Last week I woke up to find small splatters of dried blood on my sheets, dried blood under my fingernails, and the tip of my third finger on my left hand raw. I'd scratched my hands to pieces in my sleep.
I’ve had eczema since I was a baby. I was in and out of doctors' offices when I was young, and tried all the various creams, ointments, and emollients with little success.
I hated the process of putting cream on every day, and to be honest, I wasn’t very good at it. My doctor told me it was likely I would grow out of it when I became an adult, but it has yet to happen.
I get patches all over my hands, the backs of my knees, in my elbows, and occasionally other spots, including my face.
It’s partly why the news that a heat wave would be coming this week filled me with dread. Don’t get me wrong: I love the sun, blue skies, and finally the feel of spring in the air. What I hate is the warmth, the heat, the need to put on my summer clothes or overheat like the leather interior of a scab-ridden car.
I have all the usual body hang-ups that women tend to have when living in a patriarchal society with particular beauty standards. Are my thighs too big? Does my tummy stick out too far? Is my hair glossy enough? But my eczema particularly gets to me.
When a flare-up is at its worst my skin is flaky, red, raw. Sometimes it oozes. It bleeds, makes it hard to bend my fingers. It hurts.
When a flare-up is at its worst my skin is flaky, red, raw. Sometimes it oozes. It bleeds, makes it hard to bend my fingers. It hurts. It’s "ugly." The last thing I want to do is throw on a pair of shorts or a sleeveless top and bask in the sunlight. I hide my hands under tables, in my pockets, or by clutching my phone. I wear black tights until the last possible moment and then swap to loose skirts that fall just below my knees.
As an adult, I've tried a lot of things to try and soothe it: coconut oil, E45, Nivea, hydrocortisone creams, steroid creams. I’ve cut out some dairy products, but not for long, because it didn’t make a difference for me. I’ve tried slathering my hands in creams that do work — Aveeno is good for me when I’m not flaring, and at the moment I’m trialling Child’s Farm moisturizer, which has had rave reviews — and wearing cotton gloves over the top to bed.
I long for smooth, silky skin. Like the women in the adverts for overpriced and over-gendered razors. I’d love to grow my nails long and not have to worry about shredding my hands to ribbons in my sleep. I’d love to wear short shorts, show off my thighs, and not worry whether people are looking at my sore knees, wondering what’s wrong with my skin.
I’d love to have a go at a fake tan, get it streaky and have that be the reason I don’t want to let my legs show. I’d love to hold my boyfriend’s hand for more than 10 seconds before the sting of our slightly clammy hands hurts a little bit too much.
I’m trying new prescription creams after visiting the doctor this week again for my skin. I’m hoping against hope it’ll start to clear up in time for the sunny weather. If it does, I’ll be the one running around town — shorts on, nails done, eager for everyone to see.