i was taking a shower one night and a distant piece of memory hit me suddenly.
(TMI: i’m still showering in the dark, not because i don’t wanna see my skin but because i’m so used to that. i actually LIKE IT!)
it was me lying to my supervisor for being late.
“i’m sorry, but i had a diarrhea this morning..”
“sorry for being late again, my feet is oozing and it took me some time to deal with it.”
“i had diarrhea again.”
some of you have wondered how i toggled steroid withdrawal and school/work at the same time.
some of you even praised me for being able to still go to school during TSW.
honestly speaking, i feel undeserving and ashamed when you all tell me how strong i am to still attend school, truth is, i didn’t attend as much school as you thought – i’m not as strong actually!
here’s how i did it, i’m NOT proud of it (at least for the parts when my skin was still horribly bad), and i do not encourage you to do the same.
========== WORK ==========
1. tough it out half halfheartedly by reporting to work late
let’s rewind to april 2011.
that was the first month that i stopped steroids, but the symptoms already begun in mid march.
by april, my face was swollen but the flaking wasn’t that bad yet.
i always thought that i had an allergic reaction to the antibiotics i was taking at that time.
by mid april my skin was turning redder each day, it wasn’t before long that my body was covered in red and dry skin.
do you know what else was going on in april 2011?
i was serving my industrial attachment.
it’s part of my school curriculum, it’s akin to an internship, but for my faculty they call it the industrial attachment (since i’m from engineering, you know, engineering and industries, whereas for arts and business they call it internship..?).
what this means is that i can’t skip out on it.
so i forced myself to go to work, but there are days when i feel that my skin is absolutely horrible,
i find all sorts of excuses just so that i can stay home.
(disclaimer: my skin wasn’t as bad in the early days, but you have to understand that my point of reference was normal skin, and anything lesser than that is bad in my opinion back then, especially when i’ve never seen my skin that bad before. what an eye opener!)
as for me being late for work……
i know it’s a bad trait to have, and i know it’ll reflect badly of my character..
the thing is, i know i’ll be late, but i just had so much inertia to step out of the house.
you probably know how much courage i have to muster up to get my ass out that door.
may 2011. skin really don’t look that bad now that i know what the monster looks like.
my swollen eyeslid look so funny.. HAHAHA don’t i look like i just had eye lid surgery?
this is part of the reason why i also “put on” on censor bar shades..
on top of keeping my identity, i really just didn’t want anyone to see my eyes like that. =_= (i looked exactly like this emoticon)
self conscious everytime😛
i really didn’t want to go to work,
i don’t want to leave house,
i don’t want people to see me.
as a result, i’m late for work very often.
i would say that i’m late deliberately. just because i didn’t want to leave house.
every second that i can stay at home counts all of a sudden.
i ran out of excuses to be late quickly,
just how many “nature’s call” can i have!?
2. steal time from work whenever possible
honestly, the only thing that’s constantly on my mind when i’m at work is “I WANNA GO HOME”.
next thing on my mind is “i don’t want anyone to see me”.
i can’t accomplish my #1 wish, i can only fulfill the next one by disappearing from my seat, many times a day.
where was i?
i’m either on my way to the toilet (because i had to drink so much warm water to keep myself warm thanks to the temperature dysregulation),
or i’m dusting myself in the toilet because my ninja pants (i’ll show you guys my most worn pants in future entries!) have collected HEAPS of skin that has fallen off my legs,
or i’m sitting outside the office trying to thaw myself (again, it’s the temperature dysregulation) in the sun,
or i’m hiding in the stairwell sobbing to myself (that was my favourite place to be in because there’s no one there at all. complete privacy!).
oh, sometimes i take walks outside my office when i’m itching.
june 2011. skin flakes all over my face.
3. working from home whenever i can
i told my supervisor about TSW and told him what to expect hoping he can understand and be more lenient towards me.
i also told him i will itch terribly at times, my skin will crack and my feet will ooze.
thankfully he’s SUPER understanding. he accommodated to most of my needs throughout my attachment!
he allowed me to work from home whenever possible.
i’m so glad that my supervisors (my supervisor and his superior) are so understanding.
4. pack up and go home at 5pm sharp despite reporting late for work
the happiest event in my life back in those days,
because i finally get to fulfill wish #1.
probably the only thing that powered me through the day, the thought that i can go home.
========== END OF WORK ==========
when attachment ended in june, i had a 1 month holiday in july.
school starts in august 2011.
========== SEMESTER 7 ==========
1. tough it out, until i can’t
i guess you already know what happened from august 2011 onward..
my 2nd flare hit me hard.
i have 3 school days a week, i managed to go to school constantly for the first 2 months..
even when i did go to school, i’ll be facing the floor ALL THE TIME.
and i’m walking ever so slowly because my ankles were cracking up and oozing the golden-yellow fluid (does the addition of “golden-yellow” make the ooze sound better? hahaha).
couldn’t wear my nikes because the tongue kept rubbing against my ankles,
survived on my converse, cotton pad and tissue paper to soak that golden stuff up.
august 2011. i remember i can’t really laugh because those wounds near my mouth would crack open.
i went from moderately noisy to extremely quiet in class,
trying my best to be invisible.
even when i’m around my friends, i’m noticeably quieter than i used to be.
juliana finally shuts up for once in her life. hahahaha!
you might have guessed it, i’m late for school EVERY TIME (except for lab, because i don’t wanna delay my team).
my school mates don’t really dare to ask me about my red face.
they did ask if i got a sun burn..
september 2011. the sun burn.
depending on the situation, i’ll generate different replies.
here’s a logic map of my brain.
Q1) are you close with this person?
yes -> i wish it’s a sunburn.. but it’s actually (insert the TSW story). -end here-
no -> go to question 2.
Q2) is this the last time you’ll see this person?
yes -> yes it’s a sunburn. -end here-
no -> go to question 3.
Q3) will you be seeing this person frequently?
no -> yes it’s a sunburn. -end here-
yes -> go to question 4.
Q4) is it necessary for them to understand my condition?
no -> yes it’s a sunburn. -end here-
yes -> i wish it’s a sunburn, but it’s like a skin allergy. -end here-
the very last answer will depend on how important it is for them to know about TSW.
for example, it’s pointless telling my lab partners about my condition because.. why would they care?
however, it was instrumental for me to let my final year project mentor and professor know about TSW because i know TSW will affect my performance and i need their understanding if i am not performing up to their standards.
they’re gonna grade me at the end of the day, i don’t want to let my skin affect my grades!!!
2. self-declared 1 day week (read: SKIP SCHOOL)
in october, my skin turned so bad (my face was covered with the whitish/yellowish skin flakes) i really couldn’t bring myself to leave house.
october 2011. i go to school because i would love to scare people.
if i could i would have skipped ALL days of school,
but monday was lab day for me and it’s done in a group.
it’s unfair for my team mates if i were to go missing, transferring the burden to them, plus i really need to be there in order to do my part of the report right.
and so i was in school on monday only.
for my other classes that i skipped, i was lucky to have friends to help me take notes and convey them to me via email and text.
i was studying on my own most of the time when i can concentrate.
i really don’t recommend schooling in the midst of TSW..
1. i can’t concentrate
2. i lose motivation to study, why am i still studying when i’m struggling so hard to feel comfortable in my own skin? HELLOOOO!?!?!?!? shouldn’t i be trying to make myself more comfortable first?
3. i can’t sleep at night, i can’t focus in the day, I FAILED MY TEST BECAUSE I WAS HALF AWAKE DURING MY TEST.
4. stress is bad for the skin.
5. being seen is the last thing i want.
6. i can’t voice up in class because i don’t want people’s attention -> no class participation points.
7. depression makes everything so much more worse. studying is at the bottom of my priority list.
by november my face was in a total mess.
not only do i go to school with my face facing the ground at all times,
i let my hair down so that it can cover my face..
I LOOKED LIKE SADAKO (you know that girl from “the ring”? except i’m not crawling out from the tv. i’m just lurking around the corner.).
this is how i think others saw me in school.
managed to make it through the semester somehow.
my grades didn’t do as well as i expected myself to.
the module which i could have gotten an A- was graded B because i failed that 2nd test.
it was such a pity because i did so well for my first test, but my second test pulled down my grades so much.
the other module scored better than my expectations.
as i failed two of the test, i expected myself to get a C but i got a B- instead.
not too bad.
you may argue that i’ve balanced out expectations out, since the middle ground of A- and C is either a B or B-.
but the truth is these 2 modules are supposedly modules that i could have scored well if i wasn’t bothered by my skin, at least B+ for both.
(yada yada yada i can go on and on about how much importance i put on my grades, but it don’t matter now anymore because it’s all in the past! plus none of my employers actually look at my grades for specific modules. it’s just a matter of not performing up to my own standards.)
and my final year project..?
you’ll find out later😉
the final year project spanned across 2 semester, i will only be graded at the end of the 2nd part of the project.
3. cling onto my friends like a leech
as mentioned above, my friends were pillars of strength for me back in those days,
they gave me a lot of support, super patient with me when i was bugging them with questions about the class because i didn’t attend class.
they also did most part of the group assignments so that i don’t have to do so much🙂
couldn’t have completed the semester alone.
none of my uni gang will actually get to read this by the way,
but i still want to note down how grateful i am to have them in my life,
for bringing in some laughter into my dark days (back then).
even though they can’t understand the extent of my condition, and i don’t expect them to since no one can truly understand unless they’re in it themselves (separate entry on this next time? if i can recall those rants that is.), they tried their best to make me feel comfortable
i’m very blessed.🙂
======== END OF SEMESTER 7 ========
it’s december 2011, my skin was at its worst.
i’ve decided that i can’t continue school like this anymore.
my skin in august was still manageable, but by december, things have deteriorated so many folds.
december 2011. i would really love to make babies cry.
going to school like this? NO THANKS.
the next best option?
========== LEAVE OF ABSENCE ==========
that was my exit, a safety relief valve for my battered mind and body.
till this day, i still think that it was the best decision i’ve made.
i gave the LOA a lot of thought.
on one hand i really want to quickly finish my last semester so that i can have all the time in the world after that for my skin to heal at its own pace.
secondly, there’s a major design project that requires 7 in a group and i want to work on it with my group of friends.
thirdly, i want to graduate together with my friends.
BUT, there’s always the but.
i really can’t handle school and fucking bad skin anymore.
so i chose the easy way out.
LOA from january 2012 – december 2012.
i think i can this part of the TSW for another entry, since it’s irrelevant to the topic of this entry.
i was home every single day, until 10 december 2012, i left house for the first time for a check up in school.
december 2011. first time stepping out in 2012!
the campus doctor need to approve of my returning to school in january 2013,
and she agave me the stamp of approval to return to school.
========== SEMESTER 8 ==========
after an entire year at home, i’m back in school this january.
my skin was still far from healed in january.
but at the very least, all of the bloody wounds have healed.
my skin on my body just had this strange cast, and it’s obviously more swollen and thick than normal skin,
but my face looked pretty normal. THANK GOD!!!
it was perhaps the most important part of my skin that i NEED it to look normal because it’s also the only part that i can’t cover up.
january 2013. at least people won’t be able to tell my skin is not normal!
just a little swollen but who actually notice the little swelling?
(you might be wondering why i call this swollen. i tell my level of swelling by my ability to open my eyes wide. the smaller they open the more swollen i am.)
and i feel that the swelling made me look like i’m underage.
i probably look like the child prodigy who’s studying a degree. HAHAHAHA I WISH.
(check out my neck, look like yours? it will get better, don’t worry!)
since my energies are back, my bloody wounds are gone, my skin no longer cracks and itches uncontrollably,
i can function a lot more like a normal person does (and this makes me very happy and grateful)
i didn’t have to do much to cope with school because i wasn’t feeling uncomfortable anymore.
however, there were still stress from the workload i’m getting.
1. plan ahead of time
i foresee myself being super busy because i have to finish 4 projects this semester,
with most of the deadlines clustered towards the last 2 weeks of the semester.
unprecedented number of projects i’m undertaking at a given time!
i know that if i don’t plan my time properly, i’ll be overloaded with work towards the deadline, and this will stress me out and make my skin itch and potentially slow down my healing since stress makes the body more inflamed.
things i tried to plan ahead:
1. daily schedule
2. study schedule
3. project schedule
gotta say my planning skills improved so much thanks to the motivation make my skin as calm and comfortable as possible. hahaha!
i pack my bag and notes the night before school so that i wouldn’t have to rush in the morning, because rushing leads to perspiring.
i leave house earlier than usual so that i can stroll to the bus stop instead of chasing after that bus, which means i can also stroll to class instead of brisk walking because i’m late.
i get my lunch before i go to class so that i don’t have to queue up in the stuffy canteen during lunch hour (avoiding the heat and sweat).
i wake up 3 hours before i need to go to school so that i can shower, moisturize, and cool down comfortably before going to school in flexible skin.
to make sure i’m following my study schedule, i actually have this little list of daily tasks that i need to complete.
i named that file “mini milestones”.
i just love striking things out i suppose🙂
my mini milestones!
tried to spice things up with fancy fonts and colours.
as for project schedule, because it’s a group project, the only thing i can do other than completing my part on time is to push others to follow the deadlines i’ve set.
yea, i was in charge because i’m desperate to adhere to my schedule while all the rest are so laid back.
(side track, i finished my final individual report several days before the deadline and had a relaxing weekend before report submission while they scrambled through the last few day and nights before the deadline. I’M PROUD OF MYSELF!)
which in turn gave me a chance to direct, something i’ve never done before because my capable friend will always be in charge.
i went from being the follower to becoming the influencer, and i actually liked it!
(note: i didn’t use the word leader because i’m not the leader. i don’t pull, i push.)
i guess the loss of control in TSW made me desire control much more than before. within my own limits of course.
despite the glory picture i just painted above, there is obviously the other side to the story of success.
there was the horror of stressing myself out early on in the semester because i was so eager to schedule all the unknowns.
i didn’t know what the project demanded of me, so i can’t really plan ahead..
but i know i need to or else i’d be screwed when all the project come together.
talk about avoiding stress.. i actually stressed myself out in the first 2 weeks of school.
after that i’m fine though! maybe it’s just a matter of time before i
1) get used to school.
2) get more information on the scope of the projects so that i can start planning.
never in my life did i expect myself to cry over school work.
HAHAHAHAHA YEA GO ON AND LAUGH AT ME, it’s fine because i’m laughing at myself too.
i’m imagining myself back then: frustrated and helpless, tears just rolled down my eyes as i stared at the heaps of textbooks that i’ve just read multiple times but can’t make any sense of. feeling completely lost in my project that accounts for 10 modular credits (mind you, 10MC is a life and death situation for my poor grades).
what a lame reason to cry.
2. covered myself up as much as possible
i would have worn a burqa to cover my face (like the saudi arabians),
but i didn’t because i was perspiring too much and that would make me uncomfortable.
back then in 2011 i couldn’t sweat and was feeling cold ALL THE TIME,
it’s a different story in 2013.
may i present to you, the revenge of the sweat glands!
never have i perspired so much in my entire life. they just sprang to life as my skin healed.
these days i perspire at the slightest temperature increment.
and i had to wear long sleeves to cover everything up, i also zip my jacket up all the way to my neck so that my neck is covered as well.
i try my best to wear loose fitting clothes that’s made of cotton (or any other fabric that is well ventilated, doesn’t irritate my skin, absorbs sweat).
january 2013. black and grey can make me invisible in school.
i will zip up my jacket all the way up to the neck when i’m outside though.
this was in january when my neck and upper chest was still pretty red.
later on i stopped covering my neck.
i always have a pack of good quality tissue paper in my bag,
those that don’t break up into a million pieces and get stuck on your face.
extremely important in dealing with my raging sweat glands.
probably my favourite import from HK other than the food.
asked my granny to buy this for me and my dad to bring it over to singapore for me.
my granny almost bought an entire carton, i laughed so hard when i saw the sheer amount of tissue paper my dad brought back.. HAHAHAH SERIOUSLY!?
a suitcase full of tissue paper? hahahahhahahaha!!!
========== END OF SEMESTER 8 ==========
and this is where i insert my conclusion.
recall i mentioned that taking the LOA was the best decision i’ve ever made,
not only did it give me a one year break to recover from the worst flare,
it gave me enough time to reassess my thoughts on school that i had for the past 7 semester.
i returned to school as a brand new person,
enjoying every class in a way that i never did before,
grateful for being able to sit in class without itching much,
participating in class more than i ever did in the past 3.5 years,
being in charge of projects instead of following orders blindly.
i’ve taken school for granted for as long as i remember.
it’s a chore to go to school, to attend class, to sit through boring lectures.
i never ever take the time to appreciate the small little things until they were snatched away from me forcefully.
instead of thinking that i’ve wasted 4 years of my time on school,
i can now say i’ve had 1 good semester in my uni life,
the 1 semester that negated all the bad feelings that were linked to school previously.
remember in one of the RSS entries i mentioned that i never expected TSW to teach me so much?
all the changes i saw in my last semester in school are just a tiny part of what TSW did to me.
as for my final year project grade,
my professor gave me a B+.
i expected a B- or B because of the mediocre report and work that i’ve submitted.
GEEZ, it was so bad, i feel ashamed when i see my professor during class.
a B+ is actually above my expectation!!!
till this day i still don’t think i deserve that grade.
the same professor also gave me an A+ for a module that i was reading in semester 8.
a freaking A+, my first and my last.
he told me it was because my group report was well put together and that i was very active in class.
i’m extremely happy with myself because i was the one who decided on the layout and presentation of our design in the written report. the fact that my professor liked it does wonder to my confidence.
things i couldn’t have accomplished if i was still having bad skin.
at the end of the day, it’s not the grades that mattered the most.
it’s about meeting my own expectations, or performing even better than what i expected.
the sense of satisfaction i got from being recognized by my professor made me feel even better about myself.
so this is a story of how TSW impacted my school life,
how it changed me into a happier, more driven, and well-organized person.
(i’m having second thoughts about being more well organized, somehow it can be explained as a worsening of my OCD)
don’t forget this is how i look like right now.
i’m going to flash you with the flash pen from MIB.
you shall forget how i look like in the photos above.
stay strong and good luck, fellow skin warriors!
p.s. word count at 4126, DAMNNNNN!!!
p.p.s do you all prefer long ass entries like this or short updates like the RSS entries? let me know!