Patient Blogs | Atopic Dermatitis
To Live in This Body, With the Changes on This Skin
photo of woman wearing earbuds as she walks on bri

Today I’m thinking about birthdays and New Year’s and waking up to yesterday’s loss, a new day’s gain. I’m thinking about my childhood home, my second childhood home, and the third. I’m thinking about plane tickets and movie theater receipts and Polaroid pictures tucked between the back of my phone and its case. Big and small things, or more precisely, big and small changes. 

Fleeting, forever, for sure.

I think the biggest irony of the days changing and the security that no change can bring is that change will always be a constant. I wake up on the “wrong” side of the bed. Who decided it was wrong? Me, because why didn’t I wake up with my body facing to the right, blankets thrown to the opposite side? I poured the “wrong” amount of coffee creamer into my mint tea. Who decided it was wrong? Me, because this ratio is just not doing any favors for my greedy, insistent, stubborn sweet tooth. Wrong versus right. Chance versus circumstances. I’m thinking and thinking and thinking about all the things that have wronged me.

My skin is bitter. The weather is cold, so my skin is dry. My skin is picky. I moisturize with more creams than I can count on one finger. Eczema makes it harder, sometimes. If I were to document time by the state and the feel of my skin fluctuations, then I am in a good month. Who knows, maybe it’ll come to be a good skin year. I’ve had big changes: smoother, less itchy, and forgetful. I like being forgetful about my skin. That means it’s not irritable. My nail beds are clean. I inject my medicine on time. I moisturize evenly and heavily and leave no space to remember when doing so used to hurt.

Now, I think about change and skin. I once read that humans shed such a minuscule metric of skin per day to the point that the entire outer layer could be renewed, lost, or abandoned in 2 to 4 weeks. I’m not even kidding. I rushed to search for answers to clear the air. Take time and effort and distance and thinking -- do you see where I’m going with this? -- and the small change of shedding skin (just tiny, tiny amounts) results in a big change. Waking up to a new layer of skin. Entirely. And yet I have no doubt that people would consider such a big change to be small.

Of course, it would be small. We didn’t even notice.

But I did, when the big and little were scary and concerning. When I was 12, I loathed having light-colored sheets on my bed. I would go to bed and get caught in a fervent case of unconscious itching. The backs of my knees. My inner elbow. The rough skin pulled tight across my feet. It wouldn’t be until I woke up that I would see the massacre of flesh I left behind. It was dried-up skin piled in the roves of the blanket beneath my weight. Evidence beneath my nails. Anxiety beneath my heart.

One thing dealing with eczema taught me is that I have to notice all things. The big and little changes. It could be the details that determine my next prescription, my next report, my next self-evaluation about how it feels to live in this body, with this skin.


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Photo Credit: Inti St Clair via Getty Images

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Bri Shufford

Bri Shufford

Diagnosed since 2013

Brianna Shufford has been living with eczema her whole life. When she isn't studying to be a social strategist at an art school, she’s working for a student media fashion publication. Shufford loves to write and read, especially within the genres of literary fiction and writing. She travels as frequently as she can and is waiting for the day she can drink tea by the window of her cafe-bookstore-gallery-condo in the mountainside.

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