For the last 15 or so years of my life I've been dealing with chronic atopic dermatitis, a.k.a eczema. I've been itchy for as long as I can remember. I remember getting chicken pox at age 3, but the itch never really went away. My mom just thought I had really dry skin so she'd load me down with lotion and hope for the best. As I got older it just got worse.
Around age 8 my mom took me to one of those modeling talent searches. I got "picked" if that's what you'd call it took some classes and occasionally booked a job. My mom knew how much I enjoyed it but the cost of modeling and acting classes and the hour long ride once or twice a week was beginning to take it's toll. She got me signed up for a local agency and I actually booked a few more things.
Though good things were happening the itching hadn't stopped. All the lotion in the world wouldn't help my dry skin. And it gets worse. When you scratch your nails make tiny cuts in the skin. Overtime these little cuts turn into scars and dark spots. My mother started noticing the marks being left and knew this wasn't just dry skin and I went to one of the best dermatologists in the state. She prescribed pills and ointments that were supposed to make the itch go away, and in the beginning they did. I took that little orange pill every night; I slathered on creams and ointments morning and night; I even slept with socks on my hands so I couldn't scratch at night. My mother even tried wrapping me in saran wrap at night, to no avail.
I became more and more self conscious as I got older.
The creams would work for a short period, but after 2-4 weeks they seemed to stop taking effect and the itching would come back in full force. The scars got bigger and darker, mostly on the backs of my knees and the insides of my elbows. I wore shorts less and less as I got older and completely eliminated them from my wardrobe around 12. If I didn't live in SC I'm pretty sure I would have given up tees and tanks too, but it was simply too hot for that here, so I just tried to keep my arms crossed. I pretty much stopped with the modeling and acting at 13. I decided to focus on volleyball and rollerskating. Honestly, I just didn't want anyone to see my skin. It was bad enough at school. I felt like a leper. I have fair skin so the scars were extremely visible. Middle school is hard enough considering puberty and being taller that everyone without having to worry about people asking if "that thing on your arms is contagious?" I was awkward enough without having to answer questions that embarrassing.
Then I started having emotional breakdowns. I would look at myself and wonder what I'd done to deserve this. When I turned 13 the eczema spread to my neck. It was always in the back so I couldn't see it, but it itched - so i couldn't forget. I would scratch constantly to the point that I had large open gashes in my neck. I'll never forget the time I had to excuse myself from class to go dress my wounds as I cried in the bathroom of pain and embarrassment.
At some point I just decided it was just one of those things. Something I couldn't control; something I'd probably deal with forever. When I turned 16 I started going out with my older "sister." Whenever I was with her and her friends I felt so pretty. It was those nights that I'd walk into a room and all eyes were on us. The first few times I got away with wearing jeans, but eventually she asked why, and I told her it was because of my skin. "It's dark in clubs, no one can tell" was her reply, and slowly but surely, I eased myself back into wearing shorts. It was actually quite liberating, but strictly a nighttime thing (well other than games, but that was the uniform and no one was paying me any attention as far as I was concerned anyway).
Fast forward to senior year. Things were looking up. Graduation and college on the horizon, there were guys that actually liked me, and my skin finally wasn't so bad. There were still scars and marks, but not nearly as bad as they'd been before. I'd finally started wearing shorts again, and in the daylight, sparingly.
I started college and things were still going good. I'd become much less self conscious about my skin and it was actually clearing up - no itching, no marks, nothing. I could wear shorts when I wanted, go to the beach with my friends, and not once did I worry about looking like some kind of liberating. It was the best year and a half of my life.
Fast Forward again. Mid April, great weather, but I'm a little itchy. I get some new lotion, no big. But by mid summer I'm the sobbing 8th grader in the bathroom all over again. In the years prior I've had flares. But it'd just be one area. I haven't had all of it break out like this in years. I'm miserable. So my mom made me an appointment with the same doctor I went to 11 years ago.
So the moral of this LONG story. Bad things happen to good people. I'd like to think I'm a good person, really. I'm kind and inviting. Little kids love me. And I always give lost tourists the right directions (as far as I know [Kanye shrug]). And I'm a firm believer in the principal of Karma. Problem is I can't figure out for the life of me what I'm being punished for! Eczema made me hate myself for a long time. I would always wonder in silence or through tears, why me? Well, I've yet to receive an answer to that question, but I must admit, it's nice to get this monkey off my back.