This article is adapted from Charlene’s speech at the Malaysian Confessions Event held in KL Colony Coworking Space, on 26th June. This is her story.
Ever since I was 3 years old, I suffered from severe eczema.
For the rashes on my body, a little steroid cream would do the trick. In 1 or 2 days, they would be gone. But after I stepped into the workforce, I started working in a bank, and the stress level caught up with me.
My skin’s renewal cycle would be prolonged, and instead of going away, it would go on for months and months. This kept going for about two to three years.
90% Of My Body Was Covered In Eczema
About 90% of my body was covered with eczema, rashes, weeping wounds, and skin flakes. My skin would look like rhinoceros skin. It was all over my body, on my back, and on my knees.
In the morning when I wake up, I would struggle to take off my clothes to change, because the skin would stick to my clothes. And when I take off my clothes, my skin would tear, and then after that I would bleed.
It didn’t help that I was working in a bank, because every other day I would go drinking with my colleagues to relax. I had a lot of alcohol, about 2 to 3 beers a night.
I couldn’t take it anymore, so I went to the National Skin Centre in Singapore, and the doctor prescribed me 6 steroids a meal, 3 times a day. That was 18 steroids pills per day! I couldn’t take steroid cream, because it doesn’t work on me anymore.
After I started taking these steroids, on the second day, my skin cleared like a baby. I was like, “Whoa, it was a miracle drug!”
But nothing is free in this world. When I stopped taking it, the eczema came back 10 times harder, and it hit me worse than before.
I was becoming very dependent on the steroid. Not just dependent, I became emotional, I had very bad mood swings, and I put on weight.
After that, I couldn’t work. Once a customer rejected me, I would go to the toilet and cry for hours. I was a financial adviser, and rejection was part and parcel of my job – but I just couldn’t work.
I Went To See A Bio-Resonance Therapist
I decided to seek alternative treatment. I went online to do more research into eczema and psoriasis, and I found that it’s actually not skin-deep. It’s actually from deep within – issues with your diet, your lifestyle, your habits, your gut, your liver, and your digestion.
I went to see a bioresonance therapist, because I didn’t want to take steroids any more. The effects of steroids were very scary. I had two options:
Option one, take steroids and become a very depressed and unhappy person, and don’t work and have no income, but have beautiful skin.
Or option two, have okay skin, but at least be happy and continue my life.
Obviously, I went for option two (because I needed the money). My bioresonance therapist told me: “You’ve got to stop drinking and change your diet. You’ve got to stop a lot of things.”
She told me I’m allergic to dairy, seafood, alcohol, and some meat. But I wasn’t ready to commit to that. I was like, “Whoa! That’s part and parcel of my life – I wanna drink! Couple of glasses of wine won’t kill.”
She said, “Look…YOU are different. Everyone is made differently. You know, your body is different; you CANNOT compare yourself to other people.”
That woke me up. Why should I conform to social norms and continue the kind of lifestyle that doesn’t benefit me at all?
I started to commit myself to this detoxification journey without any medication. She told me to go on a wholefood, plant-based diet for at least one month to detox.
I Went Through A Healing Crisis
In the beginning, it was one of the toughest periods of my life. Because I had so much toxins in my body, it had to come out, and it came out of me via my skin.
My face started ‘crumbling’, and I had weeping sores. In the morning I couldn’t even open my eyes, because they would stick together. It was very difficult. I started losing my brows and eyelashes.
It was called a ‘healing crisis’. I knew it was good for me, but it was really very tough when you have to go out and meet people everyday, day in and day out.
When I wake up in the morning, I would see myself in the mirror and cry my heart out for 1 and a half hours. Then I’d go for a meeting. And then at night when I went home, I told myself: “You cannot do this, you have to work.” I’d just changed to another job, so I had a very big target to hit.
I Trained Myself Not To Look In The Mirror
I devised a ritual in the morning to prepare myself to go out: “In the morning, don’t look at the mirror.” Because when I used to do my makeup, I would look at the mirror, and I would begin to spiral when I saw my skin.
I’m Christian, so I chanted my Bible verses in front of the mirror when I did my makeup. If you’re not Christian, you can use any motivational quote.
I don’t look at the mirror anymore, I’ll put on my mascara, paint on my eyebrows, and walk out the door.
When I step out, the second challenge was handling how people were going to view me. Maybe they don’t really look at you, but you get self-conscious, the scars, the wounds – everything is on your body.
I even had this experience walking past a durian stall. This seller was telling another durian seller: “Eh you see, you see the girl, you see her body…I think she got AIDS eh.”
Yeah, that’s what I heard.
My solution to this was:
You gotta project who you are from the inside, not who you are on the outside.
I learnt to channel Beyonce when I go out. I just walked out confidently of my house every morning, because I didn’t look at myself in the mirror, so I didn’t know what I looked like!
If you are afraid, you’ll walk out of your house feeling timid and self-conscious, and people will start asking, “eh, why is she so self-conscious?” And they will start to look for flaws on your body.
Don’t be like this. Be confident, then people will say: “Wow so damn extra, I kenot” then they won’t even look at your flaws!
How I Dealt With My Condition At Work
The third challenge was meeting clients. When I see clients, I talk about financial stuff, and it can get boring sometimes. Then they will start to look at your face, and they’ start commenting: ”Ey, why your skin like that ah? Why are you working? Go home and rest lah.”
Especially if the client doesn’t know you, if it’s a new client, it might affect your sales.
There was this new client. She had decided to find her case with me, but after she noticed my condition, she asked me, “Eh…Your face why ah? Contagious or not?”
I said “No, it’s fine,” and explained what I’m going through, and then she said “Oh…I think I’m fine…Um, I don’t want..not today, thank you.” Then she left.
That is one of the challenges I faced with a face like this. My solution to this is:
Be very open and very honest with your condition. 90% of the time, your friends, your loved ones, will be very supportive of what you’re going through.
Those people that say the negative things, those are just 10% of the people that you don’t need in your life. My body’s a filter now – it filters all these people out.
It’s amazing how after you open up your conditions to people, even strangers sometimes, you tell them your condition, and they come from a place of concern. “Oh, try this cream, it might help you. Oh, I give you this contact, contact this doctor.”
Yeah, sometimes it may be a bit annoying, but understand that it comes from a place of concern. They’re supportive, so I know that’s very important. It really helped me in facing my day-to-day life.
I Was Made Campaign Ambassador for Dove’s Derma-Series!
Throughout all this, something amazing happened. Last year in 2018, Dove decided to launch a derma-series in Asia, and my friend sent my skin story. They made me the campaign ambassador!
This whole campaign journey really empowered me and helped me make peace with my skin and who I am. I am not 100% healed, I’m still trying to manage my condition, sometimes I have flare-ups. But it’s fine, because I know what I am doing on a day-to-day basis.
I eat clean, I work out 4-5 times a week. I do cheat on some meals, but I’m very aware of what I’m putting into my body because I take care of my body.
Throughout all this, there’s a silver lining. When I started this I was a ‘fatty’. I was actually 70kg. And then after that, all these activities, change of lifestyle, change of habit, it made me lose about 15kg.
If you asked me, “Where does your self-confidence come from?” I believe it’s from self-awareness. If you know you’re taking care of yourself, you can disregard whatever other people are saying or thinking about you.
That person might be sitting there, eating char kway teow and judging you, but they are eating.unhealthy food. (No offence to hawker food. I love it, but my body can’t take it.)
The person might be judging you, but is that person’s lifestyle healthy? If not, is he or she really able to judge you? No, because you are the one who is aware of what you’re putting in your body.
“ When you know more about yourself, you feel empowered, and when you accept yourself, you are invincible.” – Tina Lifford
For more stories about finding self-confidence, read Here’s Why Not Wearing Makeup Made Me Feel Better and I’ve Been Dealing with Acne for 13 Years Now. Here’s My Story.