I started a series in which I share real-life #SurvivorTales from real people across the world. The point of this is to cheer people up and help them get through whatever seemingly bleak situations they may be passing through. So if you know any such people, feel free to share and encourage them. And if you know are a True Survivor or know one, please send me your story at firstname.lastname@example.org so that others will be inspired by it. :) Previous stories can be read here and here.
To kick this series off, I will be re-posting (unedited) a friend's #SurvivorTales. Her name is Ijeoma Ogwuegbu – Uduma and she resides in Nigeria. Her story is as informative as it is encouraging. I hope her story inspires you as it did me. Enjoy.
Recently, I was on Wana Udobang's show on Inspiration Fm with a lovely young lady named Glory. We were discussing sensitive skin conditions/disorders.
Glory has Psoriasis, an auto immune skin disorder that causes your body to over-produce skin cells, leading to scaly patches on the skin. I have Atopic Dermatitis, also known as eczema, which is a hereditary skin condition that causes the skin to break out in itchy, dry patches.
At some points in my life, Eczema covered as much as seventy per cent of my body, including my face. Today, it covers around fifty per cent.
Having eczema means that when I wake up in the morning, I have to gauge if I have enough mental energy to take a bath. One of the biggest triggers for Eczema is water. This means that when water touches your skin and stays on your skin for longer than sixty seconds, it can lead to itching and a stinging sensation, wherever the Eczema is present on your body. The stinging can feel like dozens of soldier ants, biting you at the same time.
No long, hot showers (water is bad, but hot water is much worse). No long, romantic soaks in the bathtub either. (See my life o!).
I have to try as much as possible not to sweat, because sweat is water and water equals itching and stinging and discomfort.
Hot weather is bad, because it makes me sweat. Cold weather is bad, because it makes my skin dry and flake. Cue Eczema.
Funny thing is, that the biggest thing my skin needs is moisture.
Water, soaps, perfumes, cigarette smoke, chemicals, some natural oils, creams, all these act as triggers for my skin.
The itching is an almost constant, every minute, everyday part of life. Sometimes, it gets so bad that it brings tears to my eyes. Sometimes it makes me dancing, because dancing distracts me from it for a while.
All my life, I've had to live with the many physical discomforts that come with this condition. I've also had to deal with the social stigma.
I've had complete strangers stop me to tell me the reason I has eczema is because I'm dirty. I had fellow classmates compose derogatory songs about me. I've had people slip me notes with prescriptions with drugs they were convinced would 'cure' me of my skin condition. In my preteens and teenage years, I became shy, because no matter how close your friends were, they would think twice before hugging you. In university, I never had the problem of roommates borrowing my clothes to wear, because they assumed my eczema was contagious and they didn't want to risk catching it. I also wasn't allowed to borrow their things for the same reason.
These things affected me for a while, until I discovered the world of books. I could escape into the lands of my books, hang out with new friends without any of them giving me weird looks because I had 'dirty' skin. In real life though, I tried to find ways to 'fix' my skin.
I can’t count the number of times doctors prescribed antibiotics for me. (There’s a type of eczema caused by fungal infection, but it’s not common and that’s not the type I have.) I’ve been told to rub Lime, Potash, creams uncountable. I single-handedly kept Johnson Wax afloat, by buying all their Nixoderm ointment.(Lol). None of them worked for more than a few days. None of them ‘cured’ me.
Then came the Internet, with its world of knowledge. Finally, I found information that helped me realize that I wasn't a dirty freak of nature, but someone with a treatable, manageable condition. I also found out that most of the things I'd been 'advised' to use were actually making my skin worse!
From my constant reading though, came a love of words. With the love of words, came a talent for putting them together. Even though I studied Industrial Chemistry in university, I make my living now as a writer. So Eczema brought me pain, but it also somehow brought me my livelihood.
I decided to go on Wana's show because, while I may have found that information, many people hadn't. They were still walking around with their ignorance and still passing it on as prejudices to their children. I also wanted to let as many people who were going through something similar know that they were not alone and are just as productive, as important as anyone else out there.
My dear Nigerians, I love you guys, y'all are aggressively nosy, even with ignorance. But if you don't take anything from this post, take the following as 'new' information.
1. Eczema is NOT CONTAGIOUS. If you have a friend or loved one who has this condition and you've been afraid to hug them, look for them today and give them a massive body hug (but ask permission first sha. Lol).
2. Atopic Eczema runs in families. So quit talking crap about people being dirty. You don't know their lives. And even if you do, you don't know what you're talking about. (Now, I’m not saying the person you know who has eczema is not dirty, I’m just saying that their eczema was NOT CAUSED by them being dirty).
2. Yo, stopping someone on the road to give them care suggestions for their skin is NOT COOL. You think they've not tried it all? The best thing you can do for them is to spare them the embarrassment of hearing your voice and KEEP YOUR THOUGHTS TO YOURSELF.
3. If you have eczema or any skin condition you don't understand, go and see a dermatologist. You'll be asked your family history to determine if yours is atopic and a treatment plan will be drawn up for you. Please don't suffer in silence and educate yourself.
4. If you see something you don't understand, educate yourself. Even if you think you understand, still educate yourself. None of it is lost.
5. Again, always, always remember that we are all connected. The person you're rude to or say nasty things to because their skin is different from yours is just as human as you are. They cry, hurt, laugh, have dreams, just like you. Treat people the way you want to be treated. And please, teach your children that it is not okay to make fun of others, just for being different.
I inherited my Atopic Eczema from my dad. While I was pregnant, I was very worried that I would give this condition to my children. I was terrified that they would have to endure some of the indignities I have. Thankfully, neither of my two children have it. For that, I’m grateful.
Despite all I’ve been through, I’m thankful everyday for the life I have, surrounded by a loving family and parents who cherished me and never made me feel unwanted.
Thanks for reading. Please share this information. You might just be helping someone.
Ijeoma Ogwuegbu – Uduma
Twitter handle - @ijeomaogud