My Eczema Journey

Sam Gibson

Sam Gibson

To launch the website my good friend Loz and I have both written blogs about our personal struggles up to this point. Our experiences have been very different and I in no way want to suggest my problems have been anywhere near as severe or problematic as Loz’s. There are, however, some commonalities in what we have experienced and many of the things we are now interested in to try and help manage our respective health issues. My first blog is an explanation of how severe and chronic eczema has negatively affected my physical and mental health.

Subsequent to a recent chat about social anxiety I had in the New Forest it became clear that it did have some hold on me during my teenage years. I remember being so scared about the prospect of socialising at break that I would hide in the toilets until it was time for my next lesson. By no means a debilitating form of anxiety but there is no doubt it was consistently having a negative impact on my social life. 

Fortunately, once I left for Cardiff University, I settled in quickly and any small anxiety issues I was experiencing receded soon enough. My halls were very sociable, and I found a decent group of mates in freshers. Everything was going well, I liked my course, loved going out and playing football. The night it began Loz and my other friend Toby came to visit me. We went out to Retros, a filthy club with £1 Jagerbombs and we were having a great time until Loz tried to be a hero and break up a fight, resulting in him being thrown out instead. The next morning, I woke up with an uncomfortable red rash all over my neck and face. That’s weird I thought, I must have had a reaction to something last night, I’m sure it will go away. It did go away, but to my displeasure, would intermittently return.

A visit to the doctor resulted in me being diagnosed with Eczema. They gave me some steroid creams that worked a treat. It would be fine for a while but come back again which prompted another doctor visit, and another prescription of the miracle cream-Thanks Doc. After a while, though, it became clear that my bouts of eczema were becoming increasingly frequent and severe as it spread to all over my body. I saw a dermatologist but even he was no help. He, like other doctors told me there was no cure. That it would come and go and is not something I could control.

The reality is, for those who rarely have a severe flare up steroid creams are a viable treatment for eczema, but excessive use can cause more problems than it solves for those with flare ups as frequent as mine. It should never be viewed as long term solution. My skin is now thinned in the most severe areas which makes it more vulnerable to further damage. I have gone through topical steroid withdrawal multiple times which can include side effects like increased itching, excessive sweating and lack of sleep amongst other things. 

When I’m going through a bad flare up, I am much less likely to: 

  • Exercise (or move in general). 
  • Get adequate sleep.
  • Want to go outside the house. 
  • Want to socialize with my friends.
  • Be confident, especially around new people. 
  • Be productive. 

It also causes me to be more snappy, irritable and to avoid seeing my reflection as much as possible. Not looking in mirrors did serve to help slightly as I had less reminders about what I look like but it’s not ideal when the sight of yourself fills you with anger, embarrassment and feelings of failure.

A 7 year old photo of me (Sam) on the left and Loz on the right. I know what you’re thinking, yes, it is baffling someone with arms as big as mine could have experienced self-confidence and anxiety issues surrounding his appearance. 

About 2 years ago I decided to take matters into my own hands and embark on a mission to naturally heal my eczema without relying on doctors and certainly with as little reliance on steroid creams as possible. I have tried a large array of cleansing practices ranging from extended water fasting to coffee enemas (got a lot of stick for this one). I went completely vegan for a period of about 6 months eating only whole plant foods, lots of beans, kale, spinach, smoothies and grains. At the time it made sense to me that this would be the healthiest diet I could be on. To my surprise, these 6 months were arguably the worst of my life.

My eczema was consistently the worst it had ever been, my libido was steadily declining (Sorry Harriet), I was always hungry, bloated, had digestion and gas issues (Sorry housemates) and I went from 70kg to 57kg (unhealthy for my size). Regrettably, the vegan diet for me was the single most harmful intervention I have tried on my journey. I am not anti-vegan whatsoever and know many people that have seen improvements in their health due to veganism.  After this, I saw a Chinese herbalist who prescribed a very specific diet and started me on a course of herbs. It didn’t seem to be harming and it didn’t seem to be helping so I was unsure what to do.

This is when I caught wind of the carnivore diet. A diet consisting of only animal foods, touted as the ultimate elimination diet. After much research I embarked on a month-long experiment where I only ate beef, water and salt. Lo and behold, at the end of that month my skin was the best it had been without the use of steroids in years. As time passed, though, I became lax with the diet, could not maintain consistency and my skin health began to decline again.

I have conducted enough self-experimentation to home in on what habits I need to adhere to. Now it is the mental side of things I need to address, my resistance to the itch, my consistency with the diet and my abstinence of excessive alcohol consumption. I have tried lots of things such as meditation, Wim Hof’s breathing techniques and cold exposure practices to try and maintain calm and they have helped but I am a long, long way from where I want to be. I am an aspiring therapist so am currently reading a book called Experiencing CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) from the Inside Out. This book will teach me about the nuances of CBT whilst engaging in CBT techniques myself which can hopefully improve my mental state, negative thought patterns and self-talk surrounding my eczema. I started working through the book today, the same day I am writing this blog. Cheers for reading and I hope you join us on this journey, diving HeadFirst into many natural solutions to Eczema, Mental health and general wellbeing.

Much Love, Sam xx


Tunes that sum up this blog:

We are going to have a couple tunes that sum up or relate to each blog we post. However, there aren’t any songs related to eczema that I like. Instead, here are two songs I’ve been listening to a lot recently.

The Likeness of Being- Jamie T – People that know me know it would feel wrong if I didn’t include my boy J in the first blog post. You will likely be seeing more Jamie T recommendations as the blogs progress on HeadFirst.

I’m Just Snacking-Gus Dapperton – Another man crush of mine. He walked past me after I saw him play in Bristol, everyone else was patting him on the back but I panicked and stroked his arm. One of my creepier moments, sorry Gus.