Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Caring For The Skin You're In #OneTwoFreeYourSkin

For as long as I can remember, I have felt at war with my skin. I have had eczema since I was a child, and I have spent years trying to cure myself of it to no avail. I remember taking baths in oat meal, using creams that dyed my skin yellow, the constant itch, being swathed in wet bandages, with dry ones over the top to soothe me, and even sleeping in cotton gloves that my Mum would tape to me so I couldn't claw my skin in my sleep. I remember clinging to what the doctors told me, that most people grow out of eczema in their teenage years, hoping so badly that I would be one of those people.

Thankfully these days my eczema is under a lot more control, but it has never gone away. I always have at least a patch somewhere on my body that needs attention. The places I tend to have it now are the tops of my feet, my scalp, and the backs of my knees. My feet are the really problematic area, and also the hardest to treat.

I moisturise any problem areas twice a day, I take extra care to make sure my tattoos are thoroughly moisturised as I don't want any damage to that caused by my eczema. Whenever possible I allow my skin to breathe; this means wearing sandals and having bare legs. Fabric can irritate my skin, and feet get warm in shoes, so whenever I can, I let them be free! Eczema on feet in particular is prone to infection, simply because of the area it is on. I've had more infections in the eczema on my feet that I care to count, so letting the skin breathe is key.

I also try to be aware of my desire to scratch my skin. Of course sometimes I absentmindedly itch, and occasionally I will admit that I just can't control myself and I have to scratch, but I really try my best not to. I keep my nails tidy, and if my skin is worse, I keep my nails short too. It sounds bizarre, but I'm prone to itching my feet with my toe nails in my sleep, so keeping toe nails short and tidy is key too, or else I can wake up with incredibly raw skin that I've scratched till it bled.

I also avoid tights, wool, and other fabrics that might be itchy, avoid socks as much as possible, and always remove my shoes and socks when I get home. For my feet, the other thing that also really exacerbates my condition is heating in cars, so I never use the foot warming aspect of the heating. My husband has the same problem in the winter too, so as tempting as toasty feet are, it's one to avoid for us.

For my scalp, I never really found any products worked for both my scalp and my hair. Anything that helped clear my scalp destroyed the condition of my hair, and anything that was fine for me hair, didn't improve my scalp or made it worse. That is until I discovered the Curly Girl Method. A few people online mentioned it helping their scalp condition and I didn't really expect much difference, but to my surprise, it not only improved my scalp, but my eczema has completely gone from my scalp, as has any residual dry skin I usually experienced in 'better' skin days. I think it's a combination of the scalp cleansing, and ensuring I use products that don't contain any sulphates, parabens and drying alcohols. Since I stopped using shampoo my scalp has been free and clear and so much happier! Even if you don't have curly hair, if you do have issues with your scalp, I recommend giving the method a go to see if it helps you.

I always get flares up in times of stress, but I know these will always come in peaks and troughs, so I try not to worry about them too much, and just keep an extra close eye on those areas that are prone to infections.

These days I know my skin isn't magically going to get better, but I do know that I can control it and make my life a lot more comfortable than it was as a child. No more cotton gloves and swathes of bandages, instead just regular care and attention, and trying not to bloody itch!

Much love,
Kitty xxx

This blog post is an entry into an Epaderm competition.

Monday, 17 September 2018

Sometimes it's all about the little things

I have anxiety. I've had it for years, and thanks to CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) it's mostly under control and doesn't impact too much upon my life. However when life gets stressful or sad, my anxiety tends to rear it's ugly head, and right now, it's affecting me.

I recently tried to attend a local festival and lasted about 10 minutes before I had to leave. The crowd and the noise was overwhelming for me, and rather than try to fight through it, the best thing for me to do was remove myself from the situation. I went home to my dog and my cats, put on some movies and my Momma came to visit me. I felt a lot better for being out of the situation causing my anxiety. I've been going out less lately, and finding comfort in familiar places and people.

One of the things CBT aims to help you with is how to assess what is making you feel anxious, why it is making you feel anxious, and to identify the reality of the situation. So usually for me this means looking at the large crowd or new location, trying to understand why it is making me anxious, and then to push myself to see why that isn't actually an issue. It breaks down a larger issue into smaller ones to make them more manageable small parts, so I can break the cycle of my anxiety.

I'm normally pretty good at this, but when I am struggling more than usual, like I am right now, the other thing I do is focus on the little things. I look at the little things in my life that comfort me, that make me happy. I keep an eye out for rainbows, I listen to my cat's purring, I take the dog for a gentle walk, I play Pokemon Go, I window shop, I curl up with my husband and watch a TV show we love. The little things help take my focus off what is getting to me so I can enjoy life. 

Frivolous little things are sometimes just what you need. It's OK to not be OK and just need time away, or time spent doing things others might consider to be a waste of time. Sometimes those are the things that get you through when times are harder. It's OK to slow life down and just do the little things that make you smile. I know that my anxiety is something I can manage because of my previous time with a therapist and with CBT (which I highly recommend), so right now while I am struggling and needing comfort, the little things are what get me through.

Much love,
Kitty xx

ps. That beautiful double rainbow appeared the week after my Grandfather's death, and seeing it felt like a little sign from the universe to look for beauty around me. The cute kitty is our little old lady Patches, who is somewhere between 14 and 18 and is a real cuddle bug who loves to ask for kisses on her forehead.