Eczema and various allergies have been with Celeste since birth — and she said she is in menopause today. Here she candidly recalls the challenges she has persevered over the decades and how the stresses of life have intertwined with the shifting intensity of her condition. Celeste relates how family relationships and unwavering faith have helped her gain a positive perspective, and she offers suggestions and solace to others dealing with similar difficult circumstances.

A Lifelong Challenge

My mother said I was born with dry patches and itchiness, so I’ve been going to a doctor as long as I can remember. At first, I was on a special diet. Then it was shots every week. They had to chase me around the doctor’s office every week until I was about 6-7 years old. Then it was cortisone ointments. From birth through junior high school there were skin issues.

High school and college were pretty uneventful, but when I started the 9-5 scene, eczema reared its ugly head. By this time, I could pay for my own doctor visits and I appreciated my parents even more. Two shots every other week, plus meds, was expensive.

A few years down the line, I got married. This was a ready-made family and an emotionally unsupportive husband. Between the children, the job, the husband, the pets, and the eczema, life was truly stressful. Too stressful. I was also trying to have a child of my own, and had several miscarriages over several years. My skin got very ugly at times.

The children left to live with their mother. A few months after that, I was pregnant.

All through the pregnancy, my skin was raging. My doctor could see I was suffering and guessed that I was trying to protect my unborn child. He suggested ointment to relieve the flare-ups some and it did help.

The husband and I broke up when my child was 18 months old. I just couldn’t take any more. I moved back to my parent’s house and my skin got better in that loving environment.

Treatment Repercussions & Allergy Discoveries 

A few years passed, and then I noticed that I was itching all the time. It got so bad that I couldn’t work for a month and a half. I waited until I just couldn’t stand the pain any longer. I was given a shot, pills and topical creams — all steroids and antibiotics. The steroid pills took away my strength and made me hungry. I gained 50 pounds.

It took me a year to get my full strength back. I even stopped going to church on Sundays to rest up for the work week. So now I’m fat and ugly. I decided to change my eating habits and stopped eating certain things. When I stopped eating chicken, I stopped itching. Who knew that the reason I was itching was due to the antibiotics they made chickens eat?

As I got older, my allergies became worse. I couldn’t take certain antibiotics due to allergies. I learned to hibernate in my office on Fridays, because that was fish day. My skin reacts badly to fish. I don’t even have to smell it. My skin can feel it in the air. Seriously.

There were times when I was unable to participate in meetings, special classes and workshops, because coworkers were not aware, or did not think it important enough to care about my skin issue/allergies. Since then, people have learned to ask.

New Stressors

Now I’m in the midst of menopause. Hormones are changing. Stress is high. My skin is acting up again. Who can go in for a job interview with flakes falling off their body? Who can have a good interview when you’re busy scratching or trying not to scratch?

I’m back on steroids, but with a lot more knowledge about what to do. I pray for a doctor that listens to me. I use natural products for the long term, steroids for the short term.

Valuable Support

Several times in my life, I have just gotten tired of it all. The pain, itching, blood, ugliness — every day! I’ve wanted to just give up.

God, my mom and my sister have been my greatest support with eczema. God kept me going. My mom would comfort me. She would pat the itch with some lotion. Her hands would stop the itch, just for a while. My sister could make me laugh about it. She’s a bit feisty. She has eczema, too. It’s not as bad as mine, but we could share our condition. She listened to make sure that I was truly OK. She can sense when her little sister needs a pep talk and a laugh.

Advice to Those Newly Diagnosed with Eczema

  • Get rid of as much stress as possible. Take more time to “smell the roses” and take on hobbies that relax you.
  • Have a healthy spiritual life. Pray or meditate every day.
  • Watch what goes into your body, onto your body and around your body.
  • Do your homework. Read, read and read some more.
  • Don’t depend on medications to keep your skin healthy. Go as natural as possible. Yes, I’m allergic to some of those things, too, but I have found that meds are often more hurtful the longer you use them. That’s just my opinion.
  • Get a doctor who listens to you. It’s your body and you know it better than they do.
  • See a dermatologist and an allergist.
  • Listen to your skin. It’s the largest organ you have. Take heed.
  • Don’t give up!

Parting Inspiration

I’d like to inspire others to learn to laugh through your tears. Learn to speak up for yourself. Don’t ever give up the goal of having clear skin. Hold your head up and smile despite how your skin looks to you.

Know that there’s someone out there praying for you: me.

Celeste
Washington, DC
Diagnosed with eczema and multiple allergies

 

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