Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Loving The Skin I'm In

Please forgive the cheesy title of this post. I can't help it. I love the cheese.

I have a vaguely tumultuous relationship with my skin. Ever since I was little I've had issues with eczema. My mum says that when I was little I looked like I'd been attacked by a cat constantly (which is on top of looking like a mini Ray Winstone. Baby Sophie was hella chunky.) I've had flare ups throughout my life but it was when I was 13 that it got really bad and persisted. My worst places have always been my inner calves, the tops of my thighs (oh hi there thigh insecurity), and my inner elbows. What usually happens with eczema is that for some reason your skin gets really dry and itchy and it's all a bit rubbish and horrible and stuff. My issue was that when I became a teenager, eczema changed from being a physical thing that I had, to a psychological thing that I did. 

Essentially, if I felt any form of negative emotion then I took it out on my skin. So of course, exam time has always been very stressful and always lead to a flare up. Winter would be an issue because layers of scratchy wool would aggravate it, then sweat from layering would cause it to sting. Summer was a source of worry for me because I would spend the months leading up to the warmer weather stressing about how I was going to hide the eczema, and if I would be able to get it under control in time. This isn't to say that I had it constantly. I would actually be able to get it under control for periods of time, but then it would eventually creep back in, and I'd feel even worse for not being more vigilant. 

My biggest struggle has been teaching myself not to react to negative situations by scratching. Whenever I got nervous in social situations, my automatic response would be to start scratching at my arms, which is not only painful but actually extremely noticeable to other people. This was quite a hard habit to break, but I'm very pleased to say I have actually been successful in this! I think I've actually managed to get my unconscious self under control now. It would be particularly annoying to wake up in the morning and find that I'd scratched in my sleep and gotten blood everywhere. But I don't do this any more either and I think I've broken that habit for good which is most pleasing!

At this point I can happily say that right now my skin is the best that it's been for years. I've had the most glorious summer as good skin has meant that I haven't had to worry about covering up and have spent most of my time bare armed and legged, frolicking about the place quite happily! Also means that my skin has actually been able to breathe and heal because it hasn't been stifled underneath layers. Now I won't lie, I do sometimes still scratch. Of course I do. But although I might get little patches of flare up, in general I am doing very well. Since Easter time my skin has been improving bit by bit and I've had friends say to me how noticeably better it all is. Which is quite lovely to hear!

I think I can attribute this change to a number of things. First of all, my positive mental outlook. I've always managed to be pretty positive from day to day but I did used to worry a lot. Everyone has some form of shit that they've been through in their life and I'm no different, and I used to spend a lot of time worrying about stuff that I really couldn't do anything about. Thankfully this isn't something I do any more. I just don't see the point if I'm being honest! If there's nothing I can do then I'm not going to stress myself over it.

The second thing is my focus on body positivity. I don't think I've ever been extremely unhappy with myself, but I definitely don't think I ever appreciated myself enough until now. It wasn't until I started learning about more body positivity stuff (along with generally educating myself on feminism and gender in general) that I really started picking up on the ways in which you've learnt to put yourself and others down. I now go out of my way to encourage people to be happy in their bodies, and am subsequently much happier in mine than I've ever been before. It becomes much harder to indulge eczema when you've fallen in love with the skin that you would be hurting. 

The third thing that's really helped is that I've become a huge fan of moisturisers. Sometime soon I'm going to write up a post all about my favourite moisturisers and what they're good for, which I hope will be helpful to someone! So although I still definitely experience all the physical side of eczema, dry skin etc etc, I really feel like I've managed to disassemble the mental side of it so that I don't take out my worries on my skin. And if I'm reading this in the future having had a bit of a blip, just remember that I can and will get it back under control again. 

On top of this, I pay way more attention to the positive things about my skin which include:

  • Freckles. Or as I like to call them, sun kisses. One of my favourite things about summer coming around is that freckles start to appear on my skin like little sprinklings of sunshine. I get them all along the tops of my shoulders and across the bridge of my nose, and something about them just makes me really smile. They serve as a bit of a visual reminder of all of the fun things that I've been doing out in the sun.
  • Post-shave legs. There's a post on tumblr somewhere that states that freshly shaved legs feel like baby dolphins, and it's just one of my favourite similes and I use it all the time. I'm all for deciding for yourself whether or not to shave and I have genuinely put a lot of thought into my own attitude towards shaving, but I really like having shaved legs. When I was about 13 or 14 the eczema on my inner calves was so so awful and painful. I really like the fact that I don't have to think about whether or not shaving is going to hurt me or just be a generally bad idea. The fact that I can now touch my leg and feel how soft it is just makes me inordinately happy because it's like another shred of proof that I've got this thing under control. Plus y'know, baby dolphin smoothness.
I'm sure there's a whole bunch more things I could mention, but that's it for now. This has been quite a nice post to write really, it makes me feel better about myself. 



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