Identity Crisis – Goodbye Itchy Girl
For those of you who have read ‘and then I got sick‘ you will know that I’m currently working through a number of allergy/ eczema/ health issues and have embarked upon a journey to wellness with the help of a naturopath, a hypnotherapist, a change in diet and my own iron will-power and determination.
Just to remind you that I’m journaling this (in between my normal articles once I get a little more on top of things) because it is a) about the skin and therefore relevant to the blog and b) because by writing I learn stuff. Thanks for reading along.
So, this is how the first trip to the hypnotherapist went.
‘Just call me itchy girl’ I said. ‘I have been itching since I was a baby, got diagnosed with eczema pretty early on and spent a lot of time during my childhood and up to now really talking about my, treating and trying to manage my condition’.
I’ve been to this clinic before when suffering from the stresses of getting a business up and running and everything else I’d clenched my teeth to pieces and thought that hypno would be a good way to rid myself of the habit. Needless to say that journey was a longer and more winding than I had anticipated but as it had a happy ending I thought why not drag itchy girl out of the closet and see what she can do for her.
‘Let me ask you a question’ she started. ‘Do you think that your eczema can ever get better? Can it be cured?”……….
Therapists have a knack of putting you on the spot. Of saying in one sentence what you have been struggling to say or feel for years and this was no different. Struck by the simplicity of the question I answered ‘no’ and immediately knew that to be the wrong answer. Not because she was shaking her head, therapists don’t do that but because it felt wrong. I mean who is the boss here? Who’s show is this? And what the hell is eczema anyway?
The session progressed well both in and out of trance (you don’t just walk in and go under so to speak) and I left feeling pretty happy and clear that I had to put this thing in its place.
Mostly I had to break my attachment to itchy girl. I’d tie her to a heart-shaped helium balloon, say a little prayer of thanks and send her merrily on her way.
Since coming home I’ve spent some time challenging my views on eczema including my long-held view that it really can’t be cured. I now believe that it can.
Like many syndromes, conditions and disorders that we get diagnosed with eczema isn’t fully understood. In fact the best that I could find is a description of it being a long-term (chronic) skin disorder that involves scaly and itchy rashes. Call me a new-found cynic but if you are in the habit of regularly scratching and ripping your skin to pieces it is highly likely to become inflamed, weakened and more sensitive. I started to wonder if ‘eczema’ was more symptom than cause which begs the question what causes it?
Delving more into research it is also clear that the cause of itching is not fully understood by medical science. Yes it involves nerve pathways and yes it has health advantages but itching yourself into oblivion and getting relief from it seems to make no sense at all. Maybe us eczema folk are all mentally ill or masochist just waiting for our chance to star in the film adaptation of 50 shades of Grey……… I doubt it.
What the hypnotherapist said about itching made a whole lot of sense to me and so I’ll do my best to describe it here. We all itch from time to time and it is clear that itching exists both psychologically and physiologically but in itchy people our control gauge is far too sensitive. Basically it freaks out at every little thing which plays on our mind until we get scratching. The scratching damages our skin, damaged skin dries out and scabs over both of which can be itchy and then the itching starts again. You can see how easy it would be to turn this into a long-term game of cat and mouse. You may also be able to see how with this philosophy eczema doesn’t really have a cause as such, it just has a dial that is set too high. Surely that’s fixable….
Now we must deviate slightly to philosophy for this next bit and more specifically to dualism. Rene Descartes made popular the idea that the mind and body are separate entities or dual systems. This means that what happens to the body doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the mind and vice versa. I think that sounds like a load of rot really and tend to agree with my hypnotherapists appraisal of the situation – twhat the mind believes the body achieves. The mind believes that it has eczema and will always be itchy and the body focuses on it. This isn’t a new concept for me and is something I’ve thought about for a while but having it applied to my problem made a whole lot of sense.
I really have to believe with all of my heart that eczema can be cured……
Back to eczema and after reading 12 papers on the subject ranging from those discussing immunoglobulin E, differential barrier structure, essential fatty acids, a multitude of genes, maternal health and diet, the use of probiotics, light therapy and chinese medicine I am more sure than ever that this thing can be controlled. As all of the above mentioned studies differ in type, size and cohort it isn’t possible to do a meta analysis on them but what I can clearly see from these readings is that while all of these factors play a part and all of these potential treatments help a little there is no stand-out quick-fix. In my opinion control of the mind is clearly key.
So, I’m off to practice some of the mind control techniques that we discussed in our therapy session while I await for the results of my allergy and other tests as this itchy girl doesn’t want to play scratch any more.
I’m not itchy girl.