Eczema is a demon. It’s there, perched on your shoulder at all times, always threatening to make an appearance. And this demon doesn’t care about your circumstances, He will appear when you least want him to, red blotchiness appearing all over the surface of your skin just as you arrive at a beach paradise. Eczema doesn’t quit, and as an eczema sufferer I can tell you that traveling with it can be a right bastard.
As a toddler I suffered from eczema, so my mother tells me. I was too young to remember. As a child, as a teenager, as a young adult, I was entirely eczema free. Then, as a twenty-five or twenty-six year old, the demon reared his red and blotchy head yet again. At first, it started out as small patches of dry skin that would hardly bother me. It slowly developed into the occasional red rash that would be fierce but soon enough disappear of its own accord. It was around this time last year that I reached the nadir of my eczema hell. In May 2012, I developed red bumps all over my left shoulder, some of my chest and some of my upper back, as well as right across my lower stomach. Usually my eczema would come and go but this time it persisted- stubborn as a racist grandmother. This time, it stuck around for five months and it’s something that I never wish to repeat again. But that’s out of my control.
The difficult thing about eczema is that the triggers are different for all sufferers and there is no fixed way of curing it. What will soothe an eczema rash for one person will do sweet Fanny Adams for another eczema sufferer. One of my fears about embarking on this trip was the prospect of dealing with another bout of eczema and being able to do very little about it. I got through more than four months of my trip almost entirely eczema free, and then the dreaded eczema demon pounced on me again, making himself known on exactly the same parts of my body as last year. Warning – the following photos are not entirely pleasant. But travel isn’t all palm trees and sunsets. This is how the rash on my stomach was looking a couple of days ago.
Tom of Waegook Tom fame recently penned a great post about dealing with body image issues on the road, and my eczema rashes certainly play into my own. On top of that, it’s also bloody uncomfortable and I find it hard to stop myself running my fingers across the blotches and grossing myself out while also further irritating the rash.
I recently spent a couple of days in Sihanoukville and I wouldn’t go on the beach at all because my eczema looked so bloody gross. Now I’m on Koh Rong, which plays host to probably the most beautiful beach that I have ever seen. It would be ridiculous not to fully enjoy myself here so I just bloody well have to get on with it. Arriving on the island, I found a stall selling coconut oil and I’m taking this as an omen that it will be my miracle cure. Keep your fingers crossed for me and my scabby grossness.
Update: After writing this last night, I spent a morning on the beach. My eczema really hated the saltwater – I was stinging. And I forgot that the areas where I have eczema don’t tan. This is how my neck and upper back looks currently
Do you suffer from eczema? How do you keep it under control?