Mind over Matter: Ellie & Eczema
Six years ago; if you had asked me what Eczema was I would have told you a mild irritating patch of skin that you can pop cream onto and it will disappear. I’m sure most of the general population think this too.
Why wouldn’t they?
My own perception of eczema changed six weeks after my daughter was born. She was perfectly healthy when she was born, breast fed like a champ and we had no complications. Physically, everything was going along nicely until she hit six weeks old and the red, itchy “monster” started creeping over my daughter’s face until it covered every inch. Here our long, eczema journey began. I’m going to fast-forward now through six years of infections, appointments, broken nights, lotions, potions and hospital stays. Let’s skip past the emotional toils, the blood stained clothing, the medications and the self-doubt.
We were at a stage where my daughter wasn’t able to go to sleep without me physically observing or restraining her to some capacity. The journey to sleep time had turned from a time of day into dread. Sleep time brings the itching to the surface and whilst drifting, her sub conscious self would let go of all of the itching and scratching she had held in through out the day. At this point, she was prescribed a large dose of a sedative antihistamine called Hydroxyzine. Though this medication worked to some extent, it came with morning hangovers, dry mouth and tooth decay. She also was developing a tolerance to it. It was around this stage that I had become involved with various research studies and I found myself becoming engrossed in academic papers about Eczema.
Anything to find a cure, right?
I stumbled across a paper by Dr. Joachim Heinrich which stated that children who have eczema beyond the age of 2 were more likely to be susceptible to mental health problems in the future. I realised there and then, in my quest to ensure my child was physically healthy, I had to ensure she was mentally healthy too.
This is when I introduced mindfulness and meditation to her when she was five years old. I know how much meditation has helped me control my own anxiety and I was confident that providing her with a guided, relaxation/meditation at bed time would provide enough distraction and allow her to fall into a more calmer sleep. I’m pleased to say it has worked, my daughter rather than being heavily medicated in the evening is now (we joke) heavily meditated and it works for us.
What else does mindfulness do for her?
We work on mindful exercises to help reduce anxiety meltdowns, which more often than not would create widespread itching, which would make her bleed. So we distract by getting her to tell us 5 things: 5 things she can see, 4 things she can hear, 3 things she can smell, 2 things she can taste and 1 thing she can touch. This is just a small example of what we do.
A year into this, my daughter still has severe eczema and a few other skin conditions but she is now has the emotional coping skills she needs to manage it. She is thriving emotionally and socially despite her physical symptoms and I’m confident that she is going to carry this forward growing up.
My vision is to deliver sessions to other children with eczema. To invest in the mental health of these children, to boost self-esteem and give them the emotional coping skills they need for this world of ours. It won’t make the itching go away but it will help them along the way to cope with their symptoms as adults.
By Kate Henaghan-Sykes
Ellie’s Journey to a Happy Ever After:
Nottingham Support Group for Carers of Children with Eczema: