Living with any kind of illness, whether physical or mental, mild or chronic, can have all kinds of impacts on your life. For me it is Eczema, and it has had a significant impact on both my career and my lifestyle.
I have lived with both mild to chronic Eczema all my life. The most common areas of my eczema are around my mouth and on my hands, which is very inconvenient. It has had a huge impact on my ability to do my job both at work and as a mother.
I have worked in the healthcare field for about 10 years, in many different areas and specialties. As the main office medical receptionist, where you would check patients in and out, answer incoming calls from patients, pharmacies, and health insurance. To work in the administrative office as a medical nursing assistant, taking care of tasks such as taking the vital signs of the patients, obtaining their samples and processing the authorizations so that their health insurance approves their medications.
When my eczema condition is moderate, trying to focus on the task at hand is a struggle. In the healthcare field, you need to constantly wash your hands and talk to not only patients, but also doctors, co-workers, superiors, and incoming calls. It can be mentally and physically exhausting, especially when you have a flare-up and can’t really hold a pen or write like you normally would because you have open sores that ooze and itch.
Difficulty speaking because every word that comes out of your mouth is another cut made around it. I can’t take sick days because money is needed to support me and my children. There was a time when my eczema became chronic and when that happened I had to apply for FLMA. Family medical leave. The reason I had to do this was not just because of my eczema, but because my eczema had caused my depression to return, and worse. It was
diagnosed with major depressive disorder after experiencing a negative reaction to a biologic medication that was thought to be the answer to help control my eczema. When this happened, my youngest was only 2-3 years old and my oldest was 7-8 years old. My oldest daughter not only had to watch her mother suffer from her, but she also had to take my place and help take care of her little sister.
The reaction I suffered had such a negative impact on my health that I couldn’t even bear to carry my children. The pain I endured internally had a huge physical impact on my ability to wash myself, prepare meals for them, or even hold them.
There were days I couldn’t focus on homework at work. Days where I couldn’t move my hands or even my neck to get the job done. Days where I asked to get off work because I just couldn’t get out of bed. During those days I tried to be as gentle as I could to myself and did the best I could to continue being a mom. Because for me the most important job is to be their mother and show them that mom is going to be okay. To show them that mommy will work for them.
There was one day at work when my supervisor asked me if I was okay and why I couldn’t keep up with my job. He tried to show some empathy by comparing his teenage son’s eczema to my chronic eczema. To be honest, that was the worst thing anyone could do to me. Comparing a teenager to an adult woman who is a mother was not a way to show empathy.
Your son was not living my life. His son was not a father to my children. His son did not have to financially maintain a home. His son did not have the same responsibilities as me. Now he may have overreacted, but I also felt like he was finally taking a stand for myself and my well-being. Little did I know it was going to cost me my job.
Even though I had FMLA to cover me for the days I was absent or even late, HR fired me for non-attendance and tardiness, they say. But I know why they let me go.
When I finally broke free from that workplace, I felt a sense of peace wash over me. I felt like I could finally live my truth and begin the real healing process for my chronic eczema. I was so stressed, so overwhelmed, and so depressed with the rules they had in place not only for my job but for the work environment in general. I started a new journey to find out who I am truly meant to be.
Since then, I have taken control of the type of work environment I want to be in and who I want to be. I have studied health coaching and have used tools to improve both mentally and physically. I have also used the tools to improve as a mother of my children. In healing myself, I have made it a priority to ensure that the well-being of my children is also in the process. I have shown them how to meditate, keep a journal, improve their eating habits, and also advocate for themselves. To set limits on what they will and will not accept.
During my chronic eczema healing journey, I knew I wanted to share my story.
To share everything that I have lived and experienced because I knew that I was not alone. I started blogging and posting photos of my trip on social media in hopes of raising awareness about eczema. To show how deeply it can affect a person’s life in general.
In that process I came across an organization called NEA. National Eczema Awareness and when I found them I learned that I can advocate for our community with them. I never thought that the negative impact my eczema had on me would turn into such a powerful and positive impact on others. Now I am not just an eczema advocate, I am an ambassador for the organization and making an impact so that our community has a better appreciation of how we are treated in this world. My oldest daughter has also been able to participate in the eczema advocacy and for me that is the most wonderful thing to witness.
She used her experience with me to help others around her better understand eczema for others. She advocates for students who have eczema and helps teachers understand that it’s much more than just a rash. That eczema is more than skin deep and have compassion for those living with this condition.