"Eczema is a disease that no one can understand fully unless they have experienced it themselves. For 15 years of my life, I have battled this disease by myself. But I’m starting to realize I don’t have to endure this fight all alone."
Published On: Oct 4, 2021
Last Updated On: Nov 18, 2021
I was always drawn to the rich culture of New Orleans. I felt like it was a place where I could be myself, wear what I wanted, dance how I wanted and feel free. Turns out, I was right: I fall more in love with New Orleans every day!
This is hard for me because I love the beauty in New Orleans. I love the architecture, the parks, the brightly colored homes, the food and all of the friendly people. It’s totally different from Colorado Springs, where I spent most of my childhood. Colorado has a drier and colder climate. There was plenty of spring water, mountains galore, and I didn’t find that my allergies were as triggered there.
Since developing full body eczema in 2020, I am still trying to mentally and physically recover. I am a professional model and social media influencer, so a large part of my career involves my outer appearance.
When my skin is irritated or flared up, it affects my mental health, which in turn affects my day-to-day life. Taking time to heal and treat my skin is time- and energy-consuming. It’s like a part-time job. I’ve had to retrain my brain, fall in love with the current version of myself and re-define my concept of beauty.
To me, beauty is a feeling. It’s something that starts from within and radiates around you. Beauty comes in all colors, shades, textures, ages and sizes.
When I believe I am beautiful no matter what, it is reflected in my appearance and aura.
I was first diagnosed with eczema as a baby. My mom used to put socks on my hands to prevent me from scratching, even while I was still in a crib. Eventually, I grew out of it (mostly), but it returned in full force during my twenties.
My recovery is ongoing. I continue to monitor my stress levels and food triggers like dairy, sugar and alcohol to ensure I don’t have as many flare ups. I am gentle with myself when I get itchy and try to stop the itch immediately instead of surrendering to it and having a full-blown scratch attack. I am mentally triggered every time a small rash appears, in fear that it will consume my entire body again.
In reality, it affects all of you. If you allow it, eczema can consume your entire life.
For me, the hardest part of eczema is being constantly mindful of your triggers. I can’t just wear any lotion or beauty products with random fragrances. I can’t be around animals without being afraid of breaking out into a rash. It’s so unpredictable and sometimes it can feel like a never-ending battle. There was a moment I thought my eczema may never heal and I would never feel beautiful again.
In my experience, the flares directly correlate with stress and anxiety. This doesn’t help because as most eczema warriors know, eczema can cause stress and vice versa. So despite the scale of the flare up, I’ve discovered that it’s best to maintain calm and be gentle with yourself in order to heal. Remember that stress weakens your immune system and when your immune system is hampered, it affects the rest of your body.
So if you find yourself getting consumed by stress, you can practice breathing exercises, do yoga, meditate, spend time with your loved ones, have a solo dance party or spend time outdoors to get grounded.
During my flare ups, I sometimes get dressed up and take photos of myself just to feel better or “normal.” I remind myself that everyone has flaws and mine happen to be on my skin. I try to remember all the things I find beautiful about myself and focus on those things more than my flare ups. Then my confidence shines from within and I no longer feel so self-conscious about my eczema.
Life with eczema has taught me that I can do anything I set my mind to if I am gentle with myself, have patience, advocate for myself and remember that I know myself and my body better than anyone else. I now realize that anything can heal with time, but you have to have faith and trust.
Author Cynthea Corfah is a NEA Ambassador. Learn more and join NEA Ambassadors.