This Mental Health Awareness Week, we address the challenges of living with eczema. For those who live with this skin condition, the constant itchiness, dryness, and inflammation can have a significant impact on both their physical and emotional well-being. We asked eczema awareness, skin positivity and co-founder of @itch_n_bitch Katie, to share some tips on living with eczema.
"I’m Katie Mackie AKA @Mackies_Moments and I have eczema. I believe we can all be the reason someone else feels okay in their skin. I’ll never forget the day I saw a girl rocking her full flare and felt instantly inspired to do the same. I thought if she can do it, so can I. Seeing her taught me if you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.
Before seeing that girl, it’s safe to say throughout the years my eczema was always a massive anxiety trigger for me. I struggled because every day with eczema can be different, you don’t know what you’ll wake up with each morning flare? no flare?.
I spent years perfecting how to hide my skin instead of learning how to love and care for it — editing, and covering, and doing anything to make it go away. I’ve realised the very second you own your ‘flaws’, you become untouchable. No one can hurt you anymore because you are acknowledging your insecurities and taking control of your narrative; It’s not poor you – it’s powerful you.
As I preach “we can’t always control our eczema, but we can control how we react to it. That is our power.” I want everyone reading this to know what makes you feel alone in one place can often make you feel like you belong in another. You’ll be surprised how the one thing you hide is usually the one thing connecting you to hundreds of others.
My accounts @Mackies_Moments and @Itch_N_Bitch have taught me the real meaning of community. And most importantly, they have taught me that if you surround yourself with people who get it, you’ll never feel alone again.
My top 5 tips for mental wellness are:
1. YOU ARE NOT TO BLAME FOR YOUR FLARES. The one thing people without eczema fail to understand is the fact that sometimes we can’t control our flares, they just happen for no reason. Like the smallest amount of stress can result in a blemish. It’s not something we ate or did. We are not to blame. REPEAT AFTER ME; I AM NOT TO BLAME FOR MY FLARES.
2. WHEN FLARES HIT. Take time to relax and de-stress: my biggest advice is to treat flares like you would treat a bad mental health day. Self-care is key, maybe buy yourself your favourite snacks, run an oat/ sea salt bath, and help yourself / a loved one recentre your mind. If they’re feeling particularly self-conscious, plan dates or catchups in a safe space. Make time for self-care, as those first few days of a flare can be very mentally draining! HAVE A EMBARASSING LONE DANCE AND RELEASE THOSE HAPPY ENDORPHINS INSTEAD!
3. DON’T LET YOUR MIND BULLY YOUR BODY. Too often, I’ve allowed my mind to bully my body, using my mirror as a tool to zone in on the smallest ‘imperfection’. The mirror has always been a place I go to look for problems it seems. Let’s change this, go to your mirror either put an image of your younger self or grab an eyeliner and a positive affirmation or reminder. e.g., “Eczema is tough but so am I”.
4. DEAR ECZEMA. If you’re feeling overwhelmed why not try writing a ‘dear eczema’ letter to help you address/open up about how you are feeling, this can be something you share or simply write to express privately. Read the blog @nationaleczema did on it to help you get started!
5. WHEN TO SEEK HELP. If you feeling consumed from overthinking about your skin, it’s time to reach out to your GP/ university or register for @changingfacesuk free confidential, one-to-one social, emotional, and psychological counselling and support sessions for people of all ages in the UK with a condition, mark or scar that affects their appearance (a visible difference). Also, I want everyone to know it's okay to ask for help. I've taken time off work as I couldn't straighten my fingers due to how cracked and dry they were. Asking for help and being open about your skin is a vital step towards healing physically and mentally.
Talking is healing. Simply put, the best advice is from people who understand what you are going through. This is why I always say one of the best ways to care for your eczema isn’t your physical skincare routine. It’s your mental health care. It’s about knowing and seeing you’re not alone on this journey.
With love, The Itchy Bitch
“REMINDER: you can't hate your skin into healing, but you can REACH OUT for help when you're having that sinking feeling.
I put every spare moment I have into Itch N Bitch because I know it feels to feel the lowest of lows and feel like you’ll never get better or only be able to focus on the negative what-ifs instead of the positives. I want to reach people feeling as crap as I did and let them know it’s okay and lots of people also suffer the same way you are. One day you’ll be able to talk about your skin /alopecia / illness without your voice breaking, you’ll openly share, educate others, and have this moment of release instead of dread when people ask you how you’re feeling . I hope your day comes soon!”