesn’t cause chronic pain (unless you tear your skin open and then ow.) and it’s not disabling. But it usually is a sign of bigger problems.
While no one knows exactly what causes eczema (allergies are the number one cause, but no one knows exactly what causes one’s own body to attack itself, making you so itchy) there are many, many theories for what it would be. One of the most commonly accepted hypotheses is a compromised immune system (caused in your gastrointestinal system) is to blame. I’ve done a lot of reading lately about the causes and “cures” for eczema, and it seems most people agree that something is weakening your gut, not allowing it to heal, and in response your immune system is being a little overzealous and attacking itself. Because why not.
I’m tired of itching. I’m tired of scratching and spending hours at night trying not to think about it, or being embarrassed to wear shorts or short sleeves because I’m covered in scales and scratches. So much so, that I’m going pretty extreme (for me). I’m cutting out gluten.
This may be temporary, this may have to be forever. It may be the end all cure I’m looking for – which is has been for some people! – and it may just be a month of me being sad that I can’t fulfill allll of my pregnancy cravings. But to be honest, I think it’s going to work, at least a little. (My eczema got a LOT worse right after I started making fried rice daily. Soy sauce has wheat which = gluten. Insert tears.)
I plan on continuing to document this journey with my eczema and my battle to find my cure, so I hope you all are mildly interested. (in case you’re wondering, some of the next items to cut are grains, dairy, eggs, refined sugar…) I did take a few before pictures, but I’m FOR SURE not sharing those until I have something mildly pretty to show you, because gross. But I do hope I have some “after” photos to show you asap! Also, a big thanks to Amanda for letting me Think Out Loud!
So tell me – any experience with eczema? Ever gone gluten free? Any tips for how not to cry every night while dreaming of bread and pasta and hibachi? Leave it in the comments!