Summer is here and while most people are thrilled at the concept of jetting off overseas or lounging by the pool with friends, flashing the flesh can cause major anxiety for those trying to manage their eczema.
Despite living with severe eczema all her life, 27 year-old Camille Knowles has learnt to embrace travelling around the world and loves nothing more than being by the beach. Here, she shares her story and how mastering the mind has played a huge part in living a life beyond eczema.
“I am one of the 330 million people worldwide who have eczema. It has had a huge impact on my childhood and teenage years – right into adulthood. While it’s notoriously winter which can cause havoc for those with skin conditions, until recent years, it was always the social summer scene I dreaded.
I was diagnosed with the chronic skin condition at just six years old. Flare-ups would often leave me with an angry rash and even bleeding wounds across my arms, legs, back and face. My lips would swell so much that I couldn’t speak and would beg to stay off school. I tried numerous techniques, diets and medication to take control. At points, the things I did really showed on the outside. My skin started to glow but stress would always trigger a flare-up and I would often be left with angry or patchy skin.
In colder seasons it was easy to cover up but in the height of summer, I felt that my skin was fully on show.
In my early 20s when my girlfriends would start to look at booking breaks away, I quickly came up with excuses as to why I wasn’t able to go, knowing full well I just didn’t want to parade my skin. Being around girls and guys who didn’t have the same issues as me and whose skin looked immaculate was hard. People would say ‘it’s just a rash, you’ll be fine’ without realising that addressing it in this manner made it ten times more difficult.
I suppose it was almost a recluse-like behaviour. Declining summer party invitations because I feared a flare-up. I would often choose to stay home as opposed to make an appearance. The more I worried about it, the worse my eczema would get too.
When it comes to living with a skin condition, people often underestimate how healing really does start in your head and mastering the mind can have a significant impact on reducing symptoms and regaining control. Working out why your skin is flaring up in the first place and addressing that as a long-term solution is vital.
I started to change the way I reacted to things, understand the triggers and turn negative situations into something much more positive. I’ve also cultivated an attitude of gratitude, being aware of what I am grateful for each day. Now, if my skin is patchy and white in places, I can fully appreciate that this actually a part of the healing process. I like to refer to patchy skin as my inner leopard because the contrasting marks actually make me feel stronger and more confident.
Over the years I’ve developed a holistic approach to eczema management and a toolkit to healing which I call my H.O.P.E principles. I want people to know that there is hope. I understand how eczema can affect all areas of people’s lives, leaving those with the condition feeling isolated and withdrawn.
A BRIEF INTRO TO MY H.O.P.E PRINCIPALS
Make your environment healthier by decluttering (physically and mentally), getting enough sleep and practising mindful meditation.
You didn’t choose to have eczema, but you can choose how you respond to it. Focus on the positives, reframe the negatives, create a support network, and use affirmations and gratitude lists.
Find meaning by doing what you love, from work to family life. P is also for pampering, treating yourself daily with ingredients that don’t aggravate your skin.
4) EATING WELL, EXERCISE AND ECOTHERAPY
A balanced diet plus daily exercise reduces inflammation and boosts mood and immunity. I’m a huge advocate for spending time outside in the great outdoors to help boost body and mind.
Applying the Principles wherever I am and whatever the situation, has given me the freedom to put any summer body worries aside. I’ve embraced my uniqueness and want to share the knowledge with others that all bodies can be healthy and beautiful. Eczema will always be a part of my journey through life but it doesn’t define me.