They tell you that eczema is caused by stress and there is some truth in that, but it’s not the only cause. There are so many triggers, including food, environmental factors, airborne allergens, soap, skincare products, heat, cold and I could go on.
I’ve always struggled with the ‘stress’ diagnosis because it has always made me feel that some of the blame for my skin lies with me. That if I was better at coping with stress, if I was stronger, less of a worrier, more of a warrior, that I could conquer it. If I could be a different person perhaps! But I can’t.
I look at other people’s skin and feel such pain, sadness and loss. I almost grieve the life I could have had if I hadn’t been constantly battling with this condition, because eczema is a battle. Living with it day and night is exhausting.
But you can’t go through life thinking like that, so I smile, and moisturise and moisturise some more and do everything I can to help control my skin but sometimes nothing seems to help.
How do you create a life without stress and anxiety and therefor reduce the impact of eczema from your life?
Don’t get too excited, I have no answer for you. No amazing cures to rid you of thickened dry skin any time soon.
What I can give you is my insight over this year of being fortunate enough to get Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) through the NHS. It really has been an eye opener and has drawn me to explore other avenues of research such as ‘breaking the habit to itch’ and ‘mindfulness meditation’.
Sound like mumbo jumbo?
Well it’s not.
I suddenly realised that the only times I don’t deal with some level of itch was first thing in the morning in that just woken stage when you feel blissfully relaxed, when I was running, practising yoga, or more recently, during breathing exercises and practise learnt during this CBT course.
I can’t just stop stress, It’s a normal part of life. Change is everywhere, it’s happening all the time and most of it is good! But I have noticed that I CAN notice when I’m anxious, for whatever reason. I have started to be able to recognise when I’m itching and sometimes stop myself scratching. Sometimes… often I still can’t.
I can also now recognise when I need to stop what I’m doing and just breathe. When my thoughts are taking a not so useful direction, and I need to just question why I’m thinking that. It’s very powerful and I’ve noticed also at the times when I don’t do this, when I don’t stop, when I just ride on the wave of fear, terror, worry, anger… the itch rises to unignorable levels and I will scratch and tear my skin. I won’t be able to stop myself. And my goodness does it feel good. Until I look down at the damage I’ve caused.
What makes me furious is that Iv’e gone so long without recognising this. Without being able to make this connection.
But what gives me hope is that now, armed with this knowledge I can continue to move towards a life where I am in control of anxiety and so in turn perhaps stop scratching.
I’m a long way off, but I’m seeing progress and improvement every day. Maybe not always in my skin, but in how I feel about my skin, how I treat my skin and how I manage my eczema.
It’s not about being relentlessly positive about everything all the time, it’s just about being aware, being present and recognising when you need time to look after yourself.
So to those people who continually tell me not to stress, to just chill, that I’m doing fine and that everyone has challenges to face. I don’t want to hear it. I really don’t. Until you’ve gone months on two hours sleep a night on top of the other challenges life throws at us all you have no right to comment. Rant over.
All you need to know is that I’m doing my best to live my best life, to improve myself and how I care for myself and others.
I’m itching right now and instead of scratching I am going to hang out my washing and go for a run.
Keep fighting eczema warriors.
More blogs to follow on habit breaking hacks, what I’ve learnt from doing this counselling course and much more. I am about to move into a new home… tempting fate here I know, but with this will come a space to write, my own desk and hopefully a return to the incredibly rewarding, fun and therapeutic practise of writing, blogging and sharing with all of you lot.
Hopefully the reduction in stress caused by just feeling so unmoored, so unsettled and so out of control will help too. Watch this space.