When you decide to withdraw from topical steroid medication like I did, you start to do a lot of Googling. You find out exactly why topical steroids may have made you chronically covered in rashes (rather ironically, considering its use on eczema). You find an awful lot of pictures of people with red inflamed faces, dust bins full of fallen body parts and peeling skin. You begin watching videos of people in tears, in pain, in agony.
But today, my friend, your Googling has landed you here. Today is your lucky day. As a fellow Topical Steroid Withdrawal (TSW) survivor who is still knee deep in healing (about eight weeks in, not that I'm counting), I have penned this handy-dandy list of things that make TSW awesome. I am sure the timing is perfect considering you are most likely icing your bleeding elbow, and you are searching for something -- anything -- to make you not want to slather that rather contentious medication all over your body for a moment of relief. The truth is, my friend, that when life hands you lemons you make lemonade. And in our case, the pharmaceutical industry has handed you this opportunity to learn about willpower (insert major eye roll here).
1. You become very good at communicating to your friends and family.
When I began my journey, I found it very helpful to tell everyone clearly and firmly what it involved, what it might look like and what I needed from everyone. My partner is amazing and assists in everything from co-parenting to making food. My family is a phone call away when I have panic attacks about not sleeping. My daughter understands that our outings will be limited until I am well again. It has been a great opportunity to practice trust with everyone I love.
2. You make friends with the cold.
To curb the inflammation, I have to be wary of overheating and find ways to keep cool and dry. I wear layers. I keep dry ice packs nearby. I take cold showers. I even timed my withdrawal with the Canadian winter to ensure my own success.
3. You become super flexible.
The number one thing that has helped me in this struggle has been yoga. Since withdrawing, I have begun to practice yoga at least three times a day, in particular, Yin Yoga, since it helps me stay cool. I understand that there is a dialogue I have to have with my body in order for it to heal and that yoga could help facilitate such a conversation.
4. Your wardrobe is awesome.
To soothe your skin, you find yourself wearing rather fetching jogging suit ensembles from Costco. You find yourself staring at your bras, your woolen knits, your high heels and knowing you will one day rock these again. One day. But for now, jogging suit it is.
5. You smell incredible.
You are most likely building your arsenal for getting through a day of itchy skin without punching someone. Right now, my go-tos are clove oil to numb the itch coupled with my homemade red clove salve. I smell like a hippie making country ham. Doesn't that sound delish?
6. You learn to be crafty.
Withdrawal means that for the rest of your life you will never have to spend money on costly steroid prescriptions for your eczema. Before then, though, you may be fleeced by people who want to make money off your suffering. For example, I was spending $20 a tube for an all natural red clover salve to soothe my skin. I finally figured out how to make my own and I am paying only $5 a batch.
I also made a long sleeve shirt with gloves attached to it to help curb the nighttime grating, although I found that gentle consistent rubbing helped move the medication out of my body by honouring our body's natural way of ridding irritants from the system: scratching.
7. You learn to sleep in the most imaginative ways.
During my most itchy moments in the middle of the night, I would complain that I could not sleep on my back nor my front, nor my side. So I found a small stool, I crossed my legs lotus style, covered my body with a blanket and slept with my face on the stool. It worked tremendously.
Every day, my body is healing.
8. You become skilled in the art of prayer and meditation.
A turning point for me was listening to my mother. We have different religious views. She is a very loving Christian. I am a very loving spiritual but not religious person. I had slashed my chin open after a night of scratching. The sight of it had me on my knees crying over the phone to my mother. She told me to calm down. She told me to recognize my inner strength, or as she would call it, the Holy Spirit within. She told me to tell the medication out loud to leave my body. Since doing so as my daily ritual, I have slept eight nights in a row.
9. You begin to regard your body in wonder and awe.
This may sound gross to some, but every day, I gently scrape what seems to be powder from my skin. At first I thought it was just skin flakes. But I know in my heart that my skin is pushing toxins through my pores. This is miraculous. Every day, my body is healing. Without payment, without thanks, it heals. And while you may be cursing your body for being dysfunctional in the face of withdrawal, the truth is, it is doing the best it can with what it haves. For one day, you will see in the mirror that your eyelids can open again; that you can walk around without trailing skin dust behind you; that your back will be smooth and unscathed. And that is nothing short of a miracle.
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