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Relax! Confessions of my topical steroid withdrawal journey.

Steroid is not the way out.

Hi! I’m a health coach from WeDerm and also an ex-eczema warrior. I’d like to share with you my eczema story and my Topical Steroid Withdrawal journey.

I’ve had mild eczema around the crease area since a very young age. I used to apply a topical steroid cream to soothe the symptoms and it was usually well controlled, until a sudden turn in June 2020, just merely a year ago.

At that time, all the skin on my limbs were covered with scratch marks with no sign of recovering and my face was all red. I was struggling with whether or not to start the topical steroid withdrawal (TSW) journey. However, my condition was so critical that the swelling of my face affected my breathing. I was forced to visit the western doctor to control the condition first. I took a course of oral steroids and applied topical steroids and antibiotics for a week. The red and swelling on my face were relieved within a few days, but the symptoms came back after a week of stopping the medication. That’s when I realized I could not rely on western medication anymore.

Turning to lifestyle… and a positive attitude

I was determined to start my TSW journey. It took me half a year to heal through a change of lifestyle, with the help of Chinese medicine and a positive mindset (which includes learning to calm myself). The change of mindset is not just beneficial to me at that stage, but also now. Therefore, I would like to share the importance of it.

It was a roller coaster ride.

I was very lucky. I had my family to cook for me and it was nearly the summer holiday. I had plenty of time to rest. Unfortunately, I have an anxious personality and I tend to worry a lot. When I saw my friends receiving internship opportunities, I was so worried about falling behind everyone’s progress. My mental condition and my eczema condition were affecting each other. Since I stopped using steroids, my eczema symptoms bounced back and the outbreak stopped me from doing anything. My body was burning hot all the time, making it impossible to sleep at night. Of course, my skin was extremely itchy too. The wounds were everywhere, including the insides of my ears. The yellowish fluid oozes out from my ear.

Therefore, I could not sleep more than two hours. I was so anxious at that time because all I could think of was that enough sleep and rest were crucial for recovery.

Relax! Just breathe.

Keeping pressure on myself would only worsen the condition, and it’s not like I had more important things to do at the time anyways! So why not just rest whenever I wanted?

While I was depressed about not being able to sleep at night, my family reminded me that what I needed most was to relax. As I’ve mentioned, I had a lot of time to rest. If I could not sleep at night, I could sleep in the afternoon. Keeping pressure on myself would only worsen the condition, and it’s not like I had more important things to do at the time anyway! So why not just rest whenever I wanted?

When I could not sleep at night, I grabbed a book to read. I also did research online to see how to calm myself when I felt so frustrated. I found a breathing practice that is easy and useful:

  1. Breathe in and count from 1 to 4
  2. Hold your breath for a short while
  3. Breath out counting 5 to 7
  4. Repeated it for a few times

I did the breathing exercise whenever I felt very itchy, and guess what? It helped fade the itchiness and hotness! It also helped calm my mood when I was upset. It became my habit whenever my mental condition is unstable.

I found this calming breathing exercise useful throughout my recovery journey. It helped to stabilize my mood, reduced scratching, and reduced my stress level. I’ve also learnt to apply this practice when I encounter an irritating situation. For those of you who’re still battling with eczema or going through topical steroid withdrawal, I strongly recommend trying this exercise. It will definitely give you some relief.

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