By Naima Jannat
As I grow, my eczema has been a struggle for me. Throughout this piece I explore within myself to overcome this struggle.
Itch, bleed, scar. A regular cycle my skin goes through every day. As it spreads throughout my body, eczema takes over me physically and mentally. My worst critic is my own self as I view eczema as an origin for my negative emotions and thoughts.
I have been living with this uncomfortable irritation behind my knees, neck, and many other places for as long as I could remember. Ever since I was young, I remember seeing pictures of kids’ arms and legs in my pediatrician’s office, full of dark spots and scars almost as if their skin was a piece of sidewalk. Although I apply ointment daily, it’s not always easy to tame. When piles of stress and anxiety start to emerge, it causes me to scratch my skin frequently. The aftermath makes my skin become different textures and hues of brown, red and gray. I used to be creeped out by it. My mother would tell me to always take care of my body and make sure it’s as spotless as can be. Years later, here I am with sidewalk skin. Whenever I change my clothes, I’m usually unfazed by the sight. But then I would look at my mother’s and my sisters’ bodies. Jealousy and anger would overwhelm me. Why is it that I’m the only one in my family who has to go through this?
One look at my flared-up fingers and everyone asks questions. When people start to point out the areas of the cracked skin on my hands, I want to hide them into my sleeves the most. “What happened?”, “Is your skin okay?”, “Do you need lotion?” and “Is it contagious?”. The other day my mother told me, “Why don’t you take care of yourself more? No one would want to look at you with that skin disease,” and went on lecturing (again) about how scary my skin is and how I should take better care of it. Hearing her in the past would only irritate me because she never knew why it would flare up or what eczema does to my mental state. What irritated me even more, was that I never used to comply with trying to treat my eczema or its scars. Coming of age, I’ve realized that these ongoing lectures stem from her desire to free my skin from the scars and patches of itchiness. To make it look as visually pleasing as it can be.
My skin may not be considered “the standard” to my mother or other people, but does it have to be? Why should everyone else’s normal be mine? To some, dry skin can be temporary but for me, it is inescapable. But what does the appearance of my skin have to do with my authentic self? It is true I’m still slightly troubled by how it looks and feels upon my skin, but that setback is something I can overlook and overcome. My eczema has allowed me to welcome insecurities and hateful thoughts instead of pushing them away. I’ve realized that it plays a great role in who I am as a person. It’s taught and continues to teach me to look at this obstacle from a different perspective. Unlike the black spots of a sidewalk, which are prominent and last forever, my scars and rashes will heal and vanish over time.
Itching, bleeding and scarring—a regular cycle my skin goes through every day. Spread throughout my body, my eczema is what helps me grow mentally and physically. I’ve learned to change this constant discouragement into aspects of myself that I’ve grown to love and accept.
I thought of the topic for this piece while going through a list of things that keep me up at night. Although I don’t necessarily think of my eczema, I realized that I scratch it a lot as I get ready for bed. Writing the introduction was fairly easy and took me a few minutes, but writing and connecting the body paragraphs took a while. The thoughts were there, but not the grammar. Writing and editing the body took about a month.
Naima is currently a (stressed) high school senior! Procrastinator who spends time daydreaming and doodling. Believes in any form of reading—loves reading translated stories, webtoons and mangas while listening to music <3 Concept of magic is what raised her as a kid. Outgoing and her love language is touch, aka very big on hugs (gives the best hugs). Sky picture fanatic.