The other day I watched one of those Netflix originals movies called Dumplin’ (based off a book of the same name by Julie Murphy), and for some reason it just grew more and more on me and I actually ended up watching it twice in a row (the second time because I wanted to share it with Jake). I’d say I was drawn to the film because it depicted a coming-of-age story and body positivity in a better, more realistic light. Rather than stick to tropes about the misunderstood teenager or underappreciated mom, the story came into its own by the protagonist teen learning to accept her reality (being overweight) and not let her own misconceptions color or limit her life experience. I know that’s vague but I am attempting to avoid spoilers for anyone interested in watching it.
A majority of the movie characters also fan-girl over Dolly Parton and use her songs and words as inspiration to live their best lives, such as:
“find out who you are and do it on purpose”
“you’ll never do a whole lot unless you’re brave enough to try”
among many others that pepper the movie with external applicability and general charm. The whole point of the movie, besides family bonding, was to show the importance of developing confidence and trust in who you are and those in your life who support you, even if you don’t understand how or why.
I feel that this resonates so strongly with living with eczema. It can be a constant battle to accept yourself in this skin, and not assume everyone is silently judging you or that you don’t belong. However, it is also crucial that such feelings don’t stop you from being genuine and always trying, even if it feels uncomfortable. And as for those supporting you, you have to be able to accept that they see you beyond your skin, because the skin you’re in doesn’t define who you are.
I personally don’t know much about Dolly Parton, but after watching this movie full of her quotes and songs, I am inspired to learn more about her and listen to her music, especially if I’m ever feeling down. Dolly Parton fans feel free to throw out recommendations.
I also inexplicably wondered what it would be like to have regional eczema balls (the dance kind), that allow those living with eczema to let their metaphorical hair down and mix and mingle in a somewhat formal setting to create their own sense of magical community and touch of the unexpected. Actually I do know how that got into my head. I had been talking with a friend who got into dancing and it just felt like something that could be a lot of fun. Just imagine if you had a room full of understanding people who get the red-skinned, elephant-wrinkled, constant itch and snowflake life, and so they can all dance despite it, no worries, just silliness.
I know usually I have this whole elaborate set-up of a theme that then ties back to eczema or life with eczema, but today I am just winging it. Today I feel like chatting about all the little random things that have been going on since it’s a new month and the winter season is basically in full effect here as it hit below 20 degrees Fahrenheit the other day!
I guess the first big change to announce is that we are moving! We’ve put our home on the market and we are just waiting to see who bites before we take a chance and move to try living nearer to Jake’s work (re: into the city). This will be the first time I live in a city proper, and though we don’t plan to buy, and don’t plan to live there too long, it feels like it’ll be an adventure of its own.
Though it seems like an impromptu change, we’ve been talking about it for a while and we realize it will help improve our health in a number of ways. One, the commute to Jake’s work is a nightmare (almost 2 hours one way now), and the traffic even in our town, which is a fair distance from the major city, almost always is brutal, even just trying to drive to our grocery store. Today we started looking into studies about how commutes can impact quality of life. Multiple studies indicate that longer commutes increase adipose tissue, blood pressure, and more, and not just because of driving entailing sitting for a long time. This older NPR article was a fun read about how to be happy where you live, as well as how humans can get used to all kinds of factors: cold weather, higher taxes, etc, all much more easily than they can adjust to traffic.
Then another reason for our desire to move besides the commute is that our neighborhood is lovely, but it is a bit difficult to navigate by foot, which tends to be my preferred mode of transportation. Trying to walk around the neighborhood with Fiona means me wandering along quite a few hilly roads with no sidewalks and drivers that often zoom by blindly unaware of my approach, or me getting my choice of which dead-end road I want to traverse and then reverse back up, and me encountering few neighbors because the local stores and community areas are QUITE a hike for me to tote a baby to right now, especially with the temperature drop. Not being able to roam is definitely making me into a hermit and decreasing my NEAR and exposure to outdoor weather.
So in short we are moving (or rather, prepped and ready to move as soon as we close the house sale). When we do close, Fiona will be driving us to our new place as she has been taking lessons with dad:
We’ve also been trying to create other ways to help improve our health including getting into more herbs and pickled things. We are trying to work on increasing our micronutrients in our diet, and my foray into herbs (beyond the seasonings we put on food already) has started with tea. I came across this recipe from Commonwealth Herbs for gut health and I am enjoying it immensity. You drink a quart a day, and each quart has 2 tablespoons of the herbal mix. I followed the basic mix, which includes chamomile, ginger, fennel, licorice, plantain calendula, and peppermint.
I also have been getting into using this frother stick thing that Jake got me that makes me instant “latte” foam. My newest “milk” that I’m experimenting with for my lattes is hemp milk and I love it. It’s got a weird aroma that reminds me of marshmallows in hot chocolate and those Vienna brand finger cookies from my Poppop’s house back in the day. On that note I also think it would be delicious on top of some hot chocolate… but I’ll try that another day.
Speaking of tea, I got that mug at Marshall’s the other day (because I’m trying to make a collection of eclectic mugs), among other things- things mostly gnome-themed. I do love me some gnomes. I’ve been making this joke a lot, but it’s starting to look like Gnomemas in our house. We got a standing gnome to guard the front door that is currently taller than Fiona, a gnome-themed blanket for me to use in our TV room when I get chilled, and this lovely gnome couch pillow (shown below). Not to mention my personal travel gnome, Schmebulon Junior (I’ll be impressed if anyone knows what that name is in reference to). All in all I’m feeling festive!
Also I got Jake into the spirit, so he co-decided to get this runner for our dining room table, along with a little tree plant, and I got this weird looking wooden polar bear.
And of course we’ve started amassing presents. Though to be honest, most of them are belated birthday presents for my sister who I haven’t seen since the summer!!
We have yet to get the tree though and we still have yet to put up lights, but we are getting there!! Projects for the weekend.
Speaking of gifts and “tis the season”… I am now the proud owner of The Lord of the Rings all-in-one trilogy book. Jake and I are still working on developing our ‘winter season is Tolkien season’ tradition and this is starting it off! I am quite excited though I do still have 7 library books to finish off before I can delve into only Tolkien.
And lastly, the other day when we were out and about during an our open house, my family trio went to Salem and explored. My eyes fell upon this little guy and it was love at first sight:
It’s a heating/cooling pad that can be put in the microwave or freezer respectively to get it the desired temperature. I am always cold so I love warming him up and throwing him over my neck. Ahh, it doesn’t get much better. And the fact that it’s shaped like a sheep is just another plus as I love sheep things as much as I love gnomes.
But how does it all relate back to eczema? Well, this time of the year can be incredible rough to the lay-skin person (my word for a person with intact epidermal layers). It’s getting dark around 4pm, there is less sunlight overall so we all can become vitamin D deficit more easily, the cold makes all skin dryer and heating systems do the same, and the holidays are spread out enough that everyone feels like we are just sprinting to make it to the next one. Now add that disastrous skin barrier and generally a weakened immune system when people tend to spread sicknesses around the most, and we have a recipe for months of frustration. That’s where the winter cheer and enjoying the little things really becomes so important. I have been trying to throw myself into the little warming moments like seeing my little one in an elf hat, or getting a heating pad in the shape of a sheep, or making challenges with my husband to do 30 consecutive days of walking outside together even if it’s freezing outside. Obviously I can’t control the temperature of all buildings or always keep myself warm, so instead it becomes important to focus on the fun: those day to day minute tokens that can create a lovely atmosphere all around, and buffer the time in between when we can go spend the holidays with our family. The overarching goal is de-stressing via just enjoying life, and embracing seasonality and festivities personally really helps.
If you are feeling winter weather blues, I advise giving it a go. Dress your house up with small things that embrace your chosen beliefs or just the weather (like burning pine and fir candles or decorating with snowmen and colors like blue and white, evergreen and touches of bright red. Drink hot beverages of choice (tea, hot cocoa, mulled wines, hot toddies), and make time to spend moments with people you love. Get outside to feel the bitter chill bite your cheeks, just to make coming back inside feel so nice as you thaw again. Read a seasonal book, watch a seasonal movie, or listen to some seasonal music, while ensconced in thick and warm home blankets. Take warm baths with whatever your choice of salts and scents are, garb yourself in colorful scarves and hats and mittens, and see how you feel. Make this time special and memorable and let me know if it makes winter and your skin feel a bit more bearable.
With everything that’s been going on, I completely forgot to note that it’s been a year since I’ve been off topical steroids!
It was about this time last year that I found out I was pregnant and thus decided to give up topical steroids cold turkey. I had read that using them during a pregnancy could result in developmental delays of a fetus (if using too strong a dose for too long, or over too large of skin surface area), so instead I decided to completely cut it all out. Long story short, my eczema has been complicated by topical steroid withdrawal since that point, like I’m on some sort of a topsy-turvy roller coaster ride.
In fact, last night I had to have Jake cut my wedding band off my finger because my finger got so swollen and neither ice nor lubricants helped bring swelling down or get the ring off respectively.
It was a sad and frustrating moment where I realized that despite all my perceived healing, I still cannot even wear any jewelry (minus my tragus piercing, which I think is only fine because it’s an area of the ear that has more cartilage than skin or nerve endings).
Necklaces, earrings, bracelets, everything else tends to bother my skin (or be scary to wear like in the case with the ring yesterday).
I’ve also been struggling with bouts of intense nighttime itching, which has resulted in me scratching myself open more, (even when wearing gloves) as I have less mental fortitude to prevent myself from doing so late at night. The worst I’ve done so far was on my leg the other day, which definitely warranted some wound care attention.
I remember as I scratched that I felt it start to weep but it was still so excruciatingly itchy, almost as bad as when I get hives, that I couldn’t stop.
So what’s a girl to do especially with the winter onset and the heater constantly running? Make a skin plan of course!
My current plan is as of now comprised of the following steps (in no particular order):
Get a new dermatologist (we’re moving soon) and make sure to request bloodwork and a skin prick test (the latter if my back can stay flare-free enough to do so)
Research about best emollients and supplements that include essential components for skin and skin healing (like ceramide and filaggrin) and confirm with new derm
Consult an herbalist to work in more herbs into my diet, bath, etc and to help address my sleep issues more naturally
Figure out more about the endocannabinoid system and what else helps it besides CBD oil since said oil is quite pricey
Take the dermatology technician certificate to get a better clinical understanding of dermatology and what doctors think (without having to go to med school and then through a dermatology residency)
Get myself moving more again. Brave the cold and go for more walks and seriously get back into intense yoga because it helps
Avoid all added sugars including honey and maple syrup until my inflammation has dissipated a bit more
Contemplate seeing a psychologist to address my excoriating disorder and stress issues
Fix my diet overall which includes following seasonality, eating a more diverse array of vegetables, and keeping track of what I eat too
Read more books on eczema including ones whose contents I am on the fence about
Learn more about newer treatments including dupixent and eucrisa
Get my life together enough that I can participate in calls in the online eczema community program I am involved with
There are probably more pieces of my plan that I’ve forgotten and a better step-wise way to present them but I’m too worn out to care right now.
Sometimes the constant skin drying out or the fear that what I ate is hurtng me, or the annoyance at having to adjust so many commonplace day-to-day activities like how my husband can touch me or how I can hold my baby really get to me. I can see why it’s so easy to turn to a medication that can quickly get rid of symptoms, yet for many of us, our skin conditions have become the result of such medications, which feels like a betrayal of the modern medicine world, like science has failed us.
I need to do a post on topical steroids soon, and how they work, and then read and talk about how the newer medicines on the market work and how they are faring. There is no miracle cure to illnesses and quick acting solutions can come with a price. It seems more and more important to show that there will be some level of struggle involved for those unlucky enough to be susceptible to this kind of condition.