uncomfortable in my own skin

my skin was not like the skin of other children, and when other children saw it, they reacted in ways that hurt me. this was an enormous source of stress for me growing up, and it has effected my ability to interact with the world significantly over the years.

i had this (ichthyosis) on my calves, and to some extent on my arms, thighs and back. all of my skin is very dry and scaly, but these areas were the worst. along with this, i had a severe form of a more common skin problem that often goes along with ichthyosis, keratosis pilaris (my experience was more severe than in the photo), on my upper arms and a very severe case on my thighs. (the photos that appear here have been pinched from roc.com and the skin site respectively.)

in summer, my skin would appear almost normal. something in the heat, humidity, and a bit of sunbathing helped the appearance of my skin. i would live for summer. the onset of colder weather would always be accompanied by feelings of depression and hopelessness. as a teenager, i was afraid that no one would ever want to have sex with me or could possibly fall in love with me.. except during summer months. i couldn't see how it would be possible to have ongoing relationships. the hope i clung to was that as an adult i'd have a career that would allow me to live in a warmer, more humid climate.

the energy that went into trying to plan for all occasions when my skin might be exposed, and the energy that went into trying to remain hopeful about it and care for my skin as well as possible was exhausting. i was so ashamed about it that i wasn't ever able to bring it up with any of the pdocs i saw (there was never a sufficient level of trust), and it was always close to traumatizing trying to explain it to any of the people in my life i needed to tell for various reasons. there is no cure for ichthyosis (it's considered a genetic defect, btw), but warm climates seem to help, along with the use of moisturizers and making efforts to exfoliate.

my skin is not currently an issue, though.. living with gk in australia (subtropical climate) has very much improved the condition of my skin, such that for most of the year it appears pretty normal. i do admit that it feels good to not have to constantly be preoccupied with it. if i ever leave here for a colder climate, my skin will again be hideous in colder months.

[28/06/05: i have never actually been diagnosed with ichthyosis, and at this time i think i need to say something about it. it was a self-diagnosis i made by looking at photos on the internet and reading what i could find about it. when i saw a dermatologist as a teenager, the condition wasn't given a name, and the feeling of shame related to the condition made it extremely difficult to even talk about it to ask for specifics. if i don't in fact have ichthyosis, i think it is something fairly similar or somehow related. i even have the very deep lines on the palms of my hands and soles of my feet that i've read goes along with it. when teased about it, it was called 'alligator skin'. i've seen people with less than perfect skin over the years, and some may have something that looks similar to me, but i don't think i have seen very many people with anything close to a similar extremeness of manifestation. whatever it actually is, it has had effects on my life that can't be overestimated.]

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