A woman that has suffered with eczema since she was a baby has created a project about her experiences.
Olivia used her frustrations over having the skin condition throughout her life to create a graphic book ‘Dear Eczema,’ on things she wishes she could tell her skin.
Olivia tells her story below, in her own words.
Eczema has been in my life for as long as I can remember. It was passed onto me from my dad, who for a long time was the only other person I knew with the condition. My symptoms began to show at just one year of age, triggered by certain foods, fatigue or illness. I was always told that I would outgrow the condition, a hope that I naively held on to.
Growing up with eczema had its challenges. I was the only person I knew with the condition at school, my confidence and self-esteem would suffer as I spent hours worrying about how my skin appeared different to my peers. I would question why it chose me, why not my friends or my siblings? The condition was rarely discussed or represented, at times making me feel isolated and alone, a feeling I am sure many others can resonate with.
I wore makeup and clothes to hide myself, using steroid creams daily in a desperate attempt to try and make my skin appear ‘normal’. I would go to sleep covered head to toe in miscellaneous creams and ointments, hoping that by morning my eczema would miraculously disappear. In an effort to address the cause, I eliminated certain trigger foods from my diet, leading only to an unhealthy relationship with food. Despite seeking help from doctors, their response was to always prescribe a stronger steroid cream, which I continued to use, convinced it was my only solution.
My eczema was more severe than ever at university, it significantly impacted my self-confidence and caused me to miss lectures. One of the hardest parts of living with the condition is the uncertainty and lack of answers. During that time, I didn’t know the cause of my symptoms, nor how to treat them, which left me feeling hopeless.
Eczema and I have had a complicated relationship. It used to be the reason I didn’t feel comfortable in my body and the reason I wanted to hide myself, even from the people closest to me. As I’ve grown older, I have learned to embrace my condition and not be ashamed of the appearance of my skin. I am grateful to social media for showing me that thousands of other individuals share an experience similar to my own. To now know that I am not alone is indefinitely comforting, an understanding I wish my younger self had.
Introducing my project, Dear Eczema. The aim behind this project is to uncover the physical and psychological repercussions eczema has imposed on myself and countless others, in the hope to normalise the condition and alleviate the feelings of isolation from those who may be suffering in silence. The publication showcases real stories from real people living with eczema, highlighting an array of unique yet relatable experiences. The underlying message of this book is one of positivity and self-acceptance, as people share how they have overcome challenges and grown to accept their condition.
Although some challenges remain, my perspective on eczema has now changed for the better. I am proud to be in a position where I can help others facing challenges similar to those I once experienced. Eczema should never be a condition we feel compelled to conceal or a topic that cannot be openly discussed. The relationship established between young individuals and eczema is one that can have lifelong effects, so we must ensure it is a positive one.