Seriously, just eff right off. This is a blog to people who probably won’t read it, but I hope that it will help some people rephrase how they speak to those with eczema and other skin conditions. I also want people to consider the perception of how they come across. Because guys, commenting negatively on someone’s appearance is NOT OK.
Don’t comment on my skin
You can rest assured that I am well aware of how red, sore, dry, flaky, gross my skin looks. I have eyes, I can see it. I can also feel the pain. Please, please spare a thought for the person you are speaking to. It’s happening so often at the moment and I know it’s because my skin doesn’t look normal. I mean I get it, I have no eyebrows!
I’m going through topical steroid withdrawal, for anyone reading this who doesn’t know me. But I’m writing this for everyone with a facial difference, pigmentation, skin condition or facial disfigurement. Because we all hate it when you comment on how we look.
It is NOT OK to say things like this:
- Why is your skin so red?
- What is wrong with your skin?
- Don’t you moisturise?
- Is your face burnt?
- I can recommend some really lovely makeup that you could use to hide your skin…
- Have you been to the doctors about your skin?
- Oh you poor thing… I could never go out looking like that…
- Have you tried _______? (Add endless list of stuff people think will cure you)
Seriously people! I know these comments are usually not meant to harm, they are not intended to be mean and they often come from a kind place but they do so much damage.
One of the worst ever was from a man who shall remain nameless, who reached over, stroked my arm and said,
“Your skin is so dry, it feels just like an alligator hide.”
How do you think someone will feel hearing this? I had felt my skin was holding up pretty well and was feeling so happy before that alligator thing happened. I got up, left the room and said I needed some air. I wanted to call him out but it was in a social gathering and I didn’t want to ruin the lovely, friendly evening. I have just avoided him ever since and never said anything to him about how it made me feel, because he would never have understood.
I stay at home and avoid social occasions so much more because nearly every time I venture out some well meaning soul will crush my self esteem again by drawing attention to my appearance.
You cause Anxiety and Panic Attacks
I am having panic attacks again lately and part of this comes from a fear that someone will ask me about my skin. I usually deal with comments calmly and politely and try to explain about TSW and my journey but I shouldn’t have to do that. Sometimes I see it as a positive opportunity to share about TSW and raise awareness but it comes at a cost, to me, my soul, my confidence and my resilience.
Consider what it takes for someone with eczema or bad skin on their face to get ready to go out and the courage it takes to face the world. Have some empathy. We have probably taken hours to get ready, to exfoliate, moisturise, over heat, remove wraps and bandages, cleaned up the flakes from our bedding, changed our disgusting bedding from scratching in the night, and just dealing with the daily pain, and the itch scratch cycle.
Just don’t say anything if you can’t be kind. If you want to get to know a person or find out their story, do it gently. Be nice to them. Find something you can compliment because it will probably make their day if you do that. Like nice bag, love your blue eyes, love that dress, anything. But don’t go in with the skin… BAM… because all that says is, between the lines, “I’ve noticed how bad your skin is and can’t help myself, I just have to know what did you do to get skin that bad..?”
I can kind of forgive people. I try to. But I want you, all of you, everyone, to think before you ask anyone anything that might cause pain, because you don’t know what goes in that person’s life.
Would you ask a person in wheelchair what happened? How they came to be paralysed? Do they miss not being able to dance? Go on about what you’ve been doing (which they are not able). Just THINK!
Don’t ever ask a woman if they are planning to have children, why they haven’t had them, when they’ll have another. Because again, you do not know what heartache might be hidden behind their smile and quite honestly it is none of your business.
Find other more sensitive ways to start a conversation and if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all…
Please stop asking the same thing
This one goes out to all those people who know me a bit and you guys might read this so if I offend anyone I do apologise.
I absolutely don’t want anyone to feel too scared to ask me how I am for fear of getting a slap! I’m not saying never ask me how I am. I am so, so lucky to have incredibly supportive family and friends who know I’m struggling. I don’t mind at all when you guys ask me how I am. Please do, keep being supportive because you’re helping me get through this.
What I’m referring to here is the this kind of thing:
- So How long will your skin be like that? – Because I get asked this A LOT and I try to explain that I DON’T KNOW! This process of TSW could take another few months, another year, another few years… I JUST DON’T KNOW! People honestly ask me this over and over again.
And people who I’ve had long conversations with about Topical Steroid withdrawal don’t appear to listen and sometimes ask me the same things. I can handle this and am happy to explain but when part of your job involves raising awareness about allergies and eczema and you blog about it as well, you don’t want your whole life, being and existence to become all about this.
I am more than just eczema. I am not eczema, I am Ruth and there is more to me that what you see.
And I don’t want to buy your xyz…
This is the worst type of invasion. It came to a head this weekend and is the reason for this blog post really. I have been working at The Mindfulness Living exhibition in London which has, on the whole, been a fabulous experience. Exhausting but fun and I learnt loads, helping out my friend Cheryl Rezek, who is a Clinical Psychologist and Mindfulness Coach on her stand.
I had about five people from different companies approach me to try to sell me their services and explain to me why my skin would be so much better if I tried their homeopathy, massage with swooshing wooshing sound effects, Reiki or healing crystals… to name a few. Seriously, I nearly lost my shit with one woman.
Not least because I’m working, I’m on a stand helping my friend to raise awareness about her Mindfulness programme for schools, Monkey Mind and Mountain (Which is incredible by the way) and to sell her lovely books.
I don’t want to be approached at a busy show by people selling me stuff. I felt really preyed upon. Because they weren’t just selling, you get that at every show. They were singling me out because of how I looked and targeting me specifically for their product.
Like what they saw was awful skin and pound signs! These are the people I really want to say F**K Off to.
Seriously. Do One!
One woman in particular came over, while the stand was busy by the way, and pulled me aside and began with,
“I Just had to come over and ask, as we’ve been working on stands opposite each other all weekend, I can’t help but notice how bad your skin is, how red. What is going on with your skin? Tell me how it got so bad and what are you doing about it?”
I kid you not. I mean this is just ridiculous. She was selling homeopathy and got quite pushy when I tried to politely decline because it wasn’t my thing. And I’m not dissing homeopathy, it might actually help, but don’t come at me like that, full on skin shaming and confrontational. Lady, with the homeopathy… I went to the loo and cried. Wept with the exhaustion of living like this and trying to face the comments with confidence, strength and kindness in return.
I have also had people from my local church approach me, take my hands and ask if they can pray for my skin. I’m not having a go at Christians, I have some faith myself although I don’t regularly (ever) go to church. Quite a few of my family are Christians and knowing how much they care about me means so much, So when my father, brother and sister or Christian friends tell me I am in their prayers, this warms my heart and strengthens my soul, because no matter what your religious views are, someone cares.
But to be approached in the street by complete strangers like that, whilst my wrists and hands were actually bandaged, but I really needed to buy food so had gone out, was not what I needed. I’m sure they were lovely but I just wanted to wrench my hands from theirs and run away. I had to endure their well meaning prayers while all the time feeling a panic attack coming on. I was shaking, trying to hold back the tears and beginning to shake. I got away from them, ran down the street and had to hide down by the allotments weeping until I felt strong enough to go back and get my shopping. I think because it was forced upon me, unwelcome, and unasked for and I was at a very low point and in pain, it just broke me. I know they meant well but it was an awful experience and made me really, really angry.
Perhaps I should be more resilient. Perhaps I shouldn’t let comments like this get to me but when there are so many of them, almost daily at the moment, chipping away at my self esteem, it’s just too much.
It’s my body, my skin, and I will decide how I care for and try to heal myself. I think people selling alternative therapies really do prey on vulnerable people who are so low they’ll try anything to help their skin. I’ve been there, I’ve spent so much on stuff that hasn’t helped me one bit.
I hope I don’t offend anyone with this blog post because I’m not apologising.
And thanks to Nat for giving me the courage to say what I really wanted to say in this blog, rather than sugar coating it into a nice positive blog post about how to speak to people with eczema.
And watch out, because the next idiot to comment on my skin gets a slap! You have been warned…
Anyone else get this? I’d love to hear your stories, good and bad, and how you cope with well meaning but unwelcome and unhelpful comments.