I remember my first panic attack:
It was 2007. (Or maybe I was seven.) It was probably too late for me to be up still, but I wanted my mom’s attention. At the same moment that I wanted attention/someone to talk to, she had a “personal visitor” paying us a visit. I couldn’t talk to her, and I just waited and waited for in front of a closed door.
When it all became too much, I broke down. Wringing my hands, Tears streaming down my face. Heart racing. Looking at the words being typed now, it sounds like I was being dramatic. But in my young mind, my mother was never going to be reached. I wouldn’t be able to talk to her until that door opened. I went downstairs to my grandma and told her that I was nervous and couldn’t breathe. She gave me a hug and told me to calm down. Ever since, she’s always told me to calm down. My response would always be “Okay, but I’m nervous. I don’t know why.”
It wasn’t until college that I realized I had anxiety.
“WHY ARE YOU ALWAYS SCRATCHING?”
As a kid, I would always scratch my forearms when a big test was coming up, when I felt like I was trapped, when one of my friends was hurting, any uncomfortable situation. (Even now, I’m scratching because I’m looking at this giant pile of mess in the middle of my floor because I have to be moved out by the end of the week, and with finals to complete, this makes me anxious. I’ve been avoiding the mess all day, and realizing now when it’s too late at night to move it all to storage, I’m beating myself up about it.)
My friends are constantly asking, “why are you always scratching?” Those who know why immediately tell me to stop. Even though its painful, I continue to scratch. Most of the time, my skin bleeds, and scabs, and dry patches form on my hands. I wish I could wear gloves and cover them. But being in art school, I always have to use my hands. I can’t stop scratching. It’s soothing, but agonizing. It’s the only way to keep from having a full on panic attack.
SEEKING MEDICAL HELP
While in Hong Kong, when it was at its worst, I visited a doctor who told me that my mysterious rash I thought I’d gotten from the bedsheets, was actually an adult form of eczema. Its foundation was stress and being overwhelmed. (If you’d like to know more about my experience as a study abroad student, click the link!) The remedy: zinc, but it would never go away, and some flare-ups would be worse than others.
Over winter break, I gripped down on getting my skin together. I started using pure oatmeal in the bath. Taking more self-care days. Exfoliating my skin. Before the quarter started, my skin was beautiful and glowing.
Then the semester hit.
A million things were constantly running through my mind. Trying to balance a personal life and projects seemed harder than usual. I was making and severing connections with others almost everyday. This entire semester, I’ve felt as if I’ve been lying face up in a whirlpool. Luckily, the semester ends this week and I get to go home for a few weeks. But, I have to vacate my dorm at the end of the week in preperation to move to another campus. SO, my eczema is not doing well.. My skin hurts a lot. I spent 90% of my day digging at the patches on my hands. There’s always something going on in my head.
It makes me so insecure when my friends point it out and say, “you need lotion.” Little do they know that lotion does NOTHING for my skin. Yeah, it gets soothed for two seconds, but then the thought train comes, and I’m back to where I started. Scratching. Digging Scabbing. Bleeding. It’s on my neck. My hands. My legs. In the bend of my arm.
I seriously want to get more help on this. I’m researching. Taking zinc. Trying to keep my skin hydrated. It’s a long and sometimes excruciating process, but I refuse to live with this forever.
I hope that if you are trying to cope with anxiety eczema, you know that you are not alone. Even though it’s painful, it’s possible to get through it. It just takes time.
stay as you are.
-hello ninety seven