People sometimes assume that because I have eight years of sobriety under my belt, and have been very public about my recovery journey, that I’ve sorted out all my problems. No. No one has. Everyone is a work in progress, always. Issues surface at various chapters in life, heightened or quelled by exterior forces, some that we can control, and others we can’t. Today I want to explore my chronic skin issues as they relate to my mental health.
For the first twenty-six years of my life, I had pretty flawless skin. A smattering of pimples at times, but nothing out of the ordinary, nothing that had any impact on whether my day was going to be good or not. At around age twenty-seven, in the months leading up to my wedding, I developed what most dermatologists believed to be eczema on my face.
As someone whose grown up with asthma, allergies and eczema since the age of three, this wasn’t a surprise, but it sure impacted me more than an itch behind the knee. I’m sort of embarrassed to say, but TWELVE YEARS LATER, I’m still dealing with this plight. The days when it’s barely there are when you likely see me. But sometimes I find it to be so debilitating that it can keep me from socializing. I know there are worse problems to have, and I often tell myself that, but I’m also so over the discomfort and annoyance of it all. So in a desperate move, I’m giving hypnotherapy a shot.
You might be asking, “Why not change your diet? Or go see a new dermatologist?” After fiddling with my life for a dozen years, and speaking with various experts (even being sent for weekly ultraviolet light therapy treatments at Toronto Western Hospital, where I stood naked in a shower-like container wearing goggles), I have concluded that my skin issues are anxiety-induced. It doesn’t matter whether I go vegan and only use Cerave; my skin can still turn within minutes. (Sometimes we know our bodies better than medical professionals. Finally, as I approach my fortieth year, I’m learning how to better trust my instincts.)
I know that my skin is easily irritated by outside forces—skin creams, allergens, seasonal weather changes, extreme temperatures (sensitive soul, inside and out!)—but it is my mind that will exacerbate a small discomfort, scratching and scratching until I have drawn blood. Honestly, this is probably the element of myself that I’m most self-conscious about, but similar to writing about my alcohol use disorder and stress related to motherhood, I think getting this issue out of my head, onto my laptop, and out in the open will help me.
There’s a lot I do now to combat my anxiety (e.g., immerse myself in nature, meet with a women’s support group, regularly pause for deep breaths, write lists, meditate, go for walks), but hypnotherapy is another thing I’m trying in order to flip the mental script, the one that can take a morning from 1 (calm) to 10.5 (very anxious and self-harming) in a matter of minutes.
What this looks like is me waking up, feeling okay but a little itchy. After fumbling with my contact lenses, I’ll put cream on my skin to relieve the itch, followed by the frantic rubbing of my skin until it burns and turns red. Within ten minutes, I have caused a major reaction that can make me look like a mutant version of myself, and then with a look in the mirror, I feel awful and my confidence plummets. While it is happening, I’m aware of what is going on, but sometimes I can’t stop, and then I begin to feel genuinely crazy as I watch myself literally rip my skin. It’s fucked up. I wish I was in a place where my looks didn’t affect my confidence levels…but I’m not superhuman.
Feeling desperate for change, I Googled HYPNOTHERAPY and within minutes, a mini screen popped up: “We noticed you were browsing our site. Is there anything we can help you with?” So I began to chat with a stranger about my issues and booked an appointment.
I’ll save the rest for next week’s instalment, but will let you know that a) I am easily hypnotized and b) it’s not like what you’ve seen in the movies.
Until then, here’s hoping I have a week where I don’t claw my face.