Camp Nanowrimo excerpt: Eczema & me

If you’re wondering how things are going for me at Camp Nanowrimo, thing’s aren’t going too great. As expected, I have fallen behind. I guess I was trying to inject too much creative writing into the project. I shall be attempting to craft more candid, straight-up kind of writing pieces to fill in the gaps. And hopefully, I will catch up somehow. The prognosis is rarely good at this stage: I typically give up. But… well, fingers crossed. 

For now, though, here’s an exceprt of something I wrote in the spirit of catching up. It’s still within the theme of my project, of course, and also features me getting a bit vulnerable in my writing by sharing with you about my personal life. 

Enjoy! 😉

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Eczema & me

Apparently I was diagnosed with this skin disorder even before I was one year old. As far back as I can remember, I have been quite literally plagued with skin problems. Many times, it seemed like there was hardly ever a moment of reprieve.

What this means is that I am almost always scratching or having a previously clawed wound in the midst of the healing process at some spot or another on my body. On those even more unfortunate times, I’d also be battling some curious allergic reaction in addition to my typical eczema woes.  

Nowadays, it appears to be rather common for children to suffer from eczema. But back in the days when I was growing up, it was less so. So I endured a fair share of teasing and getting ostracised. I guess that’s because it not only looks unsightly, but some have the mistaken belief that I might pass on some allergy to them if they hung around me. I recall being called “kucing kurap” by a peer in primary school before. 

Seeking to alleviate my discomfort, my parents made it a point to write letters to my teachers requesting that I’d be exempted from Physical Education (P.E.) activities. So I’d often find myself sitting it out while my classmates played netball, ran in circles around the field, etc. Oddly enough, I do remember joining in on certain days… but as to why I participated during certain P.E. periods and not others is something that has since been forever lost from my memory.  

“Don’t scratch!” is probably the most frequently used phrase that I heard growing up. Usually, I would ignore this instruction. That’s mostly because you just have to scratch an itch. Those who believe it’s possible to completely endure it have obviously not had enough of them throughout their lifetime.  

Besides providing a sense of relief, scratching eczema patches is also hugely therapeutic. This is especially so when it’s a large patch of dry skin that has recently healed and is covered in scabs. There’s something strangely satisfying about peeling off an entire surface of scabby skin with your fingernails, one piece at a time. You’d have to experience it for yourself to understand. (FYI, I’ve talked to a friend who also suffers from eczema and he has verified this fact too as he finds it is also true in his own life).  

A common reaction to the discovery that I have eczema is to recommend a cure for me. I suppose most people mean well when they do this, but to be honest, I find it rather annoying. That’s probably because my parents actually took up some of these suggestions in the past and I had to experience all sorts of things in the name of getting me healed eczema. I don’t recall any particular one working out in the long term.  

So, in many ways, perhaps it’s to save myself the disappointment that I never heed any of the advice that people give me about eczema. (See earlier paragraph. Perhaps I’ve grown too fond of scratching as a technique for coping with life).  

The other thing about having eczema is that you fall under the category of People Who Ought To Be Prayer For To Receive Supernatural Healing within the Christian community. Believe me, many have prayed. The eczema endured, just as surely as God is eternal.  

What conclusion does this leave me with? I cannot accept that God is cruel enough to want to continue afflicting me because doesn’t He love me? But then comes the often proffered classic Christian perspective: “This is a test which God puts you through to refine your character and make beautiful things emerge from your life”. Oh and there’s also the “by the measure of your faith it will be given to you” angle whereby it’s supposedly my lack of faith which defines whether or not my eczema will vanish after a wholehearted prayer of a devout believer.  

No matter the reason, the fact remains that I. Still. Have. Eczema. Today.  

However, I should add that it has gotten much easier over the years. Partly it’s because I’m so used to having these skin woes. But it’s probably also due to the fact that there has been much less eczema patches appearing on my body as there used to be when I was a child.  

They say you can apparently “grow out of it”. And then when you don’t, they’ll say, “Oh, since you didn’t get rid of it before you reached adulthood, it’s now permanent”. Why not just tell me from the get-go that this is because my body functions in a certain way and that my best shot is to figure out a way to manage it that works well for me in the long run? 

Honestly, living with eczema isn’t too bad. As long as I don’t let flies lay eggs on my open wounds such that maggots start wiggling out of them (an unfortunately true story of a fellow hospital inmate that I was woefully made aware of while being admitted to the children’s ward), I suppose I will be alright.  

Sometimes I do face the setback of not being able to wear skirts or shorts whenever I want to because of weepy eczema patches on my legs, but it doesn’t happen too often (or I medicate quickly enough that the situation doesn’t persist for too long OR I completely ignore the issue and wear the desired item of clothing anyway).  

Although I do have some ideas about what triggers my eczema breakouts, most times I cannot say which of those causes is responsible for a particular episode. So, in many ways, que sera sera, and I continue to live life and not worry about abstaining from this or that unless something really huge occurs.  
And, as gross as it sounds that I like to scratch and peel of layers and layers of scabs, I’d like to make it known that I usually clean up my own mess afterwards. Especially on shared spaces around the home such as the bedroom mattress.  

There are far worse ongoing health issues to be stuck with, so I’m not complaining about my eczema. I just do what I can to live with it. Perhaps someday God will heal me of it. Or not. I just hope that I don’t pass it on genetically to any of my offspring so they can be spared of the agony.  

A dose of health

Health issues can really be a pain.
Image source: The Posh Society

Looking back at this past decade or so of my life, one of the many lessons that I’ve learned is that it’s really important to look out for your own health. Well, it’s not like it’s something new that I haven’t heard before in the earlier years of my life, but I guess it’s only in my 20’s that I realised that the little things we do everyday can have such an impact on the outcome of our health.

Among the problems I’ve endured in my 20’s so far are gastric and heartburn, back aches, urinary tract infection, piles, constipation and yeast infection. It may not seem like much, but honestly, facing each and every one of these issues made everyday living a less enjoyable experience.

The amazing thing is that some of these problems are easily fixed by things like eating enough greens or fibre-filled foods, drinking enough water as well as getting enough sleep and exercise.

For instance, my back ache woes were relieved quite substantially after the doctor advised me to take calcium supplements. And my ongoing constipation problems were also much better managed once I started taking prune juice and psyllium husks as part of my daily diet.

I guess in some ways I’d not bother as much about taking such initiative unless I had faced a health issue or more. I mean, I always knew that having enough fibre in my diet every day was crucial to preventing constipation, but I didn’t always make enough effort to ensure it was carried out.

Another thing about having endured these temporary health issues is that it has taught me to be more aware of my body. Small signs like pain in certain areas, itchiness, etc that previously I may have just shrugged off or ignored now concern me more and I pay closer attention to them. Which is good, since, for instance, I’ve managed to successfully prevent prolonged periods of heartburn or gastric just by quickly resorting to pills or popping food in my mouth at crucial times.

The most eye opening time was also the detailed medical examination that my husband, Deric and I went for at the hospital. For one thing, it helped me realise that my health on the whole wasn’t as bad as I imagined (I had a pretty clean record for the overall exam). It also showed me that no one’s body is perfect and that those little quirky details of your body are okay and do not necessarily spell disaster just because it’s different from someone else’s body.

The diagnosis for Deric’s high sugar level issue (which is a precursor to diabetes) was also an education for me in that he has to watch his sugar intake more and it has indirectly taught me a great deal about which foods are high in carbohydrates and sugar. I have also seen how easy it is to lose weight by avoiding excessive carbs (as a result of Deric losing a lot of weight just due to his change in diet).

So, on the whole, I’d say, the 20’s era has taught me big lessons about health. And the wisdom I’ve gained I will continue to hold dear as I progress through the later years of  my life. I certainly hope it will help save Deric and I from lots of unnecessary health trouble in times to come.