Today I had a setback in my eczema. After taking my last calculus test, my friends and I had a much needed girl’s sleepover night consisting of cards against humanity, massages, swimming, and love. It turns out that when I got out of the shower after swimming I used a cream that I have been suspecting being sensitive to, and my skin totally flared up. But my friends were amazing. I also started crying in the morning which surprisingly really helped to assuage the itching, and then started crying even harder after my friends helped me moisturize my body. The night before they helped me make a salad because I’m allergic to everything and can’t eat pizza, and in the morning they helped me make a smoothie. My friend Alyssa would check everything to make sure it was safe for me to eat, and the rest of them did everything they could to keep me from scratching. I was slightly mad at myself for crying, but they found it honorable that I would cry in front of them. They had no pity, just love and understanding, as they have all been through their own struggles.
It is easy to question why you have to go through something beyond your control, or hate it and think of it with extreme bitterness and resentment. Before I started understanding my triggers, I used to sit in front of a mirror and scratch myself until I bled, crying because I was so itchy and had no idea what to do with myself. And there is nothing wrong with crying, but there is a lot wrong with hating yourself. I used to think I would never get better and would have to live with it for the rest of my life. There was a lot of false hope in the journey, like a $700 cream called Eucrisa that helped but wasn’t powerful enough to keep my skin healthy during AP exams. Don’t get me wrong, I am a complete nerd and love learning about the chemistry of new drugs and totally support them. But for eczema, knowing what triggers it for you is so important as it is different for everyone. Eucrisa is a great cream for times like now when you accidentally mess up and have a setback. But if you don’t believe you are strong enough to get better, you never will.
On the flip side, my eczema is a part of me. It forces me to take care of myself. If I never had it, my friends wouldn’t have been able to show me love through it. It has brought me so much closer to my friends, and has allowed me to connect better with so many people at the hospital. It challenges me every day to wake up and live knowing that I am strong, smart, and beautiful. I have the choice every day to treat it like a burden or an accessory. It is a blessing to know that when something is wrong with me internally that it will show up on my skin, challenging me to be healthier, stronger, and more genuine. I am lucky. I am lucky to get to make amazing smoothie bowls every day. I am lucky to know that I will get my skin regiment down someday, while right now I am still learning. I am lucky because it could be so much worse. I am lucky to have it rather than someone else, as I would never wish this upon anyone.
And although it is a part of me, it doesn’t define me. It didn’t hinder me from biking 20 miles to and from school with my econ teacher. I’m not going to let it stop me from any of my dreams. In fact, having eczema has influenced my dreams. I think drugs are so fascinating and maybe will create my own eczema cream or cure one day. It hasn’t stopped me from succeeding in AP chemistry, though there were times the stress of the class did not go well with my eczema. I hope to major in biochemistry with emphasis in pharmacology or something. If I go to med school one day, hopefully my experiences will all pay off. After all, I think eczema had made me more humble and empathetic. And knowing that I am fearfully and wonderfully made, I know eczema is not who I am. It is just another hurdle in life I must go through. In heaven I will have clear skin, because pain and suffering will no longer exist when we finally make it.
I look at my skin right now. For a flare up, it is nowhere near as red as it was before. I smile when I look in the mirror. Because smiling boosts endorphins. Because I am so blessed to be me after all.