Five Things I’ve learnt in ten years of living with eczema #10YearChallenge

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1. There is no cure for eczema. And I’ve stopped looking for one.

Yep, there is no known cure for eczema. And I really have stopped looking. But this is not as dismal as it sounds. I liken this light bulb moment to the scene in the film ‘Alive’ – the story of the plane crash in the Andes mountains – when Ethan Hawk announces: “Good news everyone, they’ve called off the search,” meaning that the survivors now must no longer rely on false hope, they can get on with finding their own way off the mountain. In the same way, the good news is this. Truly understanding that there is no cure for eczema empowers you to get on with managing the condition for yourself. That might mean having the conviction to unrelentingly badger your doctor into helping you to find the right self-care routine with products that suit your skin, or you might go about researching it for yourself. Either way, it’s a powerful realisation.

2. I’ve stopped searching for that miracle cream

Likewise, there are no miracle creams, potions or elixirs no matter what you read in the papers or online. Nope, that cheap supermarket tub of cream that you read about in the Daily Mail last week is not going heal your dry, sore flaky skin overnight. The boring truth is, it’s a commitment and the sooner you get used to that the better. You have to feed, nourish, care for – and above all – love your skin and train yourself not to damage it.  This is how I did it: How I stopped scratching my eczema 

3. Forget the before and after and enjoy the ‘during’

I would love to say that I have my eczema under total control and as a result here is the picture of me before and here is the picture of me with all my problems resolved. No, there is only ever the ‘during’. Even some of the greatest skin days follow after some of the terrible days before. It’s a continuum and none of it is really within my control. So I try not to blame myself too much and just try and do my best, bad skin or not. If you’re still waiting to be able to take that ‘after’ picture, you might not have realised just how much that false hope has cost you in the past – but it doesn’t have to be that way. Take a look at Your eczema might be costing you more than you think. 

4. Confidence leads to care

Eczema causes the body to send inflammatory signals to the surface of the skin; this in turn is more than likely linked to the inflammation that could lead to depression. There’s a great video which explains the basic ideas behind this: ‘The Inflamed Mind’ by Cambridge Neuroscientist Edward Bullmore:

 

And so, there will also be days when I really don’t look good or feel good. Days when all I want to do is hide under the duvet – but having the confidence to face the world when I really don’t want to can have an incredible impact on the way I manage my eczema. Sometimes hiding away seems like the kindest thing I can do for myself on those truly awful eczema days, but if my eczema is not physically preventing me from participating in life (and believe me there have been days when that is not possible) then it is actually doing me more harm than good. The isolation and withdrawal that I experience only contributes to those truly awful negative mental states. Isolation means more scratching and more negative thoughts. On those days I remind myself of the 10 ways to take on the world with a face full of eczema

5. Feel the eczema and do it anyway

My first ever blog post on beczema.com was all about severing the seriously unhelpful link between looking good and feeling good. It’s here if you fancy reading it: Feel the eczema and do it anyway

I still stand by every word. Basically, when you can’t look good or even hope to make slight improvements by the waving of a mascara wand, focusing on your appearance becomes a complete waste of time. And can be so damaging.

“We are increasingly living in an appearance saturated society,” says Professor Nichola Rumsey, co-director of the Centre for Appearance Research.

“By focusing too much attention on appearance, other important attributes such as intelligence, kindness and determination are seen to be becoming less important.”

Instead, think about this. Having the freedom to go out into the world as you are right now, you are entirely free to focus on intelligence, kindness and determination. I think that’s a gift.

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