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Ode to the Itchy

Andrea Goetz sums up what eczema warriors battle with every day in her witty, heartfelt poem.

Ode to the Itchy

And as you sit there, thinking back on your itchy life…

I salute you.

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You — the red, the overheated, the flaky, the splotchy, the peeling, the rashey, the inflamed, the irritated, the angry, the bleeding, the bruised, the raked over.

The so-dry-that-you-could-never-live-in-Arizona-because-you-are-sure-you-would-disintegrate.

You’ve had quite a life. And while your itching never stopped you from doing things, it sure didn’t help either.

All you ever wanted was to have skin just like everyone else’s.

You are the most creative dresser.

The ’80s were great because you could wear the collar up every shirt in your closet and feel trendy, and it totally hid that big red-hot spot on your neck.

You gave up short sleeves, short hair, long nails, long showers, and ever wearing red or pink, or

anything with red polka dots, because who wants to color coordinate with their skin?

Lace collars are torment.

Wool is hell.

Synthetics should be outlawed and dryer sheets banned.

And thank goodness no one uses starch anymore, because that stuff was awful.

When you first heard the term, “doesn’t feel comfortable in her own skin” you thought,

You. Have. No. Idea.

You have tried everything —

Vitamin E, Vitamin D, bee pollen, ointments, steroids, anti-depressants, anti-anxieties, anti-inflammatories, hydrocortisone, saran wrap, immuno-suppressants, patch testing, going nut-free, gluten-free, sugar-free, flour-free, fragrance-free, tar soap, bleach baths, saltwater, steroids (again), non-steroidals, acupuncture, Chinese herbs, acupressure, homeopathy, grapeseed oil, coconut oil, oatmeal, antihistamines, and every single lotion known to mankind.

And each time it didn’t work, your heart broke a little more.

All you ever wanted was to have skin just like everyone else’s.

The smiling through the itchiness

The reassuring others that you’re fine — it’s not contagious, and yes, you’ve tried calendula

The turning down the invitation to the pool party

The never-wearing-black because it shows the flakes

The smiling at the manicurist as she tells you how dry your hands are, and “Have you tried lotion?”

And…

The knowing ache as the new dermatologist says he’s going to be the one to fix this for you. And you want to believe him. Because you believe in hope and because want to escape the prison that is your skin, and because you promised yourself that it would never win … so you agree to the next big discovery.

And each time it didn’t work, your heart broke a little more.

All you ever wanted was to have skin just like everyone else’s.

This one is different, they said. Really, it’s a game changer.

An injectable. It’s brand new, just on the market, and remarkable results.

It was made for people just like you.

You are so brave.

Trusting another doctor one more time who believes she can make it better.

You’ve already survived the worst.

You have felt monstrously ugly, unworthy, frustrated, and angry (oh, the anger).

You have nothing to lose.

Do I have the courage to have hope one more time?

Will it make the purple splotchy thing on my face go away?

(Why is it always on the face?)

All you ever wanted was to have skin just like everyone else’s.

But I am here to tell you that you are beautiful.

And I love the skin you’re in.

Andrea Goetz is a lifelong eczema warrior who lives in Guilford, Connecticut, with her husband and two children.

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