My Journey of Healing Severe Eczema Naturally
I’ve suffered from severe eczema for over 15 years. Over the past 6 months, I’ve been working hard to find and treat the root causes of my eczema for the first time in my life using a natural, holistic approach. This journey has been by far the hardest thing I’ve encountered in my life so far — physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Until now, only those closest to me know the insurmountable pain I’ve endured during this process. I debated for a long while whether to share my healing story publicly or not, when I realized that while there has been extreme hardship, there has also been a great amount of healing, learning, and lifestyle change for the better. I remembered my true passion for using my unique personal experiences to help others and start conversation (that’s why I began my open relationship blog last year!). I hope that sharing my healing process can give comfort to anyone going through something similar, now or in the future, and inspire people to live their happiest and healthiest lives.
So, what happened?
For most of my life, I’ve used Western medicine’s go-to solution of topical creams and oral drugs (“corticosteroids” if you want to get technical) to treat the symptoms of my eczema. But steroids do just that — treat the symptoms and not the root cause. They suppress symptoms just enough for you to regain functionality or your desired appearance, but triggers such as stress, diet, and environment can continue triggering subsequent flare-ups that are usually more severe or widespread than the previous one. I didn’t know what other treatments were available at the time, so the more eczema I had, the more steroids I would use, further perpetuating the ugly cycle. (There is also such thing as steroid-induced eczema and topical steroid withdrawal.) About 3 years ago, I finally stopped using steroids when I couldn’t deny any longer that they were doing my body more harm than good, and I haven’t let steroids touch my body since. For the next 2 years, I was in a place in which my eczema was bad, but I could still function daily. At the end of last year, my eczema became more and more severe until it finally blew up to the point at which large portions of my body were constantly red, inflamed, weeping (exuding fluid), and plain water burned my skin like acid.
As my eczema worsened, I had to buy new clothes for everyday and special occasions that would cover my neck and upper body because I was so embarrassed and self-conscious of my skin. I tried really hard to live a normal life until I had no choice but to seek treatment again.
What did you do?
5 months ago, I began Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture (I was so done with using Western medicine for my eczema, and my sister saw success with a similar regimen for her severe blistering eczema, which is how I learned about this alternative treatment). 2 months later, I added an elimination diet to my regimen and have been doing all 3 components since.
The Healing Process & how it’s going
While steroids suppress eczema and push it back into your body, healing eczema naturally does the complete opposite. In short, strengthening your gut and correcting any internal imbalance will manifest, lastly, on your skin. With time and progress, the intense itching and burning decreases, the redness and inflammation subsides, and the surface skin becomes flaky and dry to the point that it actually sheds off, revealing new healthy skin underneath. But for those of us with more chronic eczema to heal like myself, it takes many, many, many cycles and layers of skin to eventually reach that new healthy layer deep underneath. The progress is slow and grueling, but every new layer of skin is slightly less severe than the one before, and eventually, I will be eczema-free.
My eczema is very severe, and I have it everywhere (from my head to my toes). The most concentrated areas where it is severe right now are my scalp, face, ears, around my entire neck, collar bones, chest, shoulders, front and back of my entire arms, and the back of my hands. More moderate but still very itchy and visible are on my mid and lower back, breasts, stomach, bikini line, pubic bone area, front and back of my entire legs, and toes.
My regimen has been working — I am healing — but lately especially, I’ve really been in the thick of it. I shed so much eczema every day, which I know is a good sign that it’s being expelled from my body (that’s what’s supposed to happen), but the sheer volume at which it happens can be frightening.
About 4 months ago was when the very surface shedding began. Almost every move I made would cause dry flakes of skin to shed — changing my clothes, fixing my hair, going to the bathroom, pushing my glasses up on my nose… I was constantly seeing my skin fall off my body. The fear and anxiety this caused was a level of stress I had never known. It was hard to get out of bed most mornings just thinking about how exhausting getting ready for the day had become. When I’d go out, I was extremely embarrassed and self-conscious about people seeing the flakes I was shedding… I was afraid they’d think I was dirty, unkempt, disgusting. When I was alone, I was horrified at seeing the huge amounts of shedding that could happen… I felt like a monster, almost inhuman, and like this anguish would last forever. With time and lots of support, I adapted new coping mechanisms and learned to better manage the stress and anxiety. I focused on my mental health to correct my disturbed body image and learned to embrace the healing process instead of fear it. Most importantly, I learned to listen to my body for what it needed; what it craved and has probably been craving for years — rest, nourishment, and gratitude.
I began ensuring adequate rest for all the hard work my body does every single day. This made me feel significantly more refreshed even through the evenings. I began nourishing my body with whole, healthy fruits and vegetables — rich with nutrients and unmuddled by all the additives and preservatives most of us consume our whole lives. This made me feel significantly more energized, cheerful, and able-bodied. I began to express love, gratitude, and respect for my body in any way I could (because after all, we’ve only got one). I felt more appreciative and tranquil than ever before.
Today, my healing process feels just as difficult. Although I now have several months of experience with healing, the challenges I face daily have grown as well. There are times that my skin is in such pain that even staying completely motionless feels agonizing. I wake up many times throughout the night from intense itchiness with my entire body feeling like it’s on fire. In the morning, I wake up in a bed full of dry, shed skin flakes, which feels like someone threw a bag of sand and mulch on you in bed, except you’re fully aware that what you’re feeling isn’t sand, but your shed skin (ewww, amirite?). I spend up to 2 hours at the start of every day moisturizing, cleaning off my bed, and sweeping up piles of shed skin from my bedroom floor. I experience multiple sudden attacks of intense itchiness throughout the day that require me to immediately drop whatever I’m doing, pull-over if I’m driving, and use every ounce of will I have to resist scratching in order to preserve all the progress my skin has made. (Sometimes I’m not successful.) It is scary. It is debilitating. But it is temporary, and I am hopeful.
4 months ago, I learned to listen to my body. And only recently, I’ve learned to trust my body. Because while, yes, sweeping up piles of dry, dead skin off my floor every day can be very scary, and waking up in a bed full of skin flakes can feel disgusting, it is my body telling me I’m doing the right thing; It is my body literally pushing out this disease I’ve held in and accumulated for 15 years.
My eczema has always been something I’ve been self-conscious about. It feels like a permanent chip on your shoulder, constantly making you wish you were different than you are. As painful as this process is, for the first time ever, I feel like my eczema is truly being expelled from my body and will not be part of my life anymore. I never thought this would be possible. No longer will I catch strangers staring at me when my eczema is exposed. I won’t have to repeat the same conversation I’ve had all my life when people point and ask me, “what is that?” I’ll no longer feel the need to hide myself under clothing, wishing I was different. It is an unbelievable feeling of relief that has humbly brought me to tears many times over, a feeling that Western medicine has never been able to afford me.
Although, realistically, I anticipate my healing process will take at least 1 year, I look forward to the day that my mind and body are unburdened by his heavy weight I have carried for so long. I am working hard toward a level of peace I’ve never known, inside and out, and every day, I know I am one day closer.
It’s been almost 1 year since I’ve been able to look like this. Before, I used to feel sad that I didn’t look like this anymore and haven’t for a while. Now, I feel hopeful and even excited to look like this again one day — except even better this time, because I’ll be eczema-free!
How to Be Supportive When You Can’t Relate
Throughout all this, I’ve noticed a lot of my friends don’t always know how to best respond to my healing journey and the pains I share with them. It’s not a situation you see very often or that many can relate to. They wish I weren’t going through it, but they don’t know what to say or do to make me feel better during hard times. Instead of feeling sorry for me, here are some things you can do that are both supportive and productive:
You can believe in me and (if you really think I can) tell me that I can do it and that I am conquering this
You can feel the relief alongside me that I will finally be unburdened by a lifelong affliction
You can reflect on how you treat your own body — Are you proud of what you put into your body on a daily basis? Are you thankful for the physical work your body does for you? Do you celebrate your health?
You can feel happy for all the amazing things I’m learning about myself through this experience
If you find yourself thinking of me and my healing process, you can tell me — Even if you don’t know what to say, it’s always comforting to be thought of
Current Update on Me
I’ve recently joined a group coaching and support group program that guides and supports people in their journey of healing eczema naturally. It was created by Abby Tai, a holistic nutritionist who overcame severe eczema naturally. (You can find her inspiring story here.) Though it’s only been a few days, finding this group has already given me so much solace, hope, and reassurance. It feels amazing to connect with people I never would’ve met otherwise, from all over the world, through this unique experience of prioritizing a holistic, natural approach to health. While some days are still harder than others, I have finally found the true meaning of “trusting the process” and am so excited for my healing to continue. :)