Finally after 8 years, I can smell the roses.
2 years ago, I decided to embark on the journey of topical steroid withdrawal (TSW). It has been a roller-coaster life experience, testing my mental and physical strength to the limit. But with every life challenge, we draw strength from it and grow stronger, changing our perspective in life.
I am ever grateful to my husband who triggered my thought that the medication was not helping, to go through this natural path, and not relying on continuous medication to suppress the symptoms.
During the toughest period, I am thankful that I had a support network of similar people around the world via ITSAN (International Topical Steroid Addiction Network) & my ex-neighbour who is my go-to doctor for medical support. Throughout the journey, my family members, close friends and colleagues were always looking out for me, caring for me and understanding of my situation.
My skin before topical steroid withdrawal and now
The weakest part of my skin where most topical steroid was applied is my lower limbs and fingers. These areas were affected the most by topical steroid withdrawal, going through many rounds of broken, raw, oozing skin and new skin growth.
Before : Sensitive even to the mildest sun exposure or heat. Felt prickly and itching sensation all the time, breaking at the slightest scratch, very thin skin. Most part of my fingers, lower leg and arms are covered with either broken rash or inflamed. At night, I will easily be awaken by itching sensation and poor quality of sleep because it takes me another hour before I can actually fall asleep.
Now : Sensitive to very hot burning sun or prolong heat. Most of the day not itchy, at night occasional itchiness when I eat certain food or stress/worry about something. The skin won’t break easily when I scratch and feels thicker. Only some part of my fingers and lower limb are have rashes but mostly dark red healing rash. My arms are totally clear of rash. However, my lower limb skin which have healed are mostly light brown by the scarring. I am not awaken by the itching sensation at night and get better quality sleep.
Before : I was paranoid at almost everything that could possibly irritate my skin. I wouldn’t sit on couches made from fabric in fear of dust mites, avoided the sun like a plague, limited my outdoor activities. I would feel very down and miserable whenever I get a flareup. I felt like my whole life evolved around moisturizers and steroid creams. I had to protect my broken wound with bandage and plaster everyday.
Now : I feel more confident on what exactly my triggers are and I am not paranoid anymore because my skin is no longer broken. I feel hopeful and positive that I’m improving and my skin will finally be normal again. Even though I still moisturize and use shielding lotion lightly and apply natural ointments on some rash, my skincare regime is much simpler.
Before : I was easily stress, getting agitated at the slightest hiccup that doesn’t go according to plan. I worry about my skin condition often and not optimistic that my skin will eventually be able to function normally.
Now : I try not to juggle too many things at a time, outsourcing and asking for help whenever I need. I don’t worry about things that are not within my control. Every night before I sleep, instead of worrying and thinking too much, I list 5 things that I’m thankful and grateful for that happened today. I’m more positive that my skin will heal naturally.
I believe it’s a continuous healing journey for my skin. Other than my fingers and my lower limb, my other part of my body have almost fully recovered from topical steroid withdrawal and behaving normally. But I do see the light at the end of the tunnel. Now, I feel hopeful, grateful and happy every morning I wake up and I believe that is by itself is a gift of life.