9 Apr, 2019

Beating the itch: Jennifer's story

Now aged 20, Jennifer has been living with Eczema since childhood. This is what she has learnt along the way.

Jennifer, tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m from Miami, FL but my family is from Haiti and I speak the native language Creole fluently. My major is Theatre. I will be attending Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University where I will complete my Bachelors degree this fall.

Can you tell us a little about your experience with eczema?

I remember it like it was yesterday. I was in the third grade and we were headed to the cafeteria for lunch. I remember constantly reaching for the back of my knee. It was so itchy. After lunch, I showed my friend because she had eczema too and I’ll never forget what she told me. “Don’t scratch- it’ll only make it worse.”

After an official diagnosis from my doctor, I was prescribed topical steroids to help. My treatment since then has changed a lot. I decided to take an alternative approach to healing-I removed the topical steroids from my regimen and began using Metaderm, a cream formulated with natural botanical blends about four years ago. During that time, I actually learned to treat, love and be patient with myself and my skin.

What made you want to share your story?

I realized how isolated I felt from everyone even though millions of people share the same skin issue. Your family understands but they really don’t know what it feels like. Sometimes all you need is someone to talk to. Your skin is the first thing people see and many don’t understand the condition and how their words affect us. When you have eczema you want to hide in the shadows and you shouldn’t have to. People don’t understand its more than just moisturizing. Your self-confidence is stripped away and you’re itchy all the time!

How does having eczema affect your everyday life?

From the moment I lay down to the moment I wake up. If I have a restless night because of a flare up, I’m groggy and tired in the morning. Next, showering hurts. The one thing that helps you debrief after a long night, isn’t even enjoyable because my skin hurts. Then, finding something comfortable to wear. With the sunny weather in Miami, long sleeve shirts and pants are not ideal. Last, but not least, the staring. Having someone stare at you is uncomfortable enough especially when you’re already uncomfortable in your own skin. It makes you just want to stay in and some days I do.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given about living with eczema? How has it impacted your life?

“You don’t live with eczema, eczema lives with you.” The more control you give your flare-ups, the worse they can become. I hate to say it but when you’re body is reacting to something, it’s because something is wrong. But even after allergy tests, I learned that by observing the cycles my skin went through, helped me better understand my eczema.

If there were one thing you’d want every eczema patient to know, what would that be?

The first step to healing is accepting, you. I know that no one wants to have eczema their whole life but having eczema has helped me understand myself in ways I thought I’d never see. I want you to be happy and don’t forget to live for yourself. It’s more than skin deep and it can be hard to be positive about an itchy skin disease! Don’t let your eczema control your life.

What organisations and support groups have you found helpful?

The eczema community on Instagram and Twitter makes me finally feels like I’m not alone. From sharing bold pictures of our skin to giving advice and checking in on each other. It feels good to finally have people to connect with.

You can find Jennifer by following her on these links:

Instagram: @mer_mami, Youtube: Mer Mami, Twitter: @mermami_

Do you have an eczema or psoriasis story you’d like to share? Feature in our Beating the Itch series by getting involved here.

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