English 165 is an honors course that I took during the Spring of 2019. This course was very interesting and helped be gain the necessary sills for writing. This piece of writing that I am sharing was one of my favorite assignments because it was about a big chunk of my life. For the assignment we had to writ a personal essay so I chose to write about the daily struggle with my eczema.
April 1, 2019
Life with Eczema
Have you ever had that feeling where a certain area of your body had an itch that wouldn’t go away no matter how much you scratch it? Try having it multiple times a day for the rest of your life. I was about four years old when my mom discovered that I had a skin condition. Our family was having spaghetti for dinner and my mom noticed that my face was very red and covered in rashes, this became an immediate concern. At first, my mom thought it was an allergic reaction to the red sauce that was in the spaghetti, but she was wrong. I made a trip to the doctor’s office that night so that I could be properly diagnosed. After some tests and examinations, the answer was found. The doctor said that I had eczema.
Eczema can come in many forms and can have multiple symptoms. Some symptoms of eczema can give you is itchiness or inflamed skin which can lead to a rash. This is because eczema is caused by a lack of moisture in the skin which causes extreme itchiness that will not go away. This explained why my face was covered in rashes. What many people do not know about eczema is that it is not curable, but there are many ways to calm it such as creams, pills, or even shots. I was one of those rare cases where I had eczema year-round instead of seasonally which really sucked for me in my childhood.
I was roughly six or seven when I decided to get myself involved in sports. Basketball was always a favorite for my dad and he always wanted me to play so I gave it a shot. Needless to say, I fell in love with the sport which is good right? Wrong. For a kid with eczema, any kind of physical activity just causes the sweat to get into those areas which irritated my skin and made me itch more and more. Picture this, a kid running across the basketball court clawing at his arms just to get the satisfaction of the itchiness to go away for a short period of time, but as you watch the child scratch it, the area becomes more irritated and red leaving that skin inflamed and raw. I was that kid. Basketball has always been a fun sport for me but as I grew up and played the sport more and more, the eczema just got worse and worse.
I was in middle school when I started to feel self-conscious about my eczema. No matter what time of the year it was I would always wear a hoodie. I would wear a hoodie because the eczema rash was always in the crease of my inner arm where my elbow is. This can be a very noticeable spot, so I wore the hoodie to cover up the rash so that I wasn’t questioned about it. It wasn’t so bad wearing the hoodie until it was spring time where temperatures reached the high eighties and lower nineties. I would begin to get hot and sweat would accumulate in the crease of my arms making me want to scratch the irritated area. I always tried hard to resist the urge to scratch, but it is very hard when all you feel is the skin burning and stinging. I would tough it out through every day until summertime came and then I wouldn’t have to go to school and wear a hoodie.
Gym was requirement for middle school which I absolutely loved the class, but this is when the students had to go to the locker rooms and change into their gym uniforms in order to participate for the day. For me, I was never the kid to receive bad grades so I dressed up every single gym class so that I could participate and get the grade. I would be embarrassed to get dressed in front of everyone because that meant that I would have to take my hoodie off and change into my tshirt and shorts for gym. I would face the lockers to avoid conversation to ensure that nobody would notice the rash on my arms. I would stay in that corner until he teacher instructed us to move into the gym for class. One day I sat down on a bench in the locker room and a kid laughed and asked me what was on my arm and you know how kids are in middle school where they finally think they are learning the adult terminology. He thought I had some type of STD or something because that makes sense, but I simply explained that it was eczema on my arms. I played it off like it was no big deal, but it really bothered me because people immediately jump to conclusion and never think for a second. That was the most interesting conversation that I have had with a random classmate in a locker room. Every gym class usually began with stretching followed by some laps around the gym. After that, we had activity time which is when I usually played basketball for the remainder of class. This meant that two or three days out of the five school days, I was sweating and playing basketball. All this did was irritate my skin more because I never wanted to stop playing and it kept me from having a lot of the fun during gym. This intricate process stayed with me all throughout high school when it came to gym class.
During these times my mom began to experiment with certain steroid creams and ointments to see which ones would calm my eczema down some, but nothing had great results. Creams and ointments would just make the peeled raw skin sting a burn even more which made me want to scratch it. Throughout my childhood and teenage life, I had visited countless doctors in hope for a solution to my eczema, but I never got any true results. Every doctor had the same answer which was to use steroid cream and ointments. Just a little disclaimer, steroid creams are not the steroids that you’re thinking of where it makes you all muscular and is not good for the human body. This type of steroid is just a very strong medicinal cream that is meant to help cure rashes and inflamed skin. At this point in my life, I was about ready to give up hope for a simple cure or aid to my condition, but my mom wasn’t. You see, my mother was never one to give up when it came to a simple problem. It could be because she works in the medical field, or it could have been because she was tired of me whining about my constant pain from the rashes, but whatever it was she did not give up.
High school was a little easier when it came to my eczema because people were more aware and mature, but it still wasn’t easy. I would still wear a hoodie no matter what the temperature was that day because I still wanted to conceal it the best way possible. My freshman and sophomore year were like every other year for me because I had gym every other day except, I had it first thing in the morning which sucked because I would be in class with sweat in the creases in my arms. It was a living hell for me not to scratch my arms. My life turned around my junior year because something very strange started happening to me and my body. Every night when I went to bed, I would always sleep with a shirt on (and I still do) because it was always comfy for me. In the mornings I began to wake up to my shirt balled up in the middle of my bed which made me very confused. This occurred more and more until I realized a massive red line going from my right shoulder all the way down to my ribs. This is when I realized that I had been taking my shirt off in my sleep and scratching my chest as if it were a natural response. I told my mom about it and she was a little concerned but thought maybe it was just from sweat since it was summer time. We monitored it for a while and after about a week of this occurring, I noticed that a rash formed in the middle of my chest and it would spread each night. Eventually, the rash spread from all around my neck, to my shoulders, and all across my chest. This was the worst case of eczema I’ve had yet. It was the worst burning sensation that I’ve ever experienced in my entire life.
We went to the doctor’s office the next day to get this breakout dealt with. Apparently, the doctor I visited previously had suggested that I take two steroids to cure my eczema and that caused a steroid burn because you are not supposed to mix two steroid creams. This is why the rash broke out across my upper body in the first place. This was the moment where I gave up on creams and took a Zyrtec which is a common allergy pill (similar to Benadryl).
This strange occurrence, as I stated before, happened during my junior year in high school. I was in advanced math at the time, so I was taking math analysis. One day, I walked into class with my hoodie on as usual, but since the rash reached all the up my neck, I couldn’t cover it all. My math teacher always acted like every student’s best friend and she was always one to joke around. As class began, I had turned to my friend to the right to ask a question about the worksheet and that’s when she noticed the rash upon my neck. Without any hesitation the teacher asked me out loud in front of the class, “is that a hickie?” I have never felt so embarrassed in my life and I knew she was talking to me. She approached me and tried to reach into my shirt to feel the rash which I did not give her permission to do at all. What made the situation worse is that she knew she made a mistake, so she tried to loosen the tension by telling a story about how she received a hickie once, but it helped none. My face immediately turned red and I was lost for words. As I asked my friend the question again and she said bluntly to my face, “hey hickie boy, stop talking.” To me this was borderline bullying and highly unprofessional coming from a teacher and I was furious. She knew what she had done and apologized for it and offered a hug. I did not forgive her and declined the hug as I was still pretty angry. I went home that day with the worst mood in the world. My mother knew immediately that something was up and asked me what was wrong and that’s when I gave her the whole breakdown. My mother was infuriated with the situation. I saw her grab her phone and aggressively type up an angry email. I won’t go into extreme detail about what my mother said, but let’s just say that my math teacher could have easily gotten fired that day. She even tried to call our house phone which was not a smart move because we were both very mad at the time, so my mom didn’t answer it.
As my senior year was approaching, I began to look into colleges and my career as every senior should. What was nice about senior year is that I no longer had to take gym class which meant I didn’t have to sweat so much which kept my scratching to a minimum. This was the time where my mother’s hard work and dedication finally paid off. She had taken me to a dermatologist. A dermatologist is a doctor’s office, but they focus on skin conditions. I went there for an allergist to be tested for multiple different allergens. I received about one hundred small pricks all along my arms and back to see which allergen I would react to and you will not believe me when I say this, but apparently, I am allergic to dust mites (notice the sarcasm). This was a waste of time according to my mom because everyone is allergic to dust mites. This is not why my mother’s hard work paid off though. It was shortly after the dermatologist visit when my mother discovered a place in Richmond that focuses on eczema. I left school early one day and we drove up there. We got seated in the patient room and awaited my doctor. She walked in for roughly three minute and found the solution. I don’t know what’s worse, the fact that she figured out the solution in three minutes, or the fact that the other doctors couldn’t find this easy solution. Turns out, an easily accessible yeast pill can fix all of these problems because the yeast focuses on the area that lacks moisture and it aids that area by helping the moisture to get trapped. In no more than five days my entire rash was gone from my neck and chest and I couldn’t be happier. It was a giant weight off my shoulders because now I could wear t-shirts without being so self-conscious about it. To this day, as a college student, I still take my yeast pill and a Zyrtec pill to help maintain my eczema which is now basically gone.
I share this story to show that eczema affects a lot of people not only with physical pain, but emotional pain as well. Nobody should assume or bluntly ask about someone’s condition because it can be very personal to them and that can affect their lives because eczema is a daily struggle. I like to share this story because it helps other people with eczema find a possible cure for theirs and it can also teach people without the condition to respect people’s privacy whether it is eczema or another condition. Eczema is incurable and people need to understand that, but most of all, respect people’s privacy.