As I sit here gazing at my perfectly normal, only slightly blemished skin.
I cannot help but be eternally grateful that I am not back in the skin I had 12 months ago.
I wasn’t someone who grew up with skin abnormalities or even someone who suffered from acne as a teen.
I was someone who was frequently complimented by friends for how clear my skin was.
Or asked what kind of treatments I used at that time only tea tree oil for pimples and Olay moisturizer.
My skincare regime was simple, effortless almost
It wasn’t until later in life did I discover the horror of how much your skincare regime can consume your life.
It was in 2014, I first got eczema, it was on my forearms and that was about it.
I used to cover it up with bandages so I wouldn’t scratch it and it was my way of concealing this flaw.
But it was the equivalent to hiding a huge pimple on your face with a bright blue band-aid.
All it did was attract questions. I didn’t think too much of it because I thought it would go away and I would never have to worry about it again
I hate how wrong I was
I was on my gap year working and traveling, my eczema didn’t pop up anywhere.
Fast forward to 2016 when I began my Bachelor’s degree.
I found myself having little patches of eczema here and there.
They didn’t bother me too much because I could cover them up easily and used a few drug store creams to help.
My Eczema Was Getting Worse
It wasn’t until my final year of my Bachelor’s degree that I truly started to look into it all because it was getting worse.
I knew that I had eczema.
But I had just taken on the small pieces of unsolicited advice I’d gotten from every Tom, Dick, and Harry who claimed they “had a solution”.
I had eczema in all the common places; armpits, back of the knees, eyelids, and my lower back and thighs.
It was frustrating, to say the least.
It would leave me crying as I would scratch until I bled
It was like an addiction, only once I scratched and felt the bliss of relief.
I could leave my eczema be for a few hours and then the urge to feel that release would come again, like a wave desire to scratch away the pain and itchiness.
It was as if someone else took over my body when I had these scratching episodes.
I would be in tears asking myself why I did this to myself, why did I have to scratch and make it all worse again?
But I couldn’t stop.
That is the problem with eczema
It is so much more than a skin condition, it is a psychological game.
Can I resist the urge to scratch?
If I scratch just a little bit will it stop the need to scratch more?
I needed to find a solution, a fix that wouldn’t damage me more.
I did a lot of research and started to change countless things in my life; the products I was using, the way I showered, the way I ate and the type of skincare regime I was doing.
I Tried Everything, I truly Mean Everything
I even started to look into meditation, try to ease the stress I was enduring from university and life in general.
Throughout those final few months of 2018 and the beginning of 2019, I tried everything.
And when I say everything I truly mean everything.
I stayed up for hours in the nights just researching all different leads I could find.
I almost felt like a detective for my own skin.
A Search For a Magical Cure
When I would find a clue.
I would follow it until I got to a reputable source who could tell me the information I needed so I could try this new “magical” cure.
It came with no surprise that I was willing to do it all.
When your skin starts to consume your thoughts and life it is tiring.
I changed my diet and became obsessed with eating whole foods, cutting out gluten, nightshades, and caffeine.
I Tried Acupuncture
When this didn’t seem to change anything I went to my first acupuncture appointment.
This was the solution my mum had used to cure her eczema, so I thought it could have helped me.
I went to many sessions and took all the Chinese medicine they gave me.
But it still didn’t help and I couldn’t afford to keep trying for any more months so I had to stop.
Out of pocket almost $2000, I went on to find another solution.
A Year at WA Screen Academy, As I try Juicing
It was in 2019 when I began my Masters of Film at the WA Screen Academy.
A one-year intensive course, which in retrospect, should have most definitely been completed over 18months or two years.
This year would be my undoing.
My next stop was trying the celery juice craze.
Juicing Might Not Be My Solution After All
I discovered the medical medium in my deep dive of the inter-webs and it correlated perfectly with one of my first assignments of my Masters; to document something for 6 weeks of my life which tells a story with a beginning, middle, and end.
This was the perfect opportunity to test out if this juicing craze worked or not.
Juicing was quite a task; buying all the celery, cleaning it, chopping it, storing it, juicing it fresh every day, cleaning the juicer, and repeating.
I was prepared to do anything if it was going to make a difference. It did actually work a bit, I started to see my skin clear up and was genuinely shocked at the results.
But after 5 weeks, my eczema started to return and I began to realize that juicing might not be my solution after all.
My eczema began to progressively worsen
I then proceeded to try many other solutions, which I will not delve into too much detail about because we will be here for days.
I tried a Naturopath, hypnotherapy this was a bit too weird for my liking, eating only organic foods, special creams, and any other natural remedy I could find on the internet.
It was all to no prevail because it was in June, July, and August that I was hit with the most horrific, scary, and damaging time of my life.
My eczema began to progressively worsen and nothing I was doing was helping in any way.
I was completely overwhelmed with the pressure I had at Uni to perform at a high level, while completing extra work, all while having 30+ contact hours of classes and meetings each week.
All of this stress began to reflect on my skin
The patches I had on my back and legs were expanding and eventually, every inch of my body was covered with red, sore, and cracking eczema.
There was not one part of my body that wasn’t aching from eczema tightness or pain.
For those who may not have experienced bad eczema, I would liken the pain to a severe sunburn.
Not only is it painful but it is overwhelmingly itchy, to a point of no prevail.
Along with the pain and itchiness is tightness of skin ready to break open if you even lift your arm.
Nothing could soothe the pain I was experiencing
I would cry every time I had a shower because of the pain it caused.
I couldn’t sleep for more than 3 hours at night because I would be forced awake from the pain or oozing of my skin.
I would have to change my clothes in the middle of the night because they had become too soaked in my skin’s juices trying to heal itself.
It was unbearable.
Because of my skin being so severely damaged, my body had no way of controlling my temperature.
I was freezing, shaking all the time, even with multiple layers on
I was confused, scared, and devastated that my body had done this to me. It was the darkest period I had ever experienced in my life.
With my eczema covered face and body, I would painfully walk into university to go to my classes and I would try not to talk to anyone to keep my profile low.
As you can see from these awful photos, I was absolutely mortified to have to see people like this.
While people were compassionate and kind, they didn’t understand what I was going through.
Others would make comments and say “wow you got sun-burnt”, and while I understood their naivety, it still hurt.
It Is Impossible to Communicate the Pain
It was impossible to communicate the physical, emotional, and mental pain I was in each
And every day I had to look in the mirror and face my horrific, eczema covered face.
It wasn’t until I was faced with the dark thoughts of completely hating waking up every day, that I needed to see someone.
I was in complete denial that this would just get better by itself.
It was never going to heal itself.
I was constantly on the phone to my parents, crying to them wishing this would just get better.
I Have Suffered for So Long, I Needed Help
And it was after numerous of these that we decided it was time to see someone professional.
In hindsight, I hate that I left this so long, that I was suffering for so long.
But it was so deeply entrenched in me that I wanted to fix this naturally, that I couldn’t see that I was on the brink of hospitalization.
When I walked into my GP’s office she could see the pain I was in immediately and called the Dermatologist for an emergency appointment.
I was almost in tears hearing how severe my condition had gotten.
How could I have let myself get to this point?
The next day I went in to see the dermatologist.
The most wonderful lady and Doctor I have ever met.
Her empathy and understanding of my situation were all I needed at that moment.
After I had taken off my clothes, shown her the extent of my eczema, and told her the pain I was in.
She told me that I was near hospitalization and if the solution she was offering didn’t help.
I Was the Worst Case
I would need to admit myself immediately.
She told me that I was the worst case she had come across.
And couldn’t understand how I still managed to smile and say “I’m okay” when she asked me how I was feeling.
I was scared at how dangerous this had gotten and soaked in everything she said like a sponge.
She assured me I would feel like a different person by Monday
It was Friday when she told me this.
When I walked out of that dermatologist appointment, I got my medication and went home to my parents, 2.5 hours away.
I put the steroid cream on my face and even within those 2.5 hours of driving my face had changed color completely.
It was an intense regime of both oral and topical steroids I was on for 4 weeks, slowly weaning myself off the oral steroids.
Wet 3 Times a Day
I was wet wrapping 3 times a day for 20minutes at a time which requires you to lather yourself in Dermeze moisturizer.
And steroid cream and then put on tight wet clothes over the top and marinate for 20 minutes to help soak in the moisture.
It was intense and a full-on commitment, but I followed every instruction to the letter, not wanting to endure any more pain or suffering.
I hated that I couldn’t fix this naturally, but it was so gone past the point of a natural solution that it was my only safe option to get through this alive.
I couldn’t quite believe it but by Monday I was a different person.
I Was a Different Person
I could see my face again, feel my soft skin, move my body without wincing in pain.
I couldn’t believe that I was not covered in eczema.
I couldn’t believe that I could sleep through the night again.
I couldn’t believe that I had finally started my healing process after months of agony.
After my 4 week regime, I commenced phototherapy, a light therapy solution that builds up the strength of your skin and combats eczema.
It was a solution that made a very noticeable difference
By September I had the most beautiful skin I have ever had in my life.
It felt like a miracle.
As the photos throughout this article show, my progress to recovery was a bit of a roller coaster.
You might be asking me why on earth I would want to take photos of my face in the state it was.
For me I knew in my heart that this wouldn’t last forever and that I would be able to look back on the situation with beautiful clear skin, knowing I got through it.
Reminder to Be Grateful
Having those photos reminds me of how strong I was at such a dark point in my life.
And it reminds me to be grateful for the skin I am in right now.
It is now a year later and I look back on this time of my life with such awe that I went through something like that.
It made me realize how much I based my confidence in my appearance.
And how much stress is detrimental to your physical and mental well being.
The Solution You Need
It made me realize that sometimes the solutions aren’t the ones you want, but they’re the ones you need.
It made me realize that eczema isn’t just a skin condition, it is a serious and chronic autoimmune disease that shouldn’t be taken lightly.
I can now manage my eczema with small methods, both natural and not naturally because I’ve come to realize that I cannot go through what I did last year again.
My eczema taught me to be strong, it taught me to ask questions, it taught me to research, but most of all it taught me to ask for help when I truly needed it.
My eczema almost killed me and I won’t let it happen again.