When I got my first patch of rough, dry, sore skin I didn't think much of it. I was 20, the doctors said it was pretty normal after a tonsillectomy and sent me away with a tube of Dovebet steroid cream.
Then the patches started to spread. They appeared on my torso, under my arms, on my back, in my hair, on my neck - and the worse bit - on my face.
At this time I was working in an office in London going to regular meetings and presentations and a face full of dry flaky patches was the most humiliating and embarrassing thing I could have imagined.
As my skin got worse, I started to deeply hate and resent it.
It stopped me going out. I didn't want to socialise. I didn't want to see anyone. I didn't want to go to work. I spent so much time hoping it would disappear, fuming that everything I tried didn't work and wishing I could put a bag on my head. I felt like a monster.
I tried everything to heal my skin. I changed my diet, I changed my skincare, I tried lotions and potions, I did detox after detox. I went to see loads of therapists - acupuncturists, osteopaths, nutritionists, colonic therapists, counsellors and kinesiologists. I became a woman possessed.
Every morning I would look in the mirror and stare at my horrible, ugly skin and want to cry and scream at it.
Then something changed. I started to understand why I had a skin condition and I began a journey of self-exploration.
It is National Eczema Week this week and to raise awareness around the topic I would like to offer 5 reasons why I now feel that a skin complaint like eczema or psoriasis is in fact a gift.
- Skin is a reflection of how we feel about ourselves. My condition revealed to me that the hatred and resentment I felt towards my skin was actually how I deep down felt about myself. Once I stopped being so darn angry with myself my skin started to heal.
- Skin shows us what is happening with the digestion. I had a terrible digestion and when I cleaned up my diet and got my bowels to move properly, my skin got better
- Skin usually indicates theres something going on with self-confidence, especially when it is on the face. I thought my skin was stopping me going out, but when I looked deeper, I discovered I didn't want to go out and socialise because I felt socially awkward and my skin gave me a lovely excuse to stay in and watch the telly
- A skin condition is not trying to harm you, embarrass you or isolate you - its trying to communicate with you. There is something in the body that needs attention and finding out what that is will help you become healthier and happier
- We can let our conditions define us or we can let our conditions provide doorways to self-healing and self-exploration. Without my skin condition I would never have left my stressful London job to become a therapist myself. I would never have thought about the food I was putting in my body. I would never have explored my emotions and cleared things in my past that were holding me back
- It's been a 15 year journey with my skin. Largely the patches have cleared up, occasionally I will get a new one which usually is an indication that I'm not caring for myself or not looking at something in my life and it's a nice reminder to look inward.
I now look at my skin in the mirror and see how beautiful it is. I look at my skin in its entirety rather than just focusing negatively on the little pink patches. My skin is soft and olive coloured and I simply love being in it.
If you suffer with eczema or psoriasis I encourage you to sit with the idea that your skin condition is a gift in disguise and it will take you on a magical mystery tour of self-discovery if you are up for it.