Finding Joy in Vulnerability: What I Learned From My Mental and Emotional Trauma Journey Living With Eczema

A photo of Gregg Clark Jr. standing in front of a black wall with brightly colored, inspiring printing, wearing sunglasses, shorts and a t-shirt and smiling toward his left.
From the Community

By Gregg Clark, Jr.

Published On: May 1, 2023

Last Updated On: May 1, 2023

When I first think of eczema, I think of a physical skin condition, as I am sure many of us do. Even though people with eczema are impacted both physically and mentally, we tend to keep focus on its physical ailments, as opposed to how much we have suppressed mentally and emotionally from the trauma of eczema. That being said, it fills my heart with joy to share both who and what are supporting me through the trauma from my eczema journey in the hope that it may help you on your journey, too.

Recognizing what trauma can look like

Severe eczema and topical steroid withdrawal (TSW) symptoms left me on bedrest for six months. Another word for bedrest, looking back at my journey, is isolation. I felt alone in a variety of ways: having to explain to those close to me what I am dealing with, forcing myself into isolation with shame and embarrassment for how I looked and the burden I felt I put on people when they simply asked, “How can I help?”

As a man who has had much success in athletics, it came naturally for me to live life through a masculine mask. I remember hearing “Don’t show emotion,” “Play through the pain,” or even, “That’s for girls” as a young boy. These negative affirmations subconsciously taught me how to suppress my true feelings and emotions, and at times of trauma I was unable to express my basic needs to others.

One may ask, ‘How does sharing this bring you joy?’ My answer is because I have built a foundation that supports me through the trauma of my eczema journey. Now, as a mental health professional, I support the patients and clients I get to work with by using that same foundation — and I am excited to share this with you, my NEA community:

1. Look beyond the loop

First things first, create a vision of what you want the rest of your life to look like. It’s well-documented that the power of trauma can leave us in a negative loop cycle with repeated actions, emotions and behaviors reaffirming what we already believe about ourselves. In moments of pain, I thought, “I’ll never get over this.” Little did I know I was creating my own reality.

2. Audit your environment

Second, create a supporting cast of people in your life. I began to audit my environment and removed those who literally made me feel sick. This initial realization allowed me to accept that I had previously allowed people in my life who did not serve my best interest. I was able to cultivate a group of people who help speak life into me and support my goals. Through meditation and prayer, I have come to understand that I do not have to be strong alone. In fact we are stronger when we are together.

3. Take action, and reality will catch up

Lastly, take action to bring your new vision of self to reality. Who we are being is who we are becoming. At first it felt like imposter syndrome, and sometimes it still does, but I began living my life as if I was the character I created in my vision for the future and continued to see my reality catch up. I slowly began changing the way I lived: first, by changing my mindset with a new vision and second, by finding people who support me through the dark times as well as help inspire me to bring my vision of self to reality.

In my experience, there is no hierarchy in healing; we heal simultaneously. From our individual eczema journeys we can see there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to what works for us. It’s a subtle reminder to me that we’re all made to live a customizable life and what once brought me shame is what now brings me joy.

Gregg Clark Jr. is a professional life coach and mentor.

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