Skin Woes

Sorry for the radio silence this week!

Lately I've been dealing with some serious skin woes that have been making me literally sick. Earlier this year I started getting a weird, dry, itchy patch of skin on my neck. It was inconvenient and unusual for me, but I tried to just adapt to it and cover/treat it as best I could. I couldn't figure out anything that could be causing it. I use a lot of products, but this patch persisted for months even after changing products around. I couldn't pinpoint anything I was using consistently for months that could cause it. Having grown up with very bad acne, I think part of my brain was trained to consider skin issues as just business as usual, to deal, and move on. It got more and more painful, however, alternating between red, itchy, and raw, to totally dried out and actually peeling off. Not pleasant, I know. 
I tried hydrocortisone creams, marula oil, tamanu oil, homemade masks of banana, oatmeal and honey, cucumber toner and chamomile tea compresses. I at first suspected psoriasis due to the peeling, tried a gel for that. No improvement. Then I started thinking it was more like eczema or dermatitis.

In recent weeks it started progressing to where it flared in spots on my lower face as well. The cycle of it drying up, peeling off and being red and raw left shiny patches that looked a lot like tight scar tissue, like I'd been burned. But nothing I used produced an instant burning or painful sensation that would tip me off. It was insane and increasingly hard to handle. Then this Tuesday when I got to work it suddenly started flaring painfully, without any warning or apparent reason. The red patches were more like raised, swollen welts, itching, with the skin breaking and weeping. I don't have many allergies that I know of, except mildly to bee stings and seriously to the antibiotic tetracycline. I was prescribed that by a dermatologist in high school for my acne and I responded very badly- my whole body would erupt in huge red welts if something as harsh as a bath towel would touch it. I spent about two sleepless, painfully itchy summer weeks before they finally realized I *might* be allergic to tetracycline. So I recognized the feeling of the allergic reaction, though it was confined to my face, it was incredibly painful. I tried keeping my hair pulled down so it wasn't as embarrassingly visible, but even my hair brushing up against it felt like a ton of tiny needles piercing my skin. I broke down and took a Benadryl even though they knock me out. I was getting worried and I had to do something. After work I went straight to the store and bought some Aveeno products for eczema, and took Wednesday off, slathering myself in lotion and trying to heal, sleeping for 12 hours. G begged me to see a doctor, he was really worried about me. The lotion was more soothing than anything else I'd tried, but I could tell it wasn't going to be strong enough to beat whatever was happening, and I finally had to admit I needed help.

I made an appointment with a dermatologist and was luckily able to get in on Friday morning. Thursday at work I felt sick, fatigued, like I had a lump in my throat (oh crap is my throat closing up?!), feeling like my heart was racing. And with painful, angry skin. I kept taking the Benadryl in order the keep the symptoms in check and just fought through the drowsiness.

So yesterday when I went in the doctor's first words were "Oh wow, that looks painful."

Well, duh.

Captain Obvious was actually really nice; she diagnosed it as dermatitis. It was kind of impossible to determine what exactly caused it. She told me to keep using the Aveeno if it seemed to help. I also got two cortisone shots-one in each hip. Those will stay in my system for weeks and fight the inflammation. I've never had one before but I'm hoping they may have the added benefit of easing my tendinitis/ fasciitis that I have in my left foot.  She also gave me some cream samples to use during the day and a heavy-duty hydrocortisone cream to use at night. Then I have to go back in six weeks for a checkup. The nurse told me I should see some improvement within 48 hours. Dudes, seriously, I feel so, so much better. I can tell I'm going to have some problems with pink hyper pigmentation for awhile after all the trauma, but the skin is starting to feel like actual skin again. It's a little dry/flaky still but not nearly as itchy or peeling. I'm amazed and relieved. Part of me felt like nothing was going to work. I just have my fingers crossed it continues to improve, and doesn't come back later on. They said I have to be careful with caffeine, follow any coffee with a glass of water because it could make my heart race, and I had a little nausea yesterday, but today I feel pretty damn good, and nearly human again. I'm using Maybelline's Dream Wonder Fluid Touch Foundation in Ivory, and I really like it. It's super light and liquid-y, but it's very concentrated, so a little goes a long way and I can cover everything without needing to pile it on, and I feel like my skin can still breathe.

I guess the lesson of the day is: why suffer needlessly? I've always been nervous about people seeing my skin, even when it improved as I've aged. I wanted to think I could just muddle through it on my own. It took hitting rock bottom for me to consider advocating for my health. But I am lucky enough to have insurance with an HRA that should probably cover everything without having to pay anything out of pocket, so why suffer? I'm a funny one, you guys. And I learned my lesson. I don't have to do everything on my own.

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