If You’re Going Through Hell, Keep On Going

First of all, I want to apologize for being MIA for so long. If I’m being completely honest, I temporarily forgot I had an actual blog. OOPS. But if you follow me on Instagram @wellnessforthewin, you can keep up with my daily eats there in-between posts. 😉 Life has been so crazy and busy and I just haven’t made the time to sit down and write. I have been doing a little wedding planning, a little working, a little socializing, but still managing to make time for the important people in my life, my workouts, and cooking healthy meals (with a few exceptions, because we all deserve to splurge occasionally). So I have to say I’m glad I have my priorities straight at the moment, because it can be extremely hard to achieve that balance when there’s so much going on.

I have mentioned in several of my posts that I am very type A. I’m a perfectionist, too hard on myself, “blah, blah, blah” — so I won’t go into too much more detail about that. (But if you’re a new WFTW reader, now you know.) With that being said, I am stressed out more often than not. Sometimes I don’t even know what I’m stressed about. I’m a very happy person and I love my life, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not stressing about something most of the time. There’s always something that could be going a little bit better, or something that needs to be done, right? I’m the kind of person that can never sit still too long without feeling extremely guilty about it. I think to myself, “I could be doing x, y,  or z right now…” Okay, you get it. So now I’ll get on with it.

As a dietitian, it’s important for me to read articles and stay up-to-date on what’s happening in the world in terms of health. I try to be in the know about any new research findings that could be applicable to me or my clients/patients. The more articles I read, the more I am amazed (but also not surprised) at how much stress can negatively impact your overall health. You may think you are doing all the right things — eating well, working out, drinking plenty of water, etc., but if you are always stressed, it can take a serious toll on your body, despite all of those healthy behaviors. I have experienced that firsthand in many ways.

Last year, I had a colonoscopy and EGD done because I was convinced something was wrong with my stomach. Of course I imagined the worst. It had to be Crohn’s or Celiac Disease, or something of that nature. Thankfully, I was wrong. My diagnosis turned out to be “irritable bowel syndrome”, which is a legitimate diagnosis, but unfortunately there’s not a ton you can do about it besides try to avoid certain foods that cause discomfort, eat a healthy diet rich in prebiotic/probiotics, etc. One of the main factors that the GI doctor thought could be causing my symptoms was stress. I thought, “Well, that’s perfect. I’ll just stop being stressed!” HA, if only it worked that way. A year and a half later, I wouldn’t say my IBS has resolved, but on most days it is manageable. I can live with that. By getting those tests done and finding out that there wasn’t something seriously wrong going on with my GI tract, some of my stress actually was alleviated. So in that sense, it was helpful.

More recently, I have been having some problems on the exterior part of my body. I have had skin issues for as long as I can remember. I started getting acne in late elementary school/early middle school and visiting with a dermatologist around that time. Since then, I think I have tried every topical cream and medication ever created to treat acne besides Accutane. I have always struggled and felt self-conscious because of my skin. Unlike a lot of girls, I refuse to leave the house without makeup on because I feel like the imperfections are all people can see, because they are all I see when I look in the mirror. In more recent years, the dermatologist told me I had developed eczema as well. It started as itchy, red patches on my legs and now I have similar spots appear on my arms and hands. My eczema has never gotten close to being as severe as some people who suffer from eczema. It has just been more of a nuisance than anything.

However, around June/July of this past summer, I started having severe rashes and breakouts on my face. I wasn’t sure exactly what the cause was, but I originally attributed it to my eczema. Some days I woke up with red, swollen, puffy eyes and red, itchy rashes around my mouth and chin. Not only was it incredibly unattractive, but it was often painful as well. Sometimes it actually looked like I got in a fist fight. On those days, I had a hard time getting myself to even leave the house at all. Makeup could only mask the breakouts for so long before the dryness would catch up to me, and I could feel people staring at those spots on my face wondering what happened, but resisting the temptation to ask.

After experiencing these severe breakouts a couple times a week for a month or two, I was fed up. I went to the dermatologist to try to figure out what was wrong. At first, he didn’t really have an answer for me. We thought we would just continue to keep an eye on it and see if we could find a trend. Was it something I ate? Something I put on my face on those days that caused the breakout?

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Finally, I requested an allergy test. I knew that this had to be a reaction to something that was coming into contact with my skin on a regular basis. I went back to the dermatologist yet again (for my third visit in a month or so), and got a patch test done on my back to test for common allergens that may have been causing the contact dermatitis on my face. Lucky for me, this test just consisted of tape that they placed on my back with the allergens on it, rather than 50 needles in my back like they did when I was a kid.

On Monday of that week, the tape was applied to my back, and I went back on Wednesday for the dermatologist to do the first reading. As he started checking the spots on my back, he was reporting to the nurse that most of them were negative, and she marked a 0 with a slash through it on her sheet of paper. But then he discovered that one of the spots, #17, had a major reaction. The name of it was “Methylchloroisothiazolanone”. (Try to say that 10 times fast.) He told me that this was a preservative that could be found in tons of products, and was more than likely the cause of my recent breakouts. He told me that he recently had a male patient who was experiencing similar symptoms on his face, and he discovered that he was allergic to the same preservative. He described them as “severe welts”. He said that once the patient identified this allergen and eliminated the preservative from all of his products, all of his symptoms subsided.

I was incredibly excited and hopeful that this would be the solution to all of my skin problems. I immediately went home to check the ingredients label of all of my products. I was shocked to find that this preservative really was everywhere. It was in the ingredients list of my shampoo/conditioner, face wash, body wash, hand soap, even our dish detergent! I thought that surely this would be the answer. I knew that I had to get rid of all these items right away and go buy replacements that were safe for me. So off to the store I went to get new face wash, new body wash, new hand soap, etc. (Luckily, all of my makeup products were safe.)

At first, it seemed that removing those products was making a difference. Again, I was feeling excited and hopeful that this was it. The cure. All I want is to have clear skin for my wedding in a year, was at the front of my mind. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before I started having issues yet again. More redness, dryness, swelling, and itchy, flaky skin around my eyes and mouth. Exactly the same as before.

I was disappointed and discouraged and couldn’t help but feel like I was right back at square one. Yes, there were tears. After talking with my mom about it and expressing my frustration, she realized that the spot on my back from the patch test was still inflamed. I had been told by an aesthetician that the preservative could stay in my system for a while, but I didn’t want to believe that it could really affect me for 6 more weeks until we realized that an entire month later the spot was still there. My dermatologist’s nurse confirmed the same thing when I called her about it.

Luckily, similarly to my previous breakouts, it cleared up within three or four days. Then something amazing happened. My skin started looking clear, feeling soft and healthy. Something I haven’t experienced in a very long time. Even my acne has started to clear up. My skin definitely isn’t perfect, and probably never will be, but there has been significant improvement over the last few weeks. It’s probably too soon to assume that I will no longer have any of these problems, but the point of all this is that if you are experiencing any health issues, whether it may be stomach pain, skin issues, mental health problems or anything else, do not hesitate to reach out and get help. Whatever you’re going through does not have to be permanent, and there is a solution out there that can help you get better. You just have to be determined to look for it.

My advice: Always make your health and well-being your number one priority. You only get one body, one face, one life. Allow yourself to enjoy it to the fullest and don’t live your days feeling sad, defeated, self-conscious, or sick if you don’t have to. It may take time to figure out how to fix the problem. Weeks, months, years even, but once you do, you’ll be so glad you took control of your life and did something about it. 

Finally feeling happy, healthy and confident in my skin again.

If there’s something that’s not quite right with your health but you’ve been ignoring it or putting up with it for too long, make this the week you decide to do something about it.

Have a healthy week!

Shanna, RD

#wellnessforthewin

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15 thoughts on “If You’re Going Through Hell, Keep On Going

  1. You poor little baby! Thank you for sharing your pain encourage and success! Did you ever try activated charcoal in any form? Just curious. Removes toxins and poisons from your bloodstream – many skin care lines have a charcoal facemask as well. Peace to you. 🌟

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for sharing! I suffer from incredibly sensitive skin, no comparison to what you went through, but nevertheless, it is miserable and hopeless to struggle to find the source of what causes these types of issues. If you haven’t found a holy grail skin cleanser/moisturizer… check out Simple Sugars. You can buy it online or at Beauty Brands. I learned about it on the show shark tank. It’s a product created by a young girl who suffered from horrible eczema, and they have blends with emu oil specifically for that condition. It’s magical stuff!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh wow – I will have to check that out! I have actually had really great luck with Aveeno moisturizers since they are kinda targeted towards eczema as well, but wouldn’t hurt to try that stuff! Thank you for the recommendation! And yes, sensitive skin is awful. Mine has always been very sensitive too, and these recent issues were a whole new level, so I understand your struggle!! I hope yours improves too! 🙂 Thanks for reading Molly.

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  3. Interesting culprit! Glad to have read this and thank you for sharing! My acne was controlled on birth control for 10 years until past few years when I went off of it. My anxious feelings, heart palpitations, and stress dramatically reduced off of BC but moderate acne arose. It’s usually controlled but recently has been so inflamed, cyst after cyst. So painful. And yes discouraging to go out even with my makeup on. I think my culprit was/is stress as I’m under some with my DI ending, RD exam studying, and job applying ☺️. It’s finally calming down. I also just recently bought salycylic acid as opposed to only benzoyl peroxide wash and cream and I think that’s helping. Anyway thanks for the post and glad you are feeling better!

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    1. Thank you so much for reading! Yes, it sounds like it is a very stressful time for you right now! I remember all that RD exam studying… No fun! But it is worth it once it’s all over. ☺️ it is interesting how different medications affect everyone differently. I have been on birth control for a long time as well to treat my acne and I recently started another pill called Spironolactone that works well along with it to treat adult female acne. I hope your symptoms get better as your stress levels go down!! Good luck with the exam 😘💕

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  4. Wow!! Randomly found your picture on my Instagram explore feed and saw that you had a story for what looked like eczema. So I came here and read the whole story. First of all, thank you for sharing!

    I have been having stomach problems for the past year or so and my doctor was quick to say it was IBS, then months later I got eczema in the same places on my face as you! I’ve always wondering if the digestive issues were the cause but now I’m wondering if it’s an allergy. I have bad hay fever a lot, so this definitely makes me rethink where the eczema is coming from. Thanks so much for posting your story, it gives me hope that I can clear up my flare ups. Even my steroids (which I hate taking) aren’t helping anymore. Anyway, thanks again. What are your favorite products to use?

    Xo Kate

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Kate! I’m so glad you came across my post since we have so many of the same problems! That’s interesting that we both were diagnosed with IBS and eczema. I’ve been doing a lot of research about gut health lately and when your gut bacteria isn’t happy, your body isn’t happy and sometimes that translates to the skin causing eczema! Crazy how inflammation affects our whole bodies. I hope you can find a cause too! Maybe an allergy test would help you as well. Favorite products for face / makeup / or hair ??

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      1. Well I just started using some foaming face wash from the brand Simple, because it’s all free of dyes and perfumes and harsh chemicals, which seemed like a good place to start. I have liked that so far. I also got some Aveeno 24 hr moisturizing lotion that is life changing!!! I love that a lot. Other than that, I use Tarte Amazonian clay foundation which I am also in love with, and it gives amazing coverage for the days when I really need it. I have started applying my foundation with a damp beauty blender as well and I have found that this is much gentler on my face than a brush, so you could try that too!!! Hope that helps!! 🙂

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    1. Thanks so much! I’m relieved too. Now it’s a bit of a daily battle to try to avoid the preservative in everything I come into contact with!! I’m always scared to wash my hands in public bathrooms for fear that the soap contains it. Hand sanitizer it is!! 😉

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  5. Thank you for sharing your story. I’m going through somewhat of a mystery skin/lip condition right now, and I’m wondering if it will ever go away – Red, blistery, infected, itchy, and burning. Its been 9 months of doctors visits/ dermotologist appointments. Nothing that’s been proscribed has worked 😢 Very discouraging, frustrating, and concerning. Maybe an allergy test is what I need as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know exactly how you feel – it is awful! I would definitely recommend getting an allergy test. It wouldn’t hurt! If they don’t find anything then you’ll at least have some peace of mind, and if they do find something then you’ll have an answer! I hope things get better for you Taylor! 😘 Thanks for reading! 💕

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