Supportive friends and family Nothing is more depressing than being told to give up the good fight (believe me, it happens) or being around people who tease or trivialize your battle. I find this demon rears its ugly head in more social situations like when eating out at a restaurant or with a bigger group of friends. I guess because in my case, food and drink are the only obvious changes to my routine in these settings and so tends to stand out that I am doing something different. The most unusual thing I notice is that a lot of people are not only unsupportive of your change of diet, but they become negative towards it. Say what now!? Yeah, negative because of a change of DIET. The usual culprits are the hard core meat eating, chest puffing, beer drinking guys. Women seem to be much more empathetic for some reason. There is definitely some silly macho aspect to it and is usually accompanied by an unwillingness to listen or understand the reasons. Just remember that it is only ignorance and ego that makes people act this way and don't let it deter you. Personally, I found I had to limit the time I spent with these types of people and give preference to the kinder friends who want to engage and understand. These people will stand out very early into your journey. It's hard but if certain people aren't going to be empathetic towards you, then they are toxic to your emotions and your cause.
Your other half I believe the biggest thing, if you are in a relationship, is that your partner is supportive. It will seriously either make or break you. I am so lucky to now have a partner who is the most supportive and loving person in the world and I am eternally grateful to him for being my rock during this excruciating time of my life. Even though no one can make this process end any quicker, it can make all the difference hearing some supportive words like 'you are doing the right thing', 'your doing so well, keep going' and 'your still beautiful'. I kid you not, these are the things my partner says to me on a daily basis and it is like soul food. I hit the jackpot in the boyfriend department and no he's not for sale ;) But if you have a partner whom you require emotional support, they may not know exactly what to say so I recommend in this case to tell them exactly what you want to hear. If they oblige, it will take the edge off.
Nutrition Fresh food and juices. You are most likely making some dietary changes while you withdraw, at least to help support your body while it meta-morphs. Everyone's dietary needs are different but the best thing you can do for your body is basically cut out the processed foods, acid forming foods, then jam pack it full of fresh fruit and vegetables. Go organic if possible but if this isn't in your budget, then non-organic is better than package food. Nutrition is uber important during this process, well, and forever if you want to stay as healthy and disease free as possible. I have some information on my Nutrition page but do your own research as well. Sign up to e-newsletters of your local organic and green grocer stores or markets so you know when the good deals are on. It can get expensive when eating organic, so try to find the organic stores that have the best prices and if you can find spray free food, this is usually a fraction of the price of organic food and just as clean. Search online, with any luck you may find a community garden selling their spray free food to the public :)
Green Clay - Calcium Bentonite For relieving the itch and drying up open and weepy eczema, this is the cream of the crop. Again, I am only speaking from my personal experience. At my most chronic flare and 3 consecutive nights of not sleeping a wink, one clay bath was the only thing which took the entire edge off the pain and itch and allowed me to finally get a restful sleep. It wont to cure you, but I believe it's a necessary addition to your tool kit if you want to survive! I have even used it as a clay mask on severe eczema and it really dries up and draws out the irritation. It is recommended to add some Epsom salts to the mix occasionally to put some good minerals back into the skin. One thing to note with this stuff is that it has a pH of between 7-9 which is too alkaline for the skin. So you need to bring the skin back to a neutral pH by applying a more acidic solution after you have rinsed off the clay in the shower. The good thing about green clay is it has so many other health applications ranging from healing injuries to adsorbing (adsorbing is a thing) heavy metals and not only can you use it externally, but you can drink this darn dirt for even more health benefits! When I start the morning with a clay bath, my day is usually a heck of a lot better. Oh, also if you have long hair and want to put a clay mask on your scalp, or dip your hair in the clay water, just remember that your hair will dry out a lot and may take a few washes before the roughness has left your strands. Anyways, get it in to ya!
* Just a disclaimer on the Epsom salt addition to the bath water. If you have open eczema, too much salt will really sting and irritate and prove counter productive to your relief. So go easy soldier.
Hydrogen Peroxide bath I used this at the beginning and most reactive stage of my withdrawal. You can buy it from the chemist in 6% strength at around $5 a bottle, Aussie price. Add 50ml to the bath water, jump in then chillax for half an hour. What a horrible prescription huh! This will dry out and disinfect weepy and infected eczema and provide some relief. Don't be scared of the name, this stuff in this food grade strength is very therapeutic and like the green clay, has other health benefits. I always recommend to research anything you want to use, and as such, here are some helpful links.
Soften the heck up Anything that comes into contact with your skin must be soft. Remove the irritating tags from inside your clothing. Make sure you have several sets of soft sheets at the ready because you will be changing them CONSTANTLY. Have lots of soft, loose fitting clothing for every day wear and bed time wear. I also find that I only wear my softest and loosest fitting underwear too, so you may need to stock up then put the nice lacy ones at the back of the drawer. Your itchy raw booty will thank you for it.
Grooming Make sure your nails are as short as possible. I have always had luxuriously long nails because they are good quality and hard (all the better for scratching you with, my dear!) but now I keep them babies nipped in the bud! Even though I can still manage a good scratch, at least I'm not gouging the flesh out like I was before.
I have to wash my hair semi regularly unfortunately, but once it is dry I keep it up in a bun. This stops the irritation of it rubbing against my back or the backs of my arms. Also, if your hair is falling out like mine did, it keeps it all together until its time to brush which lessens the amount you have to clean up off the floor, all over your house. Obviously this is worse for people with long hair.
The last thing you will feel like doing is dragging a razor over your raised, open, weeping skin. This is another reason it's better to be withdrawing during the cooler periods so you can cover your body up. But I have shaved my legs a few times just to feel a little less gross and it was not a pleasant experience.
Professional help I'm talking about a practitioner who cares and will address your causes. The ones that will find the root of your diseases. I am lucky enough to have found the most amazing naturopath who has helped me incredibly and I can easily say she is another person who I would not have been able to do this without. Because having someone to assist you with your nutrition, diet and helping manage symptoms is invaluable. My recommendation is you find someone very knowledgeable who has treated topical steroid addiction before. Also, look for the person who is empathetic and understanding to what you are going through, perhaps someone who has experienced health issues of their own. I rely on my naturopath so much and when I start entertaining the idea of giving up, she is equipped with the tools to relax my doubtful mind and restore my confidence in the bigger picture, and the confidence in myself.
Moisturiser Withdrawal MW is only a recent discovery for me so I don't have a definitive answer as to whether it's beneficial yet. As I write this, I am only 1 week in and it feels good so far. My skin is a lot drier, less weepy and less irritated than before. It really appeared, from the information I have researched on the subject, that it is very favorable for people in this situation but isn't loved by everyone, especially in the earliest stages of TSW. I will update on the blog when I have something more to say about it :)
Salute the sun Oh how my relationship with the sun has changed. Almost overnight, I went from a 'hater' (no one likes a hater) to a loverrrrr! This switch just went off inside me, suddenly telling me I need to catch me some hard core rays. So I went with my instinct and bathed in its love as often as I could, but still had no idea why I had this new urge. I just knew my skin felt better when I did it.
Firstly I will begin by telling you that this big ball of fusing hydrogen does a lot more for us than just make it easier to drive to work each day. Numero uno is the big D, Vitamin D. A huge common deficiency in so many illness and disease and it's literally the easiest vitamin we can get. It's free! At least to us here close to the equator. And why is this vitamin so important? It controls our genes. It is found to affect the gene pathways controlling immune function, transcription regulation, cell cycle activity, epigenetic modification, DNA regulation, DNA repair, and cellular response to stress, providing more evidence that the vitamin plays a critical role in regulating the immune system and protecting against certain diseases. Vitamin D is also shown to increase the production of cathelicidin in the skin of people with atopic dermatitis. Cathelicidin is a skin protein that protects against skin infections from viruses, bacteria and fungi in healthy skin. People with atopic dermatitis have low amounts of cathelicidin in their skin. This may result in colonisation and infection of the skin with bacteria, viruses and fungi, which is known to worsen eczema in people with atopic dermatitis. I think my body was telling me something!
Secondly, the UV light which the sun throws off also has its healing capabilities. Atopic dermatitis (and psoriasis) can now be treated with a course of UV light sessions, in particular, Narrowband UVB phototherapy, with what seems like good results. One of the pluses with using this treatment is that it is in a controlled environment and given under supervision.
Sunlight is definitely a key player to your healing but must be used wisely! Never lie in the sun for too long at a time. I usually find around 10 minutes here and there is sufficient, however if you have fair skin, burn easily or are photosensitive, then you must do your research and adjust your exposure accordingly.