The Hidden Scars of Eczema

Sometimes, I stare blankly into my mirror, examining every crag and flaw in my skin. The world, much like the cover of a book, judges us quickly at first glance.

The redness.

The way our nails scrape along our body.

The remnants of skin we leave behind.

Many focus so methodically on the outside, that no one realizes the war within.

Eczema constructs the deepest of pain inside of us; the parts you don’t see.

Our largest organ, the one that is peeling and flaking and constantly begging for moisture, is housing a soul on the brink of collapse.

The weight of our true story is too hard to tell for some. Many are hesitant to speak Eczema’s true havoc for fear they will fall to ruin. The mental capacity it takes to muster through our eczema journey, day to day, is clandestinely kept from the public. With crooked flesh, a superficial display, only keeps the eyes from seeing what brews beneath.

Every word uttered to us is kept filed away and examined further through guilt and shame.

“It’s just a skin condition.”

“Stop scratching.”

“Have you tried …?”

“Why are you flaring?”

“Why hasn’t it gotten better?”

Unsolicited advice. Detrimental questions. Triggering comments. They seep into our split skin and stew inside our minds. Shame is loudly present despite having zero control, and questions are always posed as if we are the masters of our health – the man behind the curtain.

But most of the time, we aren’t.

We are more than this organ we market.

We are weary and afraid and paranoid.

We are brave and resilient and complex.

Because of Eczema.

Every day is a battle of the mind, not just the flesh.

The drawers we own, ewers of half used lotions and potions meant to soothe our skin, yet never do. The dripping disappointment that drains us with every flash of our reflection, realizing the regression before us despite every diet, every medication, every word scribbled in our journals.

I know the effort it takes to keep going, to soldier on through the loss. It is the least fun rollercoaster I have ever experienced. Strapped in, I dread the darkness ahead, no idea when the next barrel will commence or steep drop will fall.

We are just doing the best we can, with what we have, because it’s not just a skin condition. And the one question we are really hoping for, past all of the external comments and concerns, is simply, “But how are you really doing?”

For someone to worry about us as a human being, and not the state of our skin, would be life changing. To have someone address the scars beneath, not the scars above, could alter the way we are seen altogether.

We are as sensitive as our skin.

We are the houseplant that never thrives.

We are the irrational equation.

We are the chessboard without her queen.

Our mental stability should be just as important as our skin – nay, more. So should our self-worth.

This is just a bag we live in graced to us by the gods. Some have bags more equipped with filaggrin, and genetic balance, and wealth. We are no less than them, just more curious and adept at navigating landmines. I’ve hit most of mine, exploding backwards, wondering what misstep was taken, but I dust myself off and carry on. It’s all we can do.

But what helps is when others treat us as beings deserving of compassion and love, not an experiment that needs solving or fixing.

Eczema is a chronic condition, a conundrum with upside-down staircases, incomplete sentences, and Legos strewn across a tile floor. But, we, the soul inside, are just like everyone else. I am just like everyone else.

I allow my body to speak and scream at will, deciphering her foreign language as best as possible, but I hope that others will learn to speak to us and not to her.

To learn the patterns of our internal scars, not the scales swimming on the surface.

About the author

Briana Banos is a writer, filmmaker, dancer, and advocate. Her chronic illness, Topical Steroid Withdrawal, allows ...

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