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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Collinson

No control and no consistency

The psychological toll of the seemingly random oscillations of atopic dermatitis 

I’m sure almost every single human being in the world feels a healthy dose of nerves before their wedding day. For me it was varying levels of panic in the lead up. What would I do if I were to wake up on the day and I was having a massive flare. How would I cope feeling mortified in the way I looked and spending the day with hundreds of eyes on me and photos taken which would end up on some people's walls for years, on the day you’re supposed to “look your best”. Fortunately I was lucky that day and the relief was euphoric. However the anxiety and trepidation had already robbed me of much of the excitement beforehand.

I like to pride myself on being disciplined and I don't shy away from doing the hard thing when it needs to be done. If somebody came to me and said I needed to run 10 miles every day before work to have clear skin I would rip their arm off. Unfortunately that isn’t mine and any AD sufferers situation. Despite all encompassing, time consuming and ever complex routines and doing “everything right” it is still a lottery to whether you wake up with your skin on fire. The unfairness and lack of control is psychologically exhausting and takes from you even when your skin is clear.

I have always found strength and hope in believing that my situation is in my hands. If I had a flare I would say “oh I know why, it's because I ate X” for example. However the older I get and the more endless experiments with little success I have undertaken the more hopeless this has started to feel. Which in a way feels both freeing and crushing. Freeing in that I’m not blaming myself as much but crushing in that maybe I do have little control when it comes to modifying my lifestyle, nutrition, exercise etc. Perhaps with my condition those things just simply don’t touch the sides.

It also gives me a cynicism towards people who I see as having the cure to their issues “in their hands”. This is a part of me I don’t like and am working on as of course logically no one's situation is as simple as that. 

We live in a perpetual state of mental imbalance where we are either in a flare and suffering or living in fear of when the next one will be. This taints so many of life’s most precious moments as the anticipation for any major life event quite often turns into panic and dread. Situations which can be daunting enough, weddings, interviews, important business meetings, large social gatherings etc become something in the diary which hangs over us. Often these things can be canceled but I for one feel uncomfortable canceling at the last minute and even as an introvert there’s plenty of situations I don’t want to miss out on. 

This is yet another battle that most people don’t consider when thinking of the challenges of living with a chronic skin condition.

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