Monday, August 27, 2012

Day 109: Trying To See The Glass Half Full

After I stopped feeling sorry for myself on Friday, I thought about the (small) postive changes that have happened so far. Although my neck is still red, it doesn't itch as much and it doesn't look dry or raw. Also, my face has been much better. It's still redder than it should be and looks splotchy but it looks more like "too lazy to wear makeup" than "tragic skin rash." And the texture hasn't been too bad lately.

My neck was the last place that got topical steroids. There was a patch of eczema there (aka nummular eczema which is the dumbest "diagnoses" ever and is basically no better than saying "Looks like you have a rash.") and I was worried it looked like a hickey so I slapped on some TS. I stopped using TS a few days later and my neck and hands were the first to break out.

My face probably got the LEAST amount of topical steroids but since the skin there absorbs so much more, who knows what difference that makes in the end. And although I tried to apply sparingly on my face (so worried about wrinkles hahahaha which sounds if WRINKLES were the worst thing TS could do), I still used it on my face for at least 6 years. That's a lot of poison.

So after all that, I put on some makeup, fixed my hair, and went out. My makeup didn't flake too badly (I only noticed some dryness around my mouth) and of course, it didn't burn or anything (I would have washed it off if it did!).

As far as sleeping goes, Atarax did not really work. I still kept waking up itchy but I fell back asleep a lot easier than normal. Maybe tonight will be better?

Friday, August 24, 2012

Day 106: Maybe House Would Be A Better Doc For Me...

I saw my doctor today. I haven't seen her since I started this. I know from experience as an "eczema" patient that as well-meaning as doctors are, they are useless for this. ("THIS" meaning any type of red dry itchy skin.) The answers are always always the same:
  • "You have eczema."
  • "You'll probably outgrow it." 
    • This eventually changed to: "You have chronic lifelong eczema and you will never outgrow it."
  • "Use these topical steroids."
  • "Take an oatmeal bath."
  • "Pat yourself dry after a bath, don't rub the towel."
  • "Don't wear perfume."
  • "Use a good lotion. Have you ever heard of Cetaphil or Aveeno?"
Again and again and again and again. They have been telling me this since I WAS FIVE. You mean to tell me there has been no advancement in "chronic lifelong eczema" in the past TWENTY years? We haven't figured out ANYTHING else to try yet?

So I figured, what's the point of even wasting a copay when she's going to tell me the same thing everyone else has told me? My mom and aunt wanted me to go see a doctor. My friend who's a nurse and all her nurse coworker wanted me to go see a doctor. And I thought about it but...again, what's the point? 

Then someone on the ITSAN forum posted about cyclosporine and how his doctor was really helpful. This gave me hope. Maybe I could try cyclo for a few months and give myself a break. I am so tired and very unhappy with the way I look and it makes everything so much harder. So maybe I could try this and maybe it could help and maybe I could pretty for just a few minutes. I got SO hopeful.

That was stupid.

I explained everything I had learned about this and I gave her the articles. I explained that EVERY DOCTOR has told me the SAME THING for twenty years. Twenty years is a LONG time to have no other treatment option. This is it? Use topical steroids forever even though they don't work and you have to use them daily just to look a little normal? That's the ONLY treatment option? srsly?

She was very sympathetic and I thought...maybe this will work and she'll be on board or maybe she's heard of this or maybe she knows someone who has worked with patients like me.

Then she said, "This article is very interesting, but I can tell you that what we're looking at is very severe eczema. You have nummular eczema on your arms and maybe ringworm on your stomach. I don't feel comfortable prescribing cyclosporine until we have a skin biopsy done so I want you to see a dermatologist."

I looked up ringworm and the only Google images I can find that look ANYTHING like me are from that Japanese doctor book that's online...and says, "This is ACTUALLY topical steroid withdrawal...and see how it went away months later!" And then I looked up nummular eczema...and again, the only pictures that look ANYTHING like me are actually topical steroid withdrawal. Nummular eczema is characterized by coin-shaped patches...I have FULL ARM SLEEVES.

I know it's "only" been three months, but I was hoping to be WAY better by now. I haven't seen much improvements. The only improvement I've seen is that my face is less rashy than the first month (although it's still red, especially my eyelids, but the skin isn't as dry or itchy there) and when I've had swelling in my face and eyes, it's gone away within a day or two. My neck was incredibly bad in the bad in the beginning but now it's a lot better. I've seen my skin cycle - Saturday night I started flaring, then Sunday-Tuesday night I had very red, hive-y, itchyitchy skin, then by Wednesday I'm ashy-red and flaking like a snow storm.

I've had this cycle happen weekly/bi-weekly. A really bad couple days, an ashy-red flake day, a couple of better days, then suddenly my arms start burning, I start getting hives up and down my arms, then everything is REDREDRED and itchier than I ever thought was possible.

I know I have to be patient. But I don't know if I can just wait a year without seeing any real improvement. It's killing my self-esteem, I sleep terribly,  and all I can talk and think about is being tired and itchy and ugly and tired of being tired and itchy and ugly.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Day 95: Part Snake?

Counting the days makes me feel a little bit like I'm stuck in prison or on an island.

I had very little itching (for me) until this evening when I got home from work. I've been incredibly itchy ever since - even tried rubbing my back against the corner of a wall! It did not work very well. I took a long oatmeal bath, which helped a little but I still have the itchy-crawlies & burning on my hands, arms, and back. For my oatmeal baths, I just use plain oatmeal, put it in a nylon that I've cut, tie it, and drop it in the tub. Once it gets wet, you can squish out the "good" stuff...aka collodial oatmeal. Squashing the oatmeal bag is also kind of theraputic, like a stress ball.

The raw spot on my wrist improved a little today. It wasn't oozy, which is a good sign, and hurt much less. I was very careful to NOT scratch it, but I did scratch right next to it...almost too much but caught myself in time so I think it's okay. However, I have a new weird thing to report today. I felt a sharp painful tingle on the raw spot of my wrist. I looked at it and said, "Stop that!" (I know, it sounds crazy but it really hurt and there is nothing else I can do about it!) Then I noticed that the skin on the raw spot was coming off! I touched it and a thin layer of skin about the diameter of a quarter just flaked right off! I didn't pick it or anything, it just came off. I guess I'm shedding skin like a snake now. That's a new one for me!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Day 94: Ouch My Hand!

Last night, I woke up around two because I was scratching the bejeezus out of my wrists and hands. I slathered on some more Vaseline then put "gloves" on. (Gloves = a pair of clean socks because I couldn't find gloves and I was too tired to look very hard.) In the morning when I woke up, I had this lovely splotch of raw open skin that was oozing. The picture doesn't really show you just how red it all is, but it's the best I could do. It hurts really bad so I've tried to keep that hand still because every time I move it, it hurts. It keeps oozing, too, which is so gross. The weirdest part about RSS is that tomorrow, this spot will probably be gone (as long as I don't scratch the bejeezus out of it tonight) and it will just be my "normal" (red) skin.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

91 Days: Itching + No Sleep

I would really like to STOP ITCHING for one whole day. That would be AMAZING. I am up, once again, in the middle of the night because I woke up scratching and itching ALL OVER, writhing around trying to do a full body scratch on my full body itch. I have to get up and get ready to go to work in a few short hours and I just cannot get any sleep. I am sure I have claw marks all over me, and just my luck, it's picture day tomorrow. Fantastic. Don't even ask me why it's picture day, it's so stupid but they think ugly red face clawmarked me is going to smile pretty for the camera. YEAH RIGHT.

I wish I could take a few months off my job until this is OVER. It's not fair, I just want a normal life and normal skin and mostly I WANT TO STOP ITCHING. It's just SKIN. It should NOT take this long. And I've barely made a dent in how long it will probably take. I feel like it's impossible to describe how impossibly terribly itchy this is because it sounds so petty. "Itchy" sounds like the most petty symptom ever, completely eye-rolling, like it's not like I have a colostomy bag or I'm missing an arm or something. But it's like a parade of fire ants crawling over every inch of my body all the time, no matter where I am, all the time and it's terrible and it itches and so I scratch it and then it burns or bleeds and then it itches all over again and I can never get it to stop or even just simmer down.

And I'm so ugly. Again another petty symptom, but you walk around town looking like this and see if you're rolling your eyes.

I seriously do not know how I have a boyfriend right now or why my friends still talk to me. All I want to do is curl up in a tub of oatmeal and fall asleep for the next month. I'm so tired. Every day I wake up and I just want to go back to bed. And when I'm at work, I just want to take a nap. And when I get home, I want to sleep forever but I can't even do that because who can sleep when you're this ITCHY?

This is the stupidest syndrome ever because there's no real timeline. Sometime, many many many many months from now, you'll look better. And many years from that, you'll be better. And okay, it still might show up sometime for no reason even many years from now but hey! It could be worse. You could be a hemophiliac, so look on the bright side, yeah?

And every time I type the word ITCHY, I'm reminded about how stupid and petty this symptom looks. I wish the word itchy didn't seem so slight because ITCHY just doesn't seem like anything unless you're going through this and then it's everything all the time and it's horrible but I feel stupid saying anything about how terrible it is because..."So what, it's just a little itch." But it's not, it's so much and so much worse than that, and there's no way to convey that unless you have this.

I know I am just blowing everything out of proportion and looks don't matter and this too shall pass and blahblahblah but it is awfully freaking hard to see how this is EVER going to pass when I am STUCK in the same spot dayafterdayafterday. ITCHY. RED. HURTING. Zero improvements.

Every day I want to slather stupid toxic topical steroids over every inch of my body and give up. I don't care if it won't work forever and right now I do not care that it's poison. I just want to slather it on and let it sink in. I am so tired of fighting this. I am tired of not sleeping because of the itch, I am tired of the pain, I am tired of being ugly, I am tired and I am thisclose to giving up. Why am I losing months of my life to my stupid skin? How is this fair?

Tonight I am just terribly exhausted.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

90 Days (Week 12): Yeah, So....Still Itchy

Still itchy. Full arm rash, including large circles on palms. Neck, shoulders, chests - check! Spots all over my stomach - check! Upper legs, yup. Back of lower leg - a little bit. Face - uh-huh, that too! Especially my eyelids and my earlobes.


I'm hoping it's going to start looking better soon. It's hard not to be down when you look like a leper.