I have had eczema since I was 6 months old.
I grew up not knowing what it would be like to not have red, itchy skin. I grew up not knowing what it would be like to be comfortable in my own skin.
Eczema was a perpetual mystery to my parents. Doctors told them that I had sensitive skin and that I was allergic to numerous environmental allergens. That included pet dander, though the dogs and cats continued to be a staple in our house. As I aged into more self-aware years, I just learned to accept that my skin would never look nice. I would always be “different” though not in an endearing way but in a way that made me feel immense shame about myself.
I moved away from home just after I turned 18. I moved to a foreign country (Canada), where I went to university. For the first few years, my skin seemed to clear up. It was magical occurrence! Never in my lifetime did I expect that my skin would not be covered in eczema.
But suddenly in the year before I graduated, it returned with vengeance. What followed were the two most miserable years of eczema. My skin had more large, red patches and in place that I couldn’t cover up easily. I was constantly itching my skin in my sleep, which only made it worse. I avoided going out with friends at night because I didn’t want to have to take off my scarf and show the world my skin. Even after I graduated the problems persisted.
I hit my breaking point when I went to the doctor’s office and was prescribed an anti-histamine so strong that I collapsed from drowsiness on the bus. I cried at home for hours that night. I felt so hopeless and like such a freak. Why couldn’t this problem be fixed?
What I didn’t know was that I was sick. I was sick in a much bigger way than I could have possibly imagined. I only found that out when I, begrudgingly, decided to give naturopathic medicine a try.
Within a few minutes of me explaining my never-end skin problems, my naturopathic doctor said, “I bet you have food allergies.” I so clearly remember thinking, “No! I don’t have food allergies. I’m 22. I would know if I had food allergies.” But lo and behold I did.
I have Celiac Disease, which was the root cause of my eczema.
Within weeks of changing my diet, my eczema cleared up and I was finally free from the skin problems that plagued me. It seemed like a miracle to me that there was a cure!
But I was reminded this morning when I read this article that there are so many people in the world who have incurable skin problems. Incidentally, it was also the most incredible example of non-profit storytelling.
What made this story so irresistibly good? The empathy that it evoked in my body.
While I have something of a natural understanding of what it is like to have a skin condition, I felt so much for that boy, Jonathon, as I read about the intricate details of his daily life. The details of day-to-day life could be considered benign. But the detail of his life tells the story of a struggle. It tells the story of someone just trying to lead a life. It tells the story of a dream for a future where there is a cure for this disease.
So often I think that there are stories that are overlooked. Maybe because they are simple. Maybe because they seems less powerful. But the fact is that they are powerful, yet simple stories that have the ability to transform non-profits’ audiences.
The truth is these are the stories we should tell more often. Leave no story left untold.