distraction, eczema, my journey

distractions and disorders

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Photo by Juan Pablo Arenas on Pexels.com

I swear I have a post I’ve been working on that is (relatively) thought out and not like this one where I am just typing as I think things. But alas, I cannot finish anything lately and so that well-constructed post will be another day or two. I still spend many of my days in a haze, and not because of the baby, as you might have thought. Oh no, it’s because my skin has decided to develop a fresh subcutaneous sheen of itchiness. Barely perceptible to the naked eye (my skin looks pretty good lately, minus scabs and scars), it plagues me especially when I lay down for the night. Why am I flaring? I have no idea, especially since the skin is looking better. Maybe it’s the change in weather. Or perhaps it’s something I ate (which is always my fear). Who knows.

When not in a haze, I spend a lot of time scouring my kitchen for things to eat. As prescribed by the pediatricians I’ve been taking Fi to, I am no longer eating soy, dairy, wheat, or egg products in my food. Though I am no stranger to partial elimination diets or other dietary changes, I don’t think I’ve ever avoided egg yet while among the others. So now you’ll often find me longingly looking at a pasta box, and eyeing the forbidden cheese as a hobby. That takes up a bit more of my time.

Then (and eventually I’ll have to do a better post about this) there is the time spend dealing with my excoriation disorder (also known as dermatillomania or skin picking). I have always had a weird tendency to scratch at scabs and pop pimples (I know, gross) when I was young, but with the onset of global eczema and the constant scratching for months on end, I definitely fell firmly into this disorder. Sometimes I can be less destructive, or channel the destruction into societal acceptable forms (like using tweezers to remove leg hair), but other times I spend collectively hours picking off dead skin and harassing healing skin. I don’t have the common concurrent comorbidities of depression or trichotillomania (hair pulling) or OCD, though I have noticed that since the age of my worser flares, I do tend to be more obsessive with time wasting things (like trying to get my graduate notes perfect, which entailed me rewriting them over and over in different notebooks, never actually managing to finish one before I had a new idea of a better system to help me study more efficiently). Anyway, so to combat that I try to keep my nails really short, and keep my hands clean and busy, whether that’s typing blog posts, reading, or wildly gesturing to my baby to make her smile (still waiting on that first laugh), I try to condition myself to not focus on picking.

Then a large portion of every day I spend worrying that I should be working, that finding/creating these part time opportunities while staying home with Fi is not enough and that I need something full time. I don’t know why I’m so insecure about this, the people in my life have been nothing but supportive. Perhaps it’s from the occasional comment, or the sporadic question about when I’m going back to work, am I back at work, do I enjoy being back at work. Or my favorite one to answer, “what do you do?”. The sassy bit of me wants to retort, “well I exist, so eat, breathe, sleep, and shit are on the list. Then I like to round myself out by engaging in basic hygiene, getting exercise, and enjoying sunshine”. Obviously, I keep these kinds of comments in my head.

Even when I was little I was less interested in a career pathway than in making adventures and experiences into stories ( well, except for a brief stint where I wanted to be a dentist because I thought teeth were interesting and I wanted to be the gentle-handed one that removed people’s fear of getting dental work done). I wanted to be a writer because I loved stories and just wanted to create my own. I was obsessed with reading multiple books even at social events because I loved finding out what happened next. And if I’m being honest I still want to be a writer today, just a different kind. Then after that I decided I wanted to be a naturalist… only at the time I thought naturalist entailed tying a cloth around a stick and adventuring into the woods to forage for edibles. I do think that was just a storyteller’s bend on biology (which I then went on to study in college… hmm). Momentary break

What was this post about? I actually had to quickly scroll up to see the title I wrote earlier. In my defense, I walked away from the computer for a while to change Fi’s diaper and make more food, then to feed Fi again. Oh right, distractions. That’s apt. I guess I should have said distractions from what. I suppose distractions away from making a clearer post. Unfortunately that’s the nature of the game I’m playing lately. I have all these ideas for posts, many of which I’m working on, but the more research they require or the more motivation for words I need to work towards, the longer it takes to actually complete.

Oh, and another distraction is the book thing. I have a book problem. I tend to get 10+ books at a time from the library and then pigheadedly want to finish them all before their due dates, despite not having unlimited time to read. So instead I end up binging books in the middle of the night which doesn’t help with the insomnia. And then I’m more tired the next day. Whoops.

Anyway so this winter I am trying to distract myself from bad habits. This winter I’m am going to try extremely hard to keep my skin going in the right direction: healing. Usually once the cool air touches down and I inevitably become more sedentary, my skin becomes crap. So now I am trying to mitigate that by embracing winter’s cold touch (and trying a rotation of new products for different flare periods) and making sure I exercise more. And to combat the winter body blues (also in lieu of doing a drinking game with a TV series), this past weekend my husband and I made a fitness game. We tally up various events in a show which then equate to an exercise to do. After each episode we have to do the routine before we can go to the next one. Currently, we have one template for True Blood and I’ll describe our rules below.

True Blood Drinking Fitness Game (amended to make a single episode be more or less a full workout)

Anytime:

  1. anyone cries tears = 10 body weight squats
  2. someone dies = 1 lap around the house
  3. someone makes love = 5 pushups
  4. someone drinks alcohol or blood/V/trublood = 2 burpees
  5. someone is racist/sexist/vamp phobic = 25 calf raises
  6. Sookie responds to thoughts = 10 mountain climbers/side
  7. someone shape shifts = 5 high jumps
  8. there’s a fight = 10 bicycles/side
  9. someone is invited into or kicked out of a house = 15 second plank
  10. a main character is threatened/in danger/attacked= 5 bridges
  11. a new supernatural being is introduced = 50 butt kickers
  12. glamour is used =10 lizard steps
  13. someone is shirtless = 10 bear steps/side
  14. some says a sexual innuendo = 10 side steps/side
  15. someone has a dream/nightmare/daydream = 1 turkish get-up
  16. someone says “f*ck you/off” = 5 single leg deadlifts
  17. a vampire speeds somewhere = 2 lunges/side
  18. someone says “Sookie” or “Sook” = add one to a previously blank or lower tallied number above
  19. a main character dies = x2 to all above

So far it’s been entertaining and usually we get a decent workout. We started adding more stipulations as we continued watching, which led to longer workouts (a good thing since True Blood episodes are about an hour long, so we are up and moving for longer periods between). Anyway, I’ll leave off this post there, especially since I keep getting distracted by the yummy smells coming from the oven telling me dinner is ready!

alternative/holistic medicine, distraction, eczema, exercise and activity, food and nutrition, my journey, pregnancy, skin care, women's health

back after a hiatus

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I essentially disappeared off the face of the earth almost two months ago. Things got a little chaotic what with prepping for the baby, the baby shower, having the baby, and then learning about life post-pregnancy.

And in tandem with all that was going on, to be honest I was thinking of discontinuing this blog. My reason was I didn’t think I could continue to come up with content about living life with eczema if didn’t somehow entail my career being related to eczema- but I have since reconsidered and am back with a plethora of thoughts, stories, and research on this condition that I’ll be sharing over time.

I’ve got a lot of fun things in store including:

  • what it’s like to deal with eczema when you have a newborn
  • antibiotics and eczema
  • why it’s hard to know what factors cause or alleviate eczema (aka why humans are not perfect subjects)
  • my love of the sun (but does it love me back?)
  • challenges to try including 30 days yoga (getting moving, tackling isometric holds, and getting that tissue stretch in)
  • rebounding for lymph drainage
  • addiction to picking my skin- how to break it
  • herbs and herbalism… when you want a break from reactionary allopathic medicine and just want to grow some greens
  • Prime Physique Nutrition’s Conquerer Eczema Academy
  • and more!

But  in the meantime I’ll give a general status update on my life.

I had the baby! We named her Fiona and she was born June 18th. She’s now 5 weeks old and her favorite thing to do is sleep on top of me.

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During the labor I was on antibiotics and postpartum I have been trying to keep my diet clean to stave off candida overgrowth, and have also been taking probiotic pills daily. I’ll talk more about that in my antibiotics post.

My current skin condition is interesting to say the least. Skin color-wise I was almost back to normal after Fiona’s birth, and appearance-wise too, though I still have wrinkly skin, and that got a bit worse after the birth. Lately my skin has been dry- but not the dry like ashy-so-put-on-some-lotion, and not the dry like I-am-a-snake-with-the-way-I-shed-so-much, but instead I’m at this weird dry where I have tough and rough skin that feels like I have developed an immature exoskeleton. It’s worse on my hands and feet, and then my legs and parts of my arms. I’ve somehow managed to keep it relatively at bay on my face and neck (which is so important because I’ve noticed when the skin gets bad there, my emotional health drops the quickest). I hate to admit it, but I have definitely been scratching and picking at this new annoying exoskeleton, which hasn’t been the best for appearance (or skin barrier) because I now have a lot of scabs and scar marks. I definitely need to work on not picking my skin. I am extremely thankful that my chest has been relatively unaffected, as I am breastfeeding Fiona and it would be exponential harder (and I would be more worried about her getting an infection from my skin) if I was flared there.

Anyway, that’s more or less the basics of where I’m at now. Stay tuned over the next few weeks for posts about the content I mentioned above!

distraction, eczema, exercise and activity, skin biome, storytime

digging down deep

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Here’s little bit of writing for fun that I came up with during a bout of insomnia this week.


My mama always said you need to dig deep to really find yourself. What I didn’t realize was that she meant it literally.

The first warm weekend in New England, I found myself at Home Depot, my eyes scanning along the garden shelves looking for that perfect plant to take home with me. I had finally coaxed myself out into the sunlight and had witnessed what the winter had done to my yard, and knew it was time to help it heal. It didn’t take long for some hardy flower types to catch my eye and I quickly placed a bunch in my cart and wheeled them to the register. On the way I paused to think if I should buy gardening gloves, but then decided again it.

Soon I was at home, kneeling on the lawn scraping away layers of rock and gravel and old stiff mulch from my beds. As I gardened bare-handed I realized the dirt was getting everywhere, in my tiny cuts, stuck along the dry skin flakes, immersing my hands in their loamy fertileness. Though it was nothing like soaking in a warm bath, I felt comforted by the sun beaming down and the dirt encasing my hands. It felt natural and right, even though my hands were no less dry than any other day.

Later that afternoon as I washed the dirt off with soap, I realized my hands were cracking less and less itchy post-wash, unlike my usual discomfort from water and soap encounters. Though I still applied moisturizer, the effects of my gardening had already reduced some of the more persistent symptoms of my stagnant eczema, and I felt good. Obviously it was no cure, but the benefits of getting down and dirty with the dirt seemed to be somewhat relieving from the usual eczema grind.

It was nice to know that my non-flares hands were still down in their under the scrapes and wrinkles and redness and flakes, even if I had to dig down in the dirt to get to re-meet them.

 

distraction, eczema, exercise and activity, flare-up

babysitting with eczema

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So many searches come up with how to be a caretaker for a person or child with eczema, but I haven’t heard from, or found research more about the challenges and options for when the caretaker is the one with eczema.

This week I am watching my baby cousin. He’s about 7 months old now and his mom leaves him with me starting around 7am until anywhere from 6-8pm. It’s my first time watching an infant and though he is a delight, today required some adjustments to my routine as I overslept. Normally, when I have a rough night, I can sleep from 6-8am and catch up on some of the lost time. And then the first  thing I do when I get out of bed is take a warm shower and then apply lotion (as it helps my skin absorb it better when I shower first. Also for those interested, I am currently using Exederm lotion as my go-to).

Today however, I failed to get up before my cousin had to leave so instead I just rolled out of bed and got the baby, dry flaky skin and all. As I haven’t had enough time to zip off to take my usual shower, because I obviously can’t leave him alone for long periods of time (and I am not familiar enough with his nap schedule to know if I have enough time to shower during one), the day has come down to being a lot of a mind over matter deal about my skin. Yes I still itch, and my hands especially are quite dry, but mostly I’ve focused on the mini wheat, and by doing so I have been able to ignore my own normal tweaks and discomforts. There’s actually a fair amount of studies that show that being able to have a distraction helps decrease the itch sensation due to how itching is perceived via the brain (but more on that in a post coming soon about addiction to scratching).

Though I understand the necessity of taking care of oneself physically and mentally, before others (such as with the oxygen masks on airplanes), I do recognize when handling my skin is less than urgent. Yes, I am dry and theoretically could desperately use some more lotion, but I feel well enough that I can handle waiting to do my usual routine until tonight. That being said, after changing his diaper I did have to wash and soap my hands thoroughly which caused some cracking so I did apply lotion then. The rest of my body is holding up well enough in the meantime.

Plus the advantages of babysitting an infant are that they keep you up and moving. I probably feel relatively good because I haven’t stopped moving around with him, adding validity to the “motion is lotion” mantra. Although sweat-inducing physical activity has been seen as eczema-provoking, overall it seems there still hasn’t been enough research done to figure out what kinds of exercise are the best for people suffering from eczema. Research for moderate, non-sweat-inducing activity helping eczema has been fairly supported by organizations like the National Eczema Association, which encourages trying low-intensity activities such as yoga, tai chi, pilates, walking, and gardening. I’d love to take my cousin out for a walk but it’s currently 45F and down pouring so I’ll settle for doing some squats with the extra baby weight. 🙂

I think one of the most important things when you have a flop day in terms of your care of a chronic (non-fatal) disease is to not get too stressed out. As we all say, life happens, and so sometimes it’s best to just roll with the punches and let that bad day pass on by. So long as it doesn’t become a habit of mis-care to yourself, you’ll most likely be okay.

And so, all in all though I look like a ragamuffin and clearly didn’t take proper care of my skin today, I am not upset and I know I’ll survive one less than ideal day.

Are there any other caretakers (parents, guardians, babysitters, senior home workers, etc) who suffer from eczema and have had to forgo their usual skin care every now and then in order to take care of someone else?