When I think back to when it all began, I have to go back to when I was 16 (I’m now 27). I had a really bad flare up of atopic eczema. Now it might seem insignificant but this dramatically changed me. Without this I think I probably would have continued to live on the “surface”. It wasn’t the only negative experience I experienced as many of those occurred throughout my childhood but it’s the one I felt led me to this road Im on now.
It covered my face, my neck and crept over my body. It was sudden and unexpected. Before then, I happily lived on the surface. My main worries used to focus around how ‘pretty’ I looked and making new friends. Trying to fit in. When the eczema hit, it changed things. All of a sudden, I didn’t feel or look pretty. I had a red face and emotionally it was pretty horrific. At first, I coped with following medical advice. Steroids and lots of creams. This led me down a cycle of eczema > use steroid creams > feel I have my life back, feel confident > eczema flare > feel bad about myself > use steroids creams > feel about about myself and it goes on. Gosh it was lonely and emotionally so draining. I couldn’t relate to anyone and I was so focused on how ugly I felt. I just kept trying to be ‘normal’. There I was at 16/17/18 and I couldn’t focus on anything because I was focused on my eczema. University came in 2008 and somehow I made it through, but not without seeing some of the worst eczema of my life.
I gave up steroids in 2009 I think. At first I just lived with it. Endured it should I say. It was hard, I felt horrible and so alone. I had friends don’t get me wrong but I felt so alone in this. I felt angry that this had happened to me. The comments, oh the comments they did not help one bit – ‘what happened to your face?’, ‘why do you look so dark’ (a comment that comes when you have Indian heritage and there is an obsession about being light and white!). It all just frustrated me. Did it look like I cared how dark I looked when all I cared about was a flare free face?! For two years, I feel I sat back and let the eczema ‘happen’. I tried homeopathy but I don’t feel I was really taking any responsibility at the time. I had swapped steroids for tablets, but was still living on processed foods and alcohol (the uni way!).
In April 2011, enough was enough and I began my eczema blog and committed to healing my skin naturally. It was the start of me really making changes to better my life. I do think without this eczema journey, I wouldn’t be here today trying to be healthfully happy. The journey made me look past the superficial nature of life, past what others think and put my focus in what was of value to me – healing my skin naturally for good.
Over the years since then, my eczema has changed greatly. From 2014 to early 2017 I had no flares at all and how great that felt knowing it was because of changes I had made. No-one else but me.
In 2015, I got accepted onto a Clinical Psychology Doctorate here in the UK and began my journey towards becoming fully qualified. It was a goal I had ever since I went through the emotional pain of eczema and was close to my heart so it was amazing! Life was looking good (or so I thought).
I had a bad flare earlier this year and it felt quite out of control. My usual techniques didn’t work and it made me think about all the ways that my life is chaotic beyond my eczema. I had done what I needed for my skin and stopped there, but it didn’t feel like enough. I didn’t feel content at all. I knew that I had tried to play my life stress down as though it wasn’t there and pretend things were fine if my skin was fine and that I was happy with how I was living, but I couldn’t pretend anymore. Naturally my journey became a more emotional journey about healing and living.
I began to pay more attention to myself and my inner mind. I was stressed all of the time. It got to a stage when I actually carried anxiety in my chest constantly. I could feel it more than I ever have yet I just plodded on. I noticed that I have this negative voice in my head constantly and it was draining. Juggling assignments, research and placements was one thing, add a new puppy in the mix, relationship difficulties, guilt over not doing better with life and it all just felt too much. I was putting that negative energy into my relationships, lasting out with angry outbursts and just avoiding the problem head on (probably my default after growing up with parents who never spoke about emotions and buried their own). My thoughts were so heavy and I just tried to muster on and ignore them. I was feeling guilty about eating poorly (but continued to eat poorly), I was spending too much time watching TV (but carried on), I was getting annoyed I was taking a year to read one book (but still I didn’t pick it up), I was frustrated that I didn’t have a morning routine (but didn’t try and make it work), I was feeling stressed with work and too much energy was put into it which left me feeling frustrated that I had no free time! It was all just mayhem! I had already begun to read into minimalism (the minimalists of course!), reading zen habits articles and generally reading at ways I could improve my life but reading wasn’t getting me anywhere. Instead it was making me think more and more ‘what do i want out of life?’. I need to change.
After finishing my second year in early September, I took a week’s break to Portugal with my parents. Nothing big, I booked to come because I knew it would be a laid-back holiday with no demands. Having no demands. It was bliss. Just having the time to think, be and re-focus on what’s important couldn’t have been better.
I’m now sat in the lounge after packing my bag to return home in the morning, a dull anxiety in my chest (that’s pretty good for me!) and a fresh look into what I want (and don’t want). I’m feeling committed to change but will it be half hearted like my eczema journey? Will I stop when I feel ‘okay’ rather than happy?
And that’s where my journey begins. A place of wanting change, knowing some ways I want to change (see next post) and having the motivation to start the journey. This blog is my place of accountability. A place to reflect on happiness, changes and whether life has become a better experience. I realise that I place high expectations on myself to achieve which can cause more stress, and so for this journey I am accepting that it will take time. Just like reading this post ! But good things can happen when we try.
If you read it all, well done and thank you for giving me the last 10 minutes of your life! I felt I needed to add perspective so you know where I am starting from. I wonder what brought you to my page and whether you have wanted to make changes recently? It would be great to hear your thoughts in the comments!