I can’t imagine what life is like without eczema because that’s all I can remember. I have just had to work my life around it and learn how to manage it since I was a baby. The fact that I have had it for so long makes it easier for me to manage, but it still doesn’t hurt any less.
When I was really small, the doctor didn’t believe I had eczema because in 2008, some doctors in Australia hadn’t learnt that eczema presents differently in different skin colours, something that is slowly being addressed and changing.
“Even when I was diagnosed with severe Atopic Dermatitis they said it would go away when I was 5, then they said 7 and then 12. It didn’t.”
As frustrating as it is, I’ve learnt to accept that it may never go away. Overtime, I’ve learned to manage the symptoms and physical pain and sting of the little cuts that constantly itch around my arms, legs, tummy, neck and sometimes, face, and also learnt how make showers more bearable. However, I think the hardest thing about my eczema is the emotional and social side to it.
I realized from when I was small, that I was different because of my eczema, because I couldn’t do the same things my friends did like sit on the carpet, wear the same dress ups or do swimming class.
“I was always stared at for wearing thick white bandages around my arms and legs or when I had to go to a special room to put on my ointments.”
Throughout primary school I often felt irritable and angry that no one could understand the reality of eczema; or I would get sad when I would get into trouble for being late to school because I had a sleepless night scratching myself.
However, in primary school, I also got involved in heaps of extra-curricular activities to distract myself from the pain and itch and it really helped. I became a girl who loved doing nearly everything, from chess to tennis to music to dance etc. My activities gave me a space to feel normal and feel good about myself, which is a hard feeling to have when my body was constantly the enemy.
Today, my skin still flares, bleeds, scars and burns but I’ve just kind of learnt how to manage it though skills and awareness I’ve learnt over time. I also still love my extra-curricular activities and do a lot of them (maybe too many…) I also enjoy the academic side of school too, as I find it fascinating that the future of eczema lies in the hands of science, medicine and of course, other areas too.
“I hope to pursue medicine in the future with my main motivation being to help others with eczema or other health conditions just feel a little better, mentally and physically.”
Through my 24/7 battle with chronic eczema, and other health conditions, I’ve learned how amazing life is when we are pain-free, which has helped me view the world around me differently. I have a strong desire to do something about injustices, which I have acted on through volunteering with OZHarvest, Toowoomba Regional Council, Toowoomba for Climate Action, Toowoomba Youth Peace Group and many more. The main thing I learnt through my community involvement is the power of social connection, when facing difficult circumstances.
“Living with a chronic disease that is so misunderstood can leave people, especially young people, feeling isolated. I wanted to create itchY to connect young teens with eczema to realise that they are not alone and that there are people in Australia who really do understand their situation. A realisation and feeling, that I believe, is so empowering.”
Written by: Rhea, Teen Ambassador, itchY, Eczema Support Australia
itchY in an online platform for teenagers living with eczema to support and connect with each other.
Teenagers face a unique set of challenges often do not have people around them that understand the feelings of managing severe eczema. itchY connects teenagers with other teens living with eczema to share experiences and support to make daily life as a teenager living with eczema more manageable.
With customised information downloads, online meetups and a closed Facebook group, the itchY platform creates a safe and confidential online platform for teenagers to share and connect.