chicken skin

When I was in Junior High something lovely happened to me-- not only did I grow my bangs out awkwardly and get a retainer, I also developed atopic dermatitis, i.e. eczema. It was contained mainly to my legs. For those of you that are unfamiliar with this, basically eczema is very dry skin, and when scratched it becomes inflamed and irritated. At its worst there are tiny bumps that look kind of like blisters or goosebumps, and sometimes ooze. [Ooze is never a verb you want to use when you're describing yourself, just saying. Especially not in Junior High.]

I remember one very specific outburst on my shins that itched so badly I took a hairbrush to my legs and scratched until I bled...and kept scratching. That's how badly they would itch. I went to a dermatologist, he confirmed what we assumed, "It's atopic dermatitis," and told me what to stay away from: really hot water, scented anything, and scratching. As a Junior High girl I thought he should have added shorts and skirts to the list, but he didn't scratch that on the prescription pad. He said I had a good chance of outgrowing it in my late teens or twenties.

Mild and unscented soap helped. So did not shaving, so in the winter if I kept enough lotion on and only shaved when I had a basketball game, I could keep it mild.  By late high school I wasn't  as self-concious about it because it was a little more contained, as were my insecurities. On a mission trip to Colorado my Junior year I was sitting next to a boy--a cute boy-- who I happened to be madly crushing, and he and our friend joked about it and called me "chicken skin." Thanks to high school requirements they even knew how to say it in Spanish, piel de pollo. I laughed with them because the boy was so cute and I had to act cool about my freaky skin. 

In college it was pretty tame, unless I shaved too often or used the wrong products. And that cute boy wised up and asked me out and stopped calling me chicken skin. But my legs tanned funny and were never going to be smooth like other girls. I had to come to that realization. After I married the boy who called me piel de pollo, we moved to Kentucky and I think our water was really great or something, and my legs looked better than I could ever remember them looking. Maybe that dermatologist was right, maybe I was going to outgrow this?

Then we moved back and I had babies and, fun fact, pregnancy can cause eczema to flare back up. And it did. And so I'm back to square one in a lot of ways-- minus awkward bangs and a retainer.

Just two nights ago I had to get up out of bed and go get my "special" lotion and put it all over my legs because they itched so badly, the little bumps were back, and all I wanted to do was scratch the dickens out of them. I know people notice. My softball girls even asked me last year, "What's wrong with your legs?" because I had major patches of untanned parts that were slightly bumpy where I had had a flare up last summer. But I don't think people notice as much as I think they notice.

Why am I telling you all of this? I'm not sure, really. But I think I just wanted to share all of this with you to say: we all have our chicken skin. Yours may not be a physical trait, or maybe it is. Maybe some cute boy called you something in Spanish, but he didn't follow it up with a marriage proposal so his words sting to this day. I see girls in the summer rubbing Bath & Body Works on their super smooth legs and I have to suppress the envy. I do.

But I've come a long way since I was in Junior High. Sure, given the opportunity I would choose flawless skin. BUT I've learned I am learning to accept it. I'm learning to love my Cetaphil and Lubriderm. I'm learning there are far, far more important things than my chicken skin. Swimsuit season is coming up. Can we all just embrace whatever flaws we have and get in the water? And if my legs look particularly bad this summer, can we all just agree not to call me chicken skin...in any language?

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Anonymous said...

I still remember trying to scrub the lotion that was accidentally put on your legs on your wedding day so you wouldn't break out! We all have our "chicken skin" to be sure. Thanks for being open enough to share about yours! And if it makes you feel better - I would never have known until you told me in college! - Renae

Ellen said...

oh man! I had eczema when I was little too. When I was in middle school, it was mostly contained to my left ring finger. (Weird.) It flared up when we lived in an old house right after we got married and I got it on my throat and face. (In addition to arms, legs, and low back.) I feel ya (literally.) We moved from the old house and now it's mostly gone. PS. I think I figured out how to let you email me on this thing.

*carrie* said...

I did a double take when I saw the title of this post. When I was in upper elementary and on, I had what we called "chicken skin" on my upper arms. It's not as noticeable now, especially when I tan in the summer, but I used to be SUPER self-conscious about it, and of course our basketball jerseys were sleeveless. Mine didn't itch, so may have been something different--just tiny little pink bumps all over.

Torrie said...

I literally just went to the derm this week to finally get my eczema looked at (which had flared up--bad--during my pregnancy). I'm hoping that my skin returns back to its normal color (read: not bright red) in 4 weeks after using the steroid cream and heavy lotion, like the derm told me it would. Fingers crossed!