Love in the time of eczema
It started with a deceptively harmless-looking, pimple-like bump on my left wrist, something wearing a watch could conceal. Environmental factors were first on my list of causes—the earliest sign appeared while I was sharing with my little sister a 3x5 square-meter condo room with suspicious carpeting and air conditioning, sucking in the fumes of Edsa-Boni with my weak lungs and thin skin notwithstanding. The allergies though had been triggered by overnight drinking at a friend’s house (and between cheap vodka and red wine, I fancy being allergic to the first). After a trip with the same group of friends to and fro smog-free Tagaytay, the bump became the size of my watch’s face and was either bleeding or oozing.
A little later, on the wake of our company’s Christmas Party last year, blisters erupted over my arms. The general physicians employed by my healthcare plan provider, aside from misdiagnosing my blistered skin condition as German measles—it was chicken pox—were as clueless on the penny-shaped pigmentation as I was; we were just as clueless that it had spread to my legs. The itch was insufferable, especially when the heat was in full blast at daytime, that my gloating for frenemies was turned into goodwill come Christmas Day. Chronic eczema was something you wouldn’t wish happening to any other human being.
But 17.8 million Americans had been reported to have it. Good news: I was not alone. Bad news: I might itch and scratch until I die. Worse news: This can be passed on to my kids.
In NYTimes.com’s Digging Deeper to Understand Itch, Dr. Gil Yosipovitch, a dermatologist at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., said that my condition is the number one cause of itch. Not only dermatologists but also allergists, internists, and even neuroscientists have delved into the research and resolution of itch because of its prevalence and persistence, i.e. severe itching such as in eczema. An article on the same site affirmed to a degree that my eczema could have been externally caused by environmental irritants, such as carpets or clothes, stress, air pollution, and perhaps climate change as it happens in Manila. But genetics had the greatest chance of screwing me up, and it did so on my once-unadulterated skin.
Maybe I did this to myself. Drowning myself in copious amounts of alcohol in the liquor fountain. Ignoring the bump until whatever brought it up there went berserk underneath me. Not suing my old condo for their bad carpeting—there was a slight chance that I could have taken home a settlement worth a lifetime supply of emollients, topical steroids, and oral sedating antihistamines.
It’s moot to consider the It’s-all-in-your-head mantra. Some actually tapped into the psychology of the case: that itch can be manufactured on an anesthetized arm, and it can be otherwise tamed through hypnosis and similar psychological pain management methods.
I’ll do anything to taper the itch.
Most nights I feel like my nerves are sending off war notes to my brain, coaxing it to fire off the cannon towards me, their abusive big bully. Those nights I feel like injecting myself with morphine or draining blood out of my body. Suicide over civil war. Eczema is more of a trouble than an issue; trouble being an individual’s problem as an issue being society’s.
One day, the girl stricken with this skin condition will marry the love of her life, procreate as it is her and her husband’s duty to society. So much for wishing it never happens to another human being.