NEA Ambassador Jasmine Hsieh shares her story about overcoming the insecurities she experienced living with severe eczema.
Published On: Aug 4, 2020
Last Updated On: Feb 2, 2021
I have had eczema since birth, and I’m currently 20 years old. Life with eczema hasn’t always been easy. There are good days and bad days. For many years, I felt like I was alone and that no one understood what I was going through. I felt like I had no voice and no say in any of my eczema care until I was old enough to handle it on my own.
My eczema is currently under control now that I’ve been prescribed a corticosteroid called triamcinolone. I recently had some bad days because I ran out of my cream and didn’t refill it. My eczema isn’t as bad as it was when I was younger, but I have had really bad breakouts at the most random times.
In my younger years, I was put on all types of medication — liquid, pills, shots and even steroids just to try to heal my skin. I felt like a guinea pig because of all the different things that were tried on me! And when it comes to medication, there are always side effects.
My mom eventually took me off of the steroids because they weren’t helping and were actually affecting my health. I would barely eat, and I couldn’t sleep at all. I’ve tried all types of lotions, creams, bleach and oatmeal baths, and nothing seemed to help. The only thing that has helped keep my skin moisturized is Vaseline.
Because of my eczema, I was verbally abused in the early stages of my life. To this day, I still get rude looks and stared at. People used to be afraid to touch me or to touch anything I had touched. I also have vitiligo, and people would assume I was a burn victim or some type of walking disease.
In elementary school, I’d have these random breakouts in class that would itch like crazy. It was embarrassing because when I scratched my skin, all the dead skin would fall on the floor. I would have these long scratch marks on my arms and legs from me itching. It actually made some people think I was getting abused at home. I couldn’t play outside much because the grass and pollen would trigger my allergies, but that didn’t stop me.
I’ve always had to watch what I eat and what I get involved in. If I sweat, I would break out and itch. If I touched, smelled or had something that touched something I was allergic to, I would break out in hives. My eyes would be red and swollen shut, and it felt like my skin was burning. My clothes used to stick to my skin like glue, and there were days I couldn’t get out of the bed because I was in so much pain.
Moreover, I’ve always been the athletic type and would try out for anything. But my insecurities held me back for a while, and so did my eczema at times. It took me until my last year in middle school to try out for the track team because I was so worried about what people would say.
When I got to high school, it was the same thing. I knew I would have to show my skin to a new set of people and deal with whatever they had to say. I felt this way for a very long time whenever I was going anywhere new.
I was involved in other extracurricular activities, such as clubs and choir, but I decided that I wanted to cheer, run track and play volleyball and softball. I would tell myself and my friends that I was going to try out for volleyball and track, but I kept stalling. I knew that with track and volleyball the majority of my skin would be exposed. I wound up not playing any sports until my junior year. I played softball and was on the bowling team.
All in all, I would say this journey with eczema has taught me a lot of lessons about life and myself. There are always going to be good and bad days, but you have to keep going. I’ve learned to love and embrace who I am and to be comfortable in my own skin. There is nothing wrong with being different and standing out. Yes, my eczema has prevented me from doing certain things, but I’m not going to let it run my life.
NEA Ambassador Alexandria A. Dawkins is 20 years old and currently residing in Akron, Ohio. She has been living with eczema since birth.