As someone who has struggled with eczema for as long as I can remember, I know all too well the toll that it can take on one’s mental health. For me, one of the most difficult aspects of dealing with eczema has been the anxiety that comes with it – the fear of flare-ups on important days, the worry that others will judge me for my skin, and the constant feeling of being on edge.
I remember one particular event where my anxiety was at its worst. It was my high school graduation, and I was set to give a speech in front of my classmates and their families. I had been practicing for weeks, but on the day of the event, my eczema flared up so badly that I could barely focus on anything else. My skin was raw and itchy, and I was consumed by thoughts of what people would think of me. Would they see me as weak or unprofessional because of my condition?
As I stepped up to the podium, I could feel my heart racing and my hands shaking. I tried my best to keep my voice steady, but I could feel the anxiety creeping in, making it harder and harder to concentrate. I stumbled over my words, lost my place in the speech, and had to start over again. It was a humiliating experience, one that left me feeling defeated and ashamed.
But this was far from the only time that eczema had caused me anxiety. I remember feeling nervous before dates, worried that my skin would be a turn-off for my partner. I remember dreading job interviews, wondering if my eczema would make me seem less capable than other candidates. And I remember feeling self-conscious at social events, always acutely aware of my skin and how others might perceive me because of it.
Of course, there were also times when my anxiety was less severe. There were days when I felt confident and capable, when I was able to push aside my worries and just enjoy life. But even on these days, there was always a nagging voice in the back of my mind, reminding me that my eczema was a part of me, whether I wanted it to be or not.
Despite all of this, I have come to realize that knowing I am not alone sometimes does not prevent my anxiety. Even when I am surrounded by supportive friends and family, even when I read stories of others who have overcome similar struggles, there are still moments when the anxiety feels all-consuming. But I have also come to realize that this is okay. Anxiety is a normal response to a difficult situation, and it does not make me weak or less capable.
What has helped me the most in dealing with eczema-related anxiety is learning to be kind to myself. I have learned to give myself permission to feel anxious, to acknowledge my fears without judging myself for them. I have also learned to prioritize self-care, to take time for myself when I need it, and to surround myself with people who support me no matter what. And I have learned that, while eczema may be a part of me, it does not define me or limit what I am capable of achieving.
If you are reading this as someone who struggles with eczema-related anxiety, I want you to know that you are not alone. Your fears and worries are valid, and it is okay to feel anxious at times. But I also want you to know that there is hope. You are capable of overcoming this anxiety, of finding strength and resilience within yourself. Take things one day at a time, be kind to yourself, and remember that you are not defined by your eczema. You are so much more than that.