“why me? 1 out of a thousand, ten thousand, hundred thousand.. what are the odds of me ending up with this horrendous eczema that grow into adulthood? didn’t the doctor say i’ll grow out of it after i go through puberty? why am i so unlucky..? why am i the only one who have to live with bad eczema for life..?”
this was what i thought before i know about topical steroid addiction. the doctor did say MOST of the people who have atopic eczema will grow out of it as they turn into adults.
apparently that’s not my case.
and it always puzzles me – i see a lot of patients visiting the skin centre, but i’ve never seen as many people who actually have bad eczema on the streets. nor in the school. the incidence rate is roughly 1 in 16000 (i got this number from a very unscientific statistical estimation, i’ve only seen 1 guy with particular bad skin through my 4 years in college, assuming there are 400 students per module, and i take 5 modules per semester, and there are 2 semesters per year).
for a moment, i felt special.. in a bad way.
i guess i’m just one of the outlier cases that can’t be described by the norm.
that feeling amplified after i got into withdrawals.
the probability of me seeing someone bright red and flaky like me on the streets is close to 0.
that further adds on to the thinking that i’m probably the only one who’s really lucky to have struck the topical steroid lottery, where the jackpot is 2 years worth of peeling, discomfort, depression, and a slew of torture that i’ve never thought existed on earth.
of course, i later found out that i’m not the only one.
but this still doesn’t answer my question.
if there are people on ITSAN who’re going through the same shit as me, why haven’t i seen any in real life yet?
am i really just more prone to be addicted to steroids?
am i really that fish that has escaped through that safety net?
am i.. alone?
years later, i think i’ve finally found the answer.
1. it’s not that others do not have skin problems. they simply managed to hide them well.
i think i hid my quite well with clothes in the past. i love wearing jeans because they covered up my legs. i love wearing a shirt over my sleeveless tops not because i’m trying to protect my modesty, but mainly to cover certain rashes that were on my upper arm. i love wearing black tights underneath my shorts not just for that style factor, but mainly to cover myself up. it’s all about hiding the less desirable parts and showing those that looked normal to give others the illusion that i’m normal. and what i did to others, others did to me too. it’s all an illusion. of course, i only managed to hide them for that long before things went out of control.
2. people with very bad eczema will most likely choose to shy away from the public.
that’s why i don’t see them in public places! it doesn’t mean that they don’t exist. they are just hidden away from plain sight. i caught myself doing this in the past, but i never thought others would do the same. when my eczema flared, i had to cancel an outing with my friends because “my skin flared.”, an absolutely logical and valid reason. i don’t know how my friend took it though, most probably with a “wtf? what kind of reason is that?”.
3. we don’t talk about our “defects” openly.
we hide it, we treat it as though it’s not that. we want others to think that we’re normal. moreover, since when is having a sickness something cool that we talk about over dinner or a cup of coffee?
A: hey guess what! i just had my second rash appear on my arm!
B: oh my god! that’s so cool! let me see it! oh wow, isn’t this magnificent?
says no one ever.
point 1, 2 and 3 adds up to this: we want to be perceived as normal so that we lower the chances of being discriminated against (disclaimer: i know we’re all adults, and adults have the power to control our natural tendencies, but think of kids, they show you what the natural behaviour of humans are like. when they see another kid with obviously different appearance, they’ll kick that kid out of their group and stop playing with him. why? because that’s just natural selection taking place. wild animals abandon their albino calves and leave them to die. i’m not saying that we as adults will abandon our fellow friends who’re sick, in fact, we don’t do that because humans have the ability to empathize and sympathize. animals don’t. what i mean is: everyone will try to satisfy the need to integrate ourselves into the society by not looking/thinking/acting too differently from the norm because it’s embedded deep into our mind, it’s like second nature to us to try to blend in.). normal humans are social creatures (except for sociopaths) who will naturally try to be part of a bigger community and to receive recognition from peers. as such, we will always try to do something to help us towards that goal, and in our context, it’s to cover and hide traces of our rashes which may lead others to think that we’re unhealthy.
4. there are more people using steroids than you can ever imagine.
we don’t go around talking about the tube of steroids that we just finished, nor the strength of the new steroids you just tried. we’re all embarrassed by our skin problem. but i realized once i started to share with others how i need to use steroids, i’ll most probably hear at least one person telling me in return that he or she is using/had used steroids before. you’d be surprised.
the next time you take a walk down the streets, before you start thinking about how everyone else have awesome skin while you are stuck with bad skin, don’t draw your conclusion from what you see in plain sight. for all you know, everything you see may just be maintained by that miracle poison. everything is but a mirage, an illusion.
p.s. i think it’ll be funny to market steroid as “the best kept beauty secret”.
p.p.s. if an anti-inflammatory drug can do such wonders to the skin, i think an anti-inflammatory lifestyle will work just as well.