Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Eczema - A working title in Identity and personal growth.

Hi. (The best pieces of literature always start with "Hi") At times this story may seem irrelevant or pointless, please stay with me if this is something which you have struggled with, I will eventually get it back on track ( Ish ) and hopefully may be able to help you not only notice similarities, but perhaps learn to read the psychological signs which your behaviour is screaming out to you. My name is Martin and I'm almost 33 years old. For 17 years, I suffered with Eczema, allergies and a some severely bizarre anxieties about the way I looked and the way people perceived me. At times it was unbearable and at times I learnt to cope with it. But having been in your place, I realise coping is not cutting it for you any more and quite frankly, I don't blame you. I am writing this simply for the off chance that somebody out who is going through something similar to what I've been through, can be helped by my journey. Chances are, if you're still reading this by now, you have. I remember what it feels like to be you, getting hopeful every time you see a different specialist or hear about a different cure that this, THIS, will finally be the one that cures you. Hang tight, you will get there, if you focus on the right things and pay attention to what your body is trying to tell you. When I was 15 years old I looked about 37. That's not an exaggeration, I looked old. I had a really thin face and was extremely skinny. My diet was pretty shit and I ate a whole lot of processed food, began drinking regularly at the age of 15 and despite a very active life, playing basketball about 8 hours a day, was not the healthiest of people. The years from 15-21 are often the best years of people's lives, not so much for me. I used to get terrible dry skin, I would scratch, particularly my face and neck and it would feel like my blood was boiling from the anxiety and stress. What made it worse, without a doubt, was the obsessive nature of checking my appearance every 5 minutes to the point where I was scared to look in the mirror. I felt like my mind did not match my body. In terms of sense of humour I've always been ahead of most people my age. Thanks to watching sitcoms from a very early age, my sense of humour developed fast, unfortunately, because of the way I perceived myself physically, my confidence could not overcome a lot of social situations. Despite this, I was still a very popular guy in school and ever since then and the reason is something which you should eventually realise over time. This is the first piece of real wisdom I am going to give you.
It's not that nobody cares, but technically, yes, nobody cares about your anxieties and bad skin. Nobody notices. do you know why? Because people are too busy worrying about their own problems to notice yours. You are standing there in a pub thinking 'I look awful, I need to go to the bathroom to make myself look like me' Meanwhile, the good friend opposite you who has known you for years and loves you for who you are as a person, is too busy worrying about their own shit, to even begin noticing yours. And even if they do, what's the worst that can happen? You have to realise, the denial that you really are this person that looks a certain way is the cause of 90% of your problems. Accepting who you are and learning to love this is the quickest way to beat an ongoing issue like this. I realise of course, this is easier said that done though.
Now this denial that you have these issues can cause you to split into two people. There's the version of you who looks great and feels great. You have confidence, like the way you look and reflect that into the world. Then there's the version of you which you are not happy with. You blame yourself and get angry for looking a certain way and go to great lengths to hide it, deny it and prevent others from seeing it. See, this was my major problem, even at my very worst, my health would fluctuate massively. When I looked good, I felt great and wanted to see everybody, but usually, your social calender would overlap with a bad period and you would end up going to certain events feeling extremely unhappy. It's life's sarcasm to test us in this way and it will always happen. You will look your best at 3am on a Wednesday morning when nobody is around to see it and then, when you have something important to go to, you will start to deteriorate. This is not a coincidence. Life is a bitch. If you step outside of your front door step for two seconds when you are looking your absolute worst, there is about a 99% chance the girl who got away, the one you've been in love with for years will walk past your house at that exact moment. It's just life being fun. Just laugh, it's all you can do really. So anyway, During this period of 15-22 I had good times and bad but to be honest, it was something I learned to cope with. The fact that I worked in a pub when smoking was still allowed did not help. Working in the pub all day or nightclubs when I was younger, I would come home, make my face, arms, legs and chest bleed, like literally put holes in them, and then get up the next day and put myself back together again. I remember being so depressed once, I said to somebody "If I could be guaranteed the health of a normal person, I would happily work every day for the rest of my life" - Thank FUCK I didn't make that deal. I used to use hot water, a lot, because it would make the scratching sensation go away. Hot baths, showers, steam would help my eyes and when I used to scratch my hands so much the skin would actually be coming off, I could put my hand under scolding hot water and it would actually feel nice. I enjoyed the safe haven of bed or a blanket and TV. My personality seems to be divided into two people. One guy wants to get out there and party, celebrate, connect with other human beings, make friends. The other guy, is anti-social and does not feel like being around people. He needs to recover and regain some confidence and re-evaluate from recent events. In the back of my mind, at this point, I was starting to notice connections between behaviour, actions, choices and the way I felt.

 At 23 I went into cardiac arrest from an asthma attack and almost died. I had been drinking about 14 days in a row and was not taking my inhalers properly. When I was younger I used to take them twice a day, eventually I got to once a day and the doctor said I might as well come off of them. This, I am convinced, is where it all started to go wrong for me, when I was about 13. I never got back into the habit after that. So yeah, back to the "Almost died incident..." While I was in hospital they gave me a ton of steroids (Prednisolone or Prednisone) and for probably the first time in a VERY long time. I felt and looked great (By my standards anyway!). The way I felt and the way I looked finally matched. My confidence sky-rocketed and I was able to do cope with a lot of more of a social life. After leaving the hospital I told the doctors the hospital had recommended I continue to have some just in case, they believed me and for a couple of years prescribed them to me. In this time, I went and lived in New York, started having more consistency and relationships. I put on weight for the first time in my entire life and this was the most notable factor. I was always incredibly skinny and scrawny and this really helped to make me look healthy. Finally I could let my personality out a lot more and not have to worry about people looking at me in a certain way. I should point out at this point, I was always very popular and had a great amount of friends looking out for me, but weirdly, it doesn't really matter if you have 5 or 500 friends when you're going through this, because the only person who can figure it out and get to the other side is you. After a couple of years, the doctors clocked on and stopped prescribing them for me. I spiralled into illness very quickly and tried more crap which didn't work. Chinese medicine (Why would Chinese medicine work for me? I am not Chinese) but eventually, I started ordering them off of the internet. I got into my 2nd 3 year relationship with a beautiful younger girl who helped to make me feel like I was somebody very special. I am not telling you this to share personal details for the sake of it, but to show you the correlation of what happens in my life and how it correlates with how I feel and how I look. I started doing Stand up comedy which, was like many other things in my life, an up and down thing for me in terms of success. If I felt and looked good (Again, according to me) I would do well, If I felt I didn't "look like me" I would get very defensive and not be able to really connect with people in a likeable way. I became so dependent on these pills. They were my crutch. I didn't take a regular controlled dose, I just took a course of 5 or 6 (5Mg) tablets whenever I needed them, washed them down with alcohol and then went off to continue enjoying life.

But eventually you begin to develop a resistance to steroids. They also have a lot of side effects including Horrendous dry mouth - So bad Mood swings - When you come on and off them roid rage is a real thing - doesn't just apply to weightlifting drugs They destroy your bones and you will bruise easier Moon Face - In my case it actually helped but your face will get rounder and look swollen. Eventually I grew to miss my younger skinnier face! I decided it was time to get off of these drugs and try something else. I saw a specialist who got me to try something else, I forget the name, but it was very powerful. I was told I would notice a difference after a few weeks and after six weeks I would REALLY notice a difference. Oddly, within a day I felt and looked amazing. I was able to go out, drink heavily for two days in a row and feel great. But when it actually got to the six week mark, when it was supposed to really kick in, it actually started causing me problems. I started to scratch my "Special" area! during the night a lot and needed to take cold showers at 4am. Eventually I decided to come off of this and went straight back onto the steroids. The placebo effect is a fascinating concept and I used to joke with my doctor to wait a few weeks until I forget and try it with me, bitch never said yes. I kept holding out for Derren Brown to come and help me but he was too busy walking on water somewhere. Me and girlfriend broke up, I lost my job, I lost the house I was living in and was in a pretty dark place. I also felt like I couldn't ever exist without these pills and if I ever ran out? I would not handle it well. I used to be able to order 500 for £13 from online pharmacies in America. The amount I got through in 8 years is quite scary. So this went on until about 2 years ago when I decided to try Light treatment, this just gave me unbearable prickly heat and didn't really help at all. I went to see my GP who said " We've tried everything. That's it" So yeah. I was pretty happy with that. Very encouraging. I started to travel to Southampton to see another specialist who was confident he could help me. After about a year of travelling back and forth I finally started to get somewhere. I had a test to see how my adrenal glands were functioning after so many years of them not working (When you take more than about 2-3mgs a day, your body stops producing steroids naturally). The test confirmed I did have quite a high degree of compromised functionality. At this time, I decided to make some changes. An amazing friend of mine, who is a personal trainer, got me involved in a exercise regime which would help a lot. I should stress at this point, exercise will not solve your eczema, but it will lead to routine, behaviour and attitude adjustments which will pay dividends for you. At this point, about 9 months ago I made the single greatest discovery which solved 85-90% of my problems.
I know right? 17 years of medical attention, specialist and all kinds of shit and how do I solve a life long problem? I stop using hot water and start taking freezing cold showers every day. I began to wean off my steroids, gradually reducing the amount I was taking from 8mgs a day down to 5mgs and eventually 3mgs. I re-took the test and it showed a massive boost from my glands and they were ALMOST back to normal. I wasn't completely out of the woods and still had my bad days but for the most part, my issues were gone. At this time I left my job and went and travelled America on the train for 6 weeks. Now for somebody who was going through a major physical adjustment, I slept on trains, drank loads, smiled lots and had basically no problems the entire time. Mostly I'd imagine because I was having fun. I continued to wean down and now I am taking .5mgs a day which is absolutely nothing at all. It is just psychological and I plan to stop taking that pointless amount when I run out of this course. I was convinced that once I stopped taking a large amount of steroids my appearance and my confidence would be demolishes, but, if anything, I feel 100% better. My energy is much higher now, steroids make you drowsy and give you brain fog. I also know my body is strong enough to recover from the mistakes I've made and focus on natural ways to improve not only my health, but my overall outlook to life. From the last 17 years I can give you the following advice if this is the sort of thing you struggle with.

 Drink lots of water - Preferably bottled water or use a filter - There will be times when you may not feel like drinking water, this happens from time to time and in my experience, it's perfectly normal. Try and drink some juice and get some variety.

Try cold showers - Ultimately this is what fixed me, it might not work for you, maybe a lot of this is psychological but there are A LOT of benefits from Cold Showers. Give this a read Once you get out of the shower, dry yourself gently and quickly and do not spend ages fussing. If you skin is a little bit dry, relax, go have a drink, get outside in the air and within 5 minutes, if you forget about it, I guarantee it will go away. If you stress about it and stand there fussing, you will make it worse. There's a reason the skin on parts of your body people never see is usually flawless, it's because who gives a shit right!? You don't care how it looks. The face is a vehicle to communication and we care how it looks, but caring too much caused problems. Cold showers leave you feeling invigorated and alive. That feeling that you want to start your day. Hot showers leave you feeling like you just want to get back under the covers. Heat speeds up the ageing process, cold slows it down.

 If you have an obsessive personality and chances are you do, find something healthy to obsess about. Read a book, learn about something new, play a sport, do something which engages your brain and gives you something else to focus on. A lot of people who suffer from this affliction, myself included, often end up with gambling problems for example, simply because they crave distraction. Get some routine - When I was younger I was very organised and then as I got older, I went 18 light years in the opposite direction. The secret is balance but a regime of routine and positive behaviour will have HUGE overlapping benefits to other areas of your life. Avoid processed foods, try and eat fruits and vegetables, but most importantly, If you eat bread, pizza, pasta, chocolate, etc OWN IT. Do not give a fuck. I am convinced a good diet will help, but I have also seen proof that if you are feeling amazing about your life you can pretty much eat whatever the fuck you want and you will still be ok ( Unless you actually have an allergy - not an intolerance - Two VERY different things) Instead of focusing on the way you look, think about your aspirations, your creative side. What is it you want to do with your life? I know it's a cliche and believe me, I have given more sarcastic answers to this question than anybody on this planet, but if you feed this particular side of yourself, magical things begin to happen. I do believe in the words of Rumi that
what you seek is seeking you
If I am honest with myself about the last 10 years of my life, I can tell you that everything I have wanted to happen, has happened in a round about way. If I wanted to meet a certain type of person, I have met them. I wanted a certain type of relationship, I got it. I wanted to be paid off a shit load of money so I could go travelling, 3 weeks later it happened! Most people aren't honest with themselves about what they want and that's why they may disagree with me. But it is often a case of be careful what you wish for because the thing you thought would bring you happiness comes with its setbacks and that is what life experience is all about. Why is this relevant? Because if you focus on these things, things will eventually improve, I promise you. Just over 2 years ago I remember trying to use the methods taught in the book "The healing codes" and getting absolutely nowhere. Why? Because the rest of my life is in tatters. As much as that didn't work for me, I recognise that the method you use to heal yourself isn't the important part, it's the belief that what you are doing is working.

Placebos work for a reason, belief. You have to construct a story based on the timeline of your life, which enables you to make changes. See it like a book or a film and move towards the idea (however vague it may be) in your mind about a version of yourself you would like to be. I've been pretty lucky in my life, I have so many amazing friends and connections all over the world. A large majority of them would never have known this about me unless I told them because I am fine now. But the majority of this issues stems from identity. The blueprint of who you think you should be or who you want to be, does not correspond with the person you are. All this means is, you needs to create a new blue print. Anthony Robbins talks about this actually and makes a lot of sense. I just read a bizarre article about a woman who killed herself because she thought her blonde hair was going ginger, bit extreme I know But I could actually understand the frustration she was feeling, she had created an impossible idea of herself which reality wouldn't reflect for her. It's not a vanity thing, it's a control thing. Merge who you feel like into what you look like and the rest is a piece off piss my friends... Well, I am tired and have written this in 1 1/2 plays of The Marshall Mathers LP2 so It is time to get up and start my day (At 2:40pm) Even if this helps one person to put their own life in perspective and notice a pattern or behaviour, I will feel glad I wrote it. Peace.


  1. hi! thankyou i love this article im 17 and i have eczema since a child. thankyou again you give me hope and i love love your advice :)

  2. Hey, you're very welcome, I really hope it helps. Everybody is different,you just have to notice the patterns of your own behaviour ;)