Sunday, 21 June 2015

Things That People Going Through TSW Want You to Know

I recently read a fantastic article about the things that people with a chronic illness want you to know and I thought I would do a post on (you guessed it):

Things That People Going Through TSW Want You to Know

1. It's not just really bad eczema

While some of the symptoms mimic traditional eczema such as itchy rashes, the severity of these symptoms we experience are like a thousand times worse and often covering 100% of the body, and we are also hit with other symptoms common to drug withdrawals, such as insomnia, anxiety, tremors, inability to regulate body temperature... The list really goes on and on. Sometimes the withdrawal symptoms can be so severe people end up in the hospital. This condition is serious business and we just want it to be treated as such.

2. It affects our lives in every way

We are in physical pain, we are emotionally exhausted, we are psychologically traumatised, we are socially impaired and we are economically depleted.

3. Healing is not linear...

Unfortunately, healing for us doesn't involve slowly getting better and better until finally we are well again. The process involves feeling worse, then a little better, then worse again, than even worse, then little better, and on and on it goes until finally we are healed. It sucks and this roller coaster can be completely heartbreaking at times.

4. ...And it takes a bloody long time 

For the majority of people, the healing time seems to fall somewhere between 1 and 3 years, and for some it can take even longer than this. So please don't ask us things like "aren't you better yet?"

We probably won't be and it will just makes us sad.

5. It is not our fault that we have this condition

Even though we have made the decision to stop using topical steroids, that does not make it our fault that we are sick. Unfortunately the blame for our condition lies with the doctors that prescribed us topical steroids over and over again for years without considering the damage these drugs were doing to us.

6. The majority of us cannot find a supportive doctor to help us

For some reason, doctors are burying their heads in the sand about this condition and refuse to believe that topical steroids have caused the damage to our skin that we are displaying. They do this in spite of the fact that this condition has been known about for more than ten years, there are several journal articles published in decent medical journals and also it says on the lists of side effects never to use for more than two weeks (which every doctor I have ever had has told me to ignore and to use for as long as I needed).

7. Doing pretty much anything for us is an effort

We are constantly experiencing some level of pain and discomfort (speaking only for myself I am itchy and sore 100% of the time) and often we are extremely sleep deprived so most of our energy goes into just trying to cope. As a result of this things that most people do without having to think about (washing your hair, doing dishes, going to the supermarket etc.) takes a hell of a lot of energy for us to do, and it often comes at the sacrifice of being able to do anything else for the rest of the day (Google the 'Spoon Theory'). 

8. Sadly, that includes things that we may really want to do

Such as seeing family and friends, exercising, leaving the house, even anything that we may do at home to keep ourselves distracted. For me, I haven't been able to leave the house more than a handful of times in the past six months, my mum and sister always have to visit me at home, and even small bouts of socialising can cause me to badly flare pretty much instantly. On my really bad days I can't even knit to keep myself distracted.

9. Sometimes we may look a bit better than the last time you saw us, that doesn't mean we are feeling better.

In fact, often we feel worse. Our skin can look alright but still feel sore and like it is burning. TSW is weird that way. 

10. We need lots and lots (and lots) of support from our friends and family

Going through this is hard. Really hard. And lonely. Many of us have to withdraw from life for a long time. Many (myself included) have had to stop working and seeing friends. Often we can't even look after ourselves and have to rely on other people to do things for us (standing ovation to all the TSW caregivers out there including my wonderful boyfriend). 

11. We appreciate that you want to help, but we really want everyone to stop giving us unsolicited advice. 

We aren't stupid. We've spent more hours than we can count doing research and already tried a million different ways to help our skin over a number of years. Don't tell us we need to change our washing powder or try a particular cream that is labelled hypersensitive or try some magic strategy that your neighbour used on her baby to help her rash. There is no secret solution to help us that we just haven't found yet. No cream, oil, supplement or diet change is going to make us better, the only thing that heals us is time.

So I'm saying right now, we don't need you to fix us, we just want support. So just ask how we are and listen, it means more to us than anything else. 

12. We frequently worry and doubt ourselves...

We wonder if we will ever heal, how long it's going to take, if we are making the right decisions in how we look after ourselves, if the worst of our withdrawal is behind us or still to come, if our bodies are permanently damaged, what people are thinking when they look at us, if we will ever get our lives back...

13. ... But we know we are doing the right thing

Speaking only for myself, I can say that in spite of the terrible pain and suffering I have experienced for the last six months, I have not regretted my decision to stop using topical steroids and go through withdrawal for even a second. 

While on topical steroids, the life I was living was not life as it should be. I was completely dependent on a dangerous medication, and even though I was using it every day, my skin was still so bad that it was stopping me from doing many things. Going to work or uni or out socialising was very challenging because of my levels of pain and discomfort, and in the months before I stopped using topical steroids, my health declined to the point where doing these things was nearly impossible.

I know that even though this process is awful, I am doing it to get my life back, because I deserve to have a normal life.


14. PLEASE don't tell us to stop scratching!

It's counterproductive and we HATE it! Scratching is a response the body has to feeing itchy. It is a reflex the same way that breathing is a reflex. So you telling us not to scratch is like us telling you not to breathe. I cannot stress this enough. Plus the level of itching we experience can be insane.

The only thing that saying this achieves is to make us feel horrible and guilty for not being able to stop and mad at you for not understanding that it's not under our control.

If you absolutely MUST say something, tell them that it's ok to scratch, to be gentle and that everything will be ok.


  1. If I was good with words this is how I would sum it all up, it's perfect! I've not started a blog (yet) 35 days in to TSW. Your blog gives me everything I need to tell people where I am at the moment and why I am not at work to help people understand the traumas of TSW. Thanks and sending healing thoughts your way! :)

    1. Thank you for your comment! It can be really hard to immerse myself in the misery that is tsw enough to keep up with this blog sometimes, but knowing it helps someone out there makes it worthwhile :)

  2. Hayley I love this, can I please link to it in my blog? You've put it so perfectly! x

  3. Btw this is awesome and sorry for unsolicited products! Really insightful. Thanks for sharing your journey. :)

    1. Ha thanks for obviously going through all my posts! I appreciate that your suggestion came from a good place though people just want to help :)

  4. Another sleepless night from all the burning and scratching and I stumble upon this gem! Absolutely what I want to say to EVERYONE I meet.

    I'm almost a year into my withdrawal and as of last week am experiencing a flare that was unexpected and one of the biggest I've had!

    My family support me to some extent but they really have no idea how upset, anxious and self-conscious this makes me.

    Thank you for putting into words what I want to say. You look amazing right now. I'm really proud of you for sticking with this. Gives me motivation to continue!

  5. As a mom and caregiver to a fellow TSW warrior, I take this information very seriously. I am pleased to see that according to your points here I have not failed in my role. My adult daughter is taking this same journey (and me right along with her). I sit and scratch her back for hours for her - I will do whatever she needs - whenever she needs it! My heart is broken and will remain in pieces until she is healed from this. We are surrounded by (well-meaning) ignorant people who only add layers to this already massively challenging situation. I am very grateful that my daughter is ADAMANT about never using steroid creams again no matter what doctors, family members, friends suggest. Would anyone suggest a heroin addict in withdrawal just go ahead and use again to ease the suffering? This is how blatantly ridiculous people can be. You really have to be 100% entrenched in this situation to fully understand. You have to totally dismiss everything you trusted and learned in the past. This is its own thing - and people like you who are among the bravest souls on the planet to embark on the journey are the experts. Thoughts and prayers for you thru your healing journey Hayley <3

  6. Thank you for this post. I just started my TSW journey, am in a lot of pain, and have people around me who don't understand. This is exactly what I needed to tell them but couldn't find the words. People like you give me hope I'm doing the right thing. Thanks :)

  7. Hi Hayley, this is what I need right now. I'm currently into 5 month withdrawal, full body flare except my back, major ooze and bleed. Sleep is impossible during difficult days, I just end up siting on my chair and enduring the burning pain. It is getting worse each day and seems like there is no end of the tunnel. According to ur article, u reassure me that one day will come, that one day my ooze and bleed will stop. Thank you so much. From Jane

  8. Wonderfully written Haley, much love and healing to you. X

  9. Haley.... I am in tears writing this. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for writing this and sharing it.I only wish I could have had the internal power to articulate this as you did. But as you well know the magnitude of going thru TSW is horrific. I was suicidal and did not think I would survive it. My Mom & My Faith in God is what pulled me thru it. Doctors had me on steroids topical & internal for 47 years since 3 years old when it all began. Thye said i had eczema. I now know that is just a label. I had an allergic reaction and 50+ years ago that was uncharted territory. 4 years ago I woke up and said "I think these are killing me". And my journey began. Research until my eyes bugged out! LOL Doctors that would not help me become free of them but rather only wanted to put me on stronger steroids. Thankfully I knew God was guiding me no matter how difficult the journey. I try to not look back to my whole life living or not living I should say... as getting off them was the best decision I have ever made! Today sadly, doctors remain ignorant but we do have great Natural Practioners all over USA that help people naturally deal with allergies. SO here I am now, as the steroids started my "fat" body so young, I have been trying to take weight off to no avail. Worked out religiously for 2 years and not one pound lost! ugh I eat a lot of vegetarian, organics & almost nothing processed. I am a freak about not using pharmaceutical drugs. Only natural / organic supplements, essential oils & tinctures. Natural Practioner told me Steroids stay in the fat of our bodies and do not easily leave us, as traditional doctors believe. Any suggetions for ridding of the fat from steroids is welcomed. My husband & I have an Organic Essential Oil company overseas and we just launched here in USA. We formulate organic products for eczema and other skin issues as well as other blends with a purpose. As you might guess, at the heart of my passion for making great products, is my personal journey. My cream has helped people with eczema. The suffering we all experience is horrific and anything I can do to help others is my duty to do so. Thank you again for publishing this. Do you mind if I share it on my blog and FB etc? I also would like to offer free samples to anyone who has followed this post or that you might know that needs to try and see if they get relief from symptoms with our cream. Haley I also would like to participate in anything you do that helps others going thru this if you need me. I am here, Again thank you so much for writing this! Angela