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Finding Solutions for Eczema

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Eczema: Mourning the Old You

Medically Reviewed By Kimberly Valenta, MD
eczema_Linette_Eczema Mourning the Old You

Whether you’re a life-long skin warrior like me, or you’re just new to the scene, change is awkward and scary no matter what. As we navigate this life with chronic illness, time ticks on by, whether we’d like it to or not. And with the passage of time comes change, and lots of it. For the eczema warriors who have been going at it since a young age, you might be feeling the burn out: the exhaustion of surviving yet another year with this misunderstood yet common illness, along with all the expectations of maintaining some semblance of a “normal” life beyond your skin. We have endured so much, and to think that every last bit of you would survive, unscathed from the pressure piled on through the years, is absurd. For those with a more recent diagnosis, you’ll probably be feeling the need to mourn the loss of your old self, the person who didn’t have to give a second thought to their skin and how it was managing to keep up. Whether seasoned or new, know that the emotions that come up during this time are only natural.

A few months ago, I experienced something so deeply that it rattled me to my core. It was a moment of complete clarity and realization – one of those brief yet intense moments you’ll never forget. I was feeling all the weight and pressure of disappointment and expectations – from both myself and society – compounding over time, as if I was wrapped up in heavy winter clothing and unexpectedly caught in a torrential downpour, the drenched clothing just weighing down on my small frame. A fleeting vision of the old, more carefree me danced at and teased the periphery of my mind’s eye, as if to remind me that I could never have her again. The unapologetically joyous, sparkly, and optimistic me, with her youthful face, dissolved before my eyes, and I was left with a heavy and bereft feeling of sadness and a bit of rage. Was it because of all the decades this illness stole from me? Did the looming darkness I fought off daily finally snuff out the little light I had left? Yes, I felt it go out. 

Now, I’m allowing time to help me heal, and I’m noticing that there is a part of me that was always there.

As you begin the mourning process of who you could have been without eczema, know that it will be a slightly different grieving process compared to that experienced by those in better health. Know that the seven stages of grief might come in a different order and that some stages might not arrive at all. And it is completely normal to have to repeat these seven stages in order to truly heal from both the physical and emotional wounds of our condition.

Regardless of how long it will take you to heal, and regardless of the emotions you feel, thank your old self. Be grateful to your old self for bringing you to this point of your life, and for surviving the odds. Don’t forget to celebrate all the good memories. Be grateful that you could even do those things that you did at that time. Be thankful that your body was still able to move the way it did. Remember that none of us are promised tomorrow. In particular, none of us are promised tomorrow in good health.

With all that life with eczema brings, it might feel like a part of you has died. But I like to think of it differently. Maybe you are just growing into more of who you were meant to be. Have you considered that maybe this is exactly where you’re supposed to be? Lean into this new era of your life. Fully immerse yourself into the new spaces and experiences you are being led to. The exciting part about this phase is that you don’t even realize that you’re becoming one of those seasoned eczema warriors that you already respect and follow. Embrace it.

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Medical Reviewer: Kimberly Valenta, MD
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