The eight stages of a flare-up: a few words on a face full of eczema

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1. Failure 

When my face reacts to something I’ve touched, something I’ve eaten or just something floating around in the air my first feeling is failure. My failure. I’ve let my guard down, I’ve forgotten to be vigilant. Or I haven’t been clever enough to identify the thing that has caused my skin to bubble and itch and burn today. What’s happened?, people ask. I don’t know, I never know.

2. Anger

Why today? Every day is a bad day for an inflamed face. Every day that I have a reaction I need to face the world, go to a meeting, present to a room full of people, go on camera, stand in a playground full of mums. So rarely do they happen on a day where I’m free to hide under the duvet.

3. Frustration

There’s nothing I can do now. The rot has set in. The bubbling and boiling is already underway, my system is attacking itself and the battle is in full swing. There is no cream or lotion that will bring this swiftly to an end.

4. Feeling overwhelmed

I feel like my brain is boiling. The intense itch and the popping of little hives all over my face is taking over every thought in my head. Every ounce of my will power is being diverted to not scratching the intense itch that is spreading over every inch of my face, even though I will inevitably give in and scrape my nails backwards and forwards across the burning itch. Which takes me back to failure.

5. Depression

It might only be brief, but my all consuming self interest has taken over. Nothing else matters, no-one else matters.

6. Acceptance

I try to calm my brain and hands while the equivalent of a wild bush fire is spreading across my face. I remind myself that it’s not my fault, that there is nothing to be ashamed of. I am clean and I have cared for myself as best I could. This is not my fault. It’s not my fault.

7. Courage

I have to face the world, I have no choice, there are other people to care about, there are things that need to get done. Besides which, hiding away means I’m more likely to scratch and become more self obsessed. More staring in the mirror, more self loathing, more missing out. I go out to work, pick the children up from school. I talk to people, laugh, forget about my skin for a few seconds at a time.

8. Coping

A few seconds become minutes and I find I can cope. I feel the eczema and do it anyway. My mood is lifted by beating the obsession, going about normal daily business – in spite of the wild fire – and I kick this burning skin to the back of my mind.

Until the next time.

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