E for eczema: my enemy for eternity

I tried to drum up enthusiasm for a variety of topics for this post – “elephants,” “elevators,” “earth” – in an attempt to avoid the one topic I knew I must write about. But I succumbed to “eczema,” as I always do. It’s a personal and embarrassing topic for me, but one that I need to talk about.

Eczema is a blanket term for dry, inflamed skin. I didn’t include a picture for this post, because it can look pretty nasty. Over the years, I’ve shown many people my red, cracked fingers, often laced with oozing yellow bumps. Some of my friends also suffer from eczema.

I first developed mysterious rashes on my hands when I was in second grade, and they’ve nagged me on and off since then. I got my hopes up whenever my skin started healing, only to see it descend into madness again. One doctor diagnosed me with contact dermatitis. Another suggested I had a wheat allergy. I’ve tried wrapping my fingers in Saran wrap, sticking to a gluten-free diet, constantly moisturizing, drinking olive oil, etc. The itchy bumps reappear without fail.

Eczema can have several possible causes. Perhaps it’s a physical manifestation of my anxiety, which is constantly bubbling under the surface of my skin and psyche. Perhaps I’m just allergic to everything. The only triumph I can find is that when the eczema spread to my face last year, I was able to correctly treat it for a shampoo allergy. That, and the dry cracks on my fingertips have erased my fingerprints. People have joked that I’d make the perfect thief.

I’m so used to this condition that I often brush it off as “no big deal.” After all, there are much worse diseases. But sometimes I can’t help but break down in frustration when my fingers and palms get unbearably itchy. When the eczema flares, it hurts to touch anything. And since skin is the first line of defense against infections, my immune system is always one step behind.

Eczema is an annoying nemesis I’ll have to live with, possibly for the rest of my life. But as long as I don’t let it get me down, I’m winning the battle. Which is exactly why I chose to write about it.

This post is part of the Alphabet Project, where I write a post for each letter of the alphabet. It was inspired by Ash Huang’s Alphabet Meditations.

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