Hello, beautiful reader! I’m Mie.
I started this blog because I wanted to document the final healing stages of my recovery from a degenerative disease called eczema, and share what I’ve learned about holistic health along the way. It has not been an easy road, but I am so thrilled and grateful to have made it this far and have learned so much in the process about our body’s miraculous ability to heal itself. I was born and raised in Hawai`i and currently live in New York where I attend the Institute of Integrative Nutrition. By the end of my program in May 2013, I will be a certified holistic health coach, a career that is such a perfect fit, given my interest in holistic healing, and passion for inspiring other people to reclaim their overall health.
New York is an exhilarating city. My classmates in this program inspire me every day. I am having the time of my life living with five of my college buddies in an apartment with a roof deck. But first let me rewind to tell you a little about how I got here.
My name is pronounced “me-yay” and it means “beauty.” I used to think it was a little cruel and ironic growing up because I seldom felt beautiful. Growing up, I was teased mercilessly for my discolored and inflamed skin. It was in an era before bullying was so fashionably frowned-upon, so I just assumed that the taunts and ridicule were just par for the course and a rite of passage, albeit a vicious one. One of the worst bullies would pretend to drop his pens on the ground across from me, bend down to pick them up and stab my legs with them while he was hidden underneath the desk. I would tear up but never cried in front of anybody. Because my daddy always told me not to lose to shit!
I grew up convinced that I was an eyesore, and an embarrassment to be seen with. I prayed every night that people would be able to see past my skin and like me enough to not be embarrassed to be seen with a freak like me. A lot of kids also thought my skin condition was contagious like chicken pox, but eczema is not contagious.
As a kid, I would wake up every day and look at my skin obscured against the shadow of morning’s half-light. In that semi-darkness, my skin could pass for normal, and I would fill myself with hope: maybe the discoloration is gone and its texture will be uniform! When I would turn on the lights, and my skin was brought into sharper relief, I was invariably let down. But every morning before the lights went on, in that moment of shadowy hope, I felt endowed with a sense of what was possible and felt ready to take on the day and learn new things! As an eternal optimist, I believed that the next day would promise another transformation. In fourth grade, I saw a Maya Angelou poster in the library (where you could always find me) with words that resonate with me til this day: “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. I credit that quote with helping me survive my adolescence with a resilient spirit.
…Enter the horror and wonder of prescription drugs…
Once I got to high school, I had already been exposed to a whole range of different healing modalities (thanks to a loving family who only wanted to see me get better): herbs, acupuncture, steroid creams, antibiotics, anti-fungals…you name it, I did ‘em. But somehow, taking the steroid prednisone orally did the trick. It was my control-alt-delete. If I ever had a skin breakout, I would just pop a few and it would reboot my skin’s appearance and eradicate the worst of my eczema symptoms like the itching. I bounced from doctor to doctor, and each one would hazard a guess about the cause of my thickened and mottled skin. Each one would ultimately pass me off to another doctor, or just prescribe super strong steroid creams or oral steroids. I internalized the doctors’ belief that eczema had no cure, and I could only take these drugs to curb the worst of my symptoms. I thought that sucked, but at least I found a drug that made my skin look somewhat normal.
I had a relatively okay time in high school. I wasn’t teased as much for my skin and was considered a “freak” for shallow reasons of the more garden-variety: I was a nerd. But oh honey, I was fine with that. I caught a random virus in my right eye that almost blinded me, and had to put all kinds of drops in them as the eye doctors tried to figure out what worked, including one that was literally pool cleaner. So there was also that time of subpar health and period of excessive invocation of Miss Angelou’s words. That was freshman year and because I couldn’t see properly, I had to miss half of that year and most of sophomore year. But then! Junior year my eye got better, and my skin was in a holding pattern with the prednisone and topical steroid creams. With my health stable for the first time in a while, I hustled in all my extracurriculars and I pulled full steam ahead into overachiever mode. And more importantly, evolved into a girl who was resilient and always happy to be alive! I solidified my belief that everything happens for a reason, and felt pretty damn self-actualized by the time I applied to college.
I got into Vassar College early decision, my first choice! I said aloha to Hawai`i and hello to New York, but not without a whole bunch of prednisone in my cosmetic bag. I made lifelong friends, learned beautiful ideas, and self-medicated way too much. Ironically, I’m as straight-edge as they come. But going to that school was such a dream come true, I did not want to miss a second. So you can be sure that any time my skin acted up, I was reaching for the prednisone; I simply did not have time to spend nights up scratching my skin or dealing with painful rashes. I wanted to spend all the time I could cherishing my time with friends and professors who loved and accepted me for who I was.
When I graduated in May 2011, I never felt more emotionally fulfilled. My senior year was one continual high: I was incredibly busy but everything I did energized me. I graduated with honors in Political Science and felt so proud of all my accomplishments and my time there. But once I got home to Hawai`i, I couldn’t shake the feeling that something wasn’t right with my body.
…What goes up must come down.
In addition to having eczema, I was also born with a whole bunch of allergies. Eczema and allergies often go hand in hand. I am severely allergic to dairy, nuts and shellfish; my throat closes and I get hives if I ingest any of these things. Since I had these allergies from birth, I had a whole lifetime of practicing avoidance. I knew which dishes to stay away from at restaurants, when to be that annoying dinner guest who needs everything on the side, and how to use my epipen. My skin was a convenient indicator of what foods I needed to stay away from and would erupt accordingly. But when I got home after graduation, perfectly benign foods like rice started making me splotchy and giving me hives. WHAT WAS GOING ON? Why was my immune system so dang hyper?
My first response was to call the doctor. But I paused. What was every doctor’s solution to every one of my eczema-related problems? Prednisone. What insights did I ever really learn about my body when I walked out of the doctor’s office? At best, I would leave thinking my body was just a little unique, maybe wonky; at worst, I would leave feeling like a hopeless case. Usually the doctor would explain that there were just so many causes for my breakout that it would be silly to exhaust ourselves trying to figure the root out precisely; my skin could have been set off by something I touched, ate, breathed, smelled…Basically they told me I was allergic to the world, so I should be thankful that prednisone was there to prop me up til the next offensive wind passed through.
Maybe it was my fancy diploma from Vassar, or maybe it was being back home relaxing in Hawai`i, but I knew deep in my gut that I had had enough of prednisone. I was calm enough to really listen to my body for once, and started doing research on natural ways to heal myself. I found an informative eczema natural healing and decided to follow through with the healing program. I changed my diet from being starch and protein centered to one that was more plant-based. Time and time again throughout my research, diet alone came up as the cure for a whole bunch of degenerative diseases from eczema to Crohn’s Disease.
I just knew I was on the right path with my new vegetarian diet, and felt emboldened when my skin started clearing up without any prescription medication. But then my healing crisis happened. Just as I was singing the praises of kale and quinoa and worshiping at the altar of Honolulu’s weekly farmer’s markets, my skin just EXPLODED.
“Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly”
Ok, you guys, if you’re still reading, thank you! And I gotta warn you, there’s some pretty hairy scary stuff ahead. I get deep into the healing crisis part of my story now, emphasis on the word crisis. So what happens during a healing crisis is your body gets worse before it gets better as it detoxifies and purges all the old drugs from your system. Basically, fruits and vegetables are very powerful cleaners. And they kick up a lot of shit in your body, including old drugs. And the thing about drugs — from steroids to the over the counter drugs I used to help me sleep through my itching at night — is that they are synthetic chemical compounds your body has NO idea what to do with. So they sit around in your organs and fatty tissue (freaky) until you do something drastic like overhaul your diet to include more fruits and vegetables and cut out acidifying foods like all animal products. Scary, right? But once you start ingesting those powerful cleaners like fruits and vegetables, they shake up all that stored waste, and the drug toxins reappear in your bloodstream to be eliminated through your skin (your largest elimination organ).
If you are squeamish, don’t click on the above gallery to see my legs close up. It still makes me wince to look at these pictures. And trust me when I say it got even WORSE than this. But you can bet when it did, I didn’t want cameras anywhere near me. The skin all over my body erupted in these oozing sores that itched uncontrollably, especially at night. I could not figure how to place my body in an un-painful way let alone get comfortable enough to sleep. I would literally have to peel myself from my sheets getting up in the morning because I was stuck to them where the blood and lymphatic fluid had dried. I desperately wanted to take pain relievers or anti-itch medication but could not because they would re-poison me with the very things I was trying to detox myself of. Very frustrating! I listened to a lot of music with words like “fighter,” “faith,” and “strong” in the titles.
Since I had taken a lot of drugs in the form of prednisone, antibiotics and topical steroid creams my whole life, there was hell to pay on my skin. Every eczema episode I had suppressed and halted with drugs came to the surface to heal naturally. Only this time, through the retracing process, there were lots of unnatural things getting in the way of its healing naturally, so all my symptoms came back with a warped intensity.
My healing was not only physical. Painful childhood memories I didn’t even know I still harbored slithered out from my veins, and old insecurities of being unlovable and unworthy of love and healing came creeping back. I remembered all the doctors’ looks of pity and confusion when they would tell me things like in all their years of practice, they had never seen someone as worse off as me, and they just didn’t know what to do but give me strong drugs. I started wondering if I should have left well enough alone and started seriously doubting my body’s ability to heal. Maybe I really was a hopeless case. I got self-conscious about my height all over again (I’m really petite, 4’11″) and started feeling bitter about growing up with eczema, blaming the countless sleepless nights I stayed up scratching my whole body in my formative years for quite possibly stunting my growth. I gave myself the run-around with extremely fatigued angst and would always just come back to blaming myself and what I believed to be my horrifically incapable body. My compromised emotional immune system also definitely needed healing.
Days of pain and extreme discomfort turned into weeks, and the healing process went back and forth for months. Every time I thought my skin was making a turn for the better, the next day would bring a whole new batch of symptoms I never could have dreamed up. The whole time I just stayed at home because I couldn’t leave the house. My skin was in varying states of raw and it hurt when exposed to the sun and air. Some nights I would be feverish all over and other nights freezing cold. I never knew what the next day would bring and what new painful symptoms lurked around the corner.
What probably bothered me the most about this process was the fact that your body can only heal when you sleep, but I could not sleep because your body cleanses the most in the night hours, which meant I would be itchiest at night and just could not sleep. I was numb from exhaustion. Like so much exhaustion had piled up, they cancelled each other out to keep me wide awake.
One night in my muddled sleep-deprived “consciousness” with my legs and arms throbbing and oozing lymphatic fluid, I sobbed to my sister, “I can’t sleep and I’m just so so tired. I am tired of everything. I’m tired of not sleeping. I’m tired of myself.I hate myself. I hate my stupid body. What’s wrong with me? I hate myself.”
And my sister, who is an angel I consistently count among one of my biggest blessings told me, “You have no reason to hate yourself. Stop it. You are smart, beautiful and kind. And you are healing. That is nothing to hate yourself for.” The truth of her words pulled me out of the fog of my pain. I no longer felt betrayed by my body, but grateful to be alive in it. I was indeed smart, beautiful, and kind, and most of all, worthy of healing. I just needed to finish what I started. What was this if not an opportunity to grow, develop and keep my faith? There may be bad or worse days ahead, but hadn’t I emerged out of every other trying time in my life stronger than ever?
Although this experience thrust me into a most trying zone between faith and doubt, I ultimately thanked my intimacy with illness for helping me see that in every moment I am blessed because that moment is all I would ever have. Instead of burying each moment in expectation or projection, I consciously worked at accepting my present moment, no matter how uncomfortable or undesirable. I started to trust in a higher plan and felt honored to be a small part of it, and confident that every resilient ounce in me was primed and accounted for, ready to take on whatever life wanted to throw my way.
And one day in June 2012, life threw me a bone! In June I turned my most drastic corner yet. I started to heal more rapidly than ever before. My cuts and sores used to take weeks to heal with new wounds cropping up along the way, but they started healing within a day without any new wounds to take its place. My skin started getting smoother and stopped shedding as much.
As my body got de-sludged, my mind got clearer too. There is definitely a mind/body connection. I used to be an obsessive over-thinker, and had this pesky emotional habit of reaaally wanting, no, needing, everyone to like me (you can probably psycho-analyze what you know about my childhood and come up with a pretty legitimate explanation for that). I was a major approval-whore.
But in my later stages of healing, the mind patterns that encouraged chronic anxiety, petty jealousy and the beating-myself-up syndrome in me just did not exist in my body any more. It was like my mind finally caught up to my Being’s higher intelligence. And I felt liberated! I knew that I could move forward with my life not fearing any potential breakout on my skin, or potential allergens. They were genuine concerns, but I no longer felt the need to attach unrealistic worry to them, and live my life in fear. I was comfortable in my own skin.
As my body got clearer, I did something I thought would take me YEARS to do: I emerged out of my post-grad existential crisis. The concept of healing suddenly fascinated me and motivated me. Healing to me seemed like a humbling form of prayer rooted in your desire to make a meaningful change within yourself and in turn, for others. I knew deep within myself that I wanted to help others heal, especially those who were convinced of their predisposition for failure or poor health.
I could FOCUS like never before and surreptitiously came across an ad for my nutrition school, and upon researching it further, loved its philosophy. The next day, I checked facebook and saw that one of my college friends was looking for a roommate in New York from July – August. My program started in July! I could not believe the amazing timing. I felt that these were signs from the universe/God/whatever you want to call that higher power, and I was so grateful to be in a place to be open to them. I saw firsthand what happened when I allowed myself more moments for wonder, awe and grace…every day throughout the healing process I made an effort to appreciate new things or take solace in the small things. Like having a normal body temperature. Or being able to feel the sun on my skin without extreme discomfort! And being able to hug my family members without me wincing.
“There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
– Albert Einstein
Through this site, I hope to meet others with eczema and be a source of hope and encouragement for those healing from it. It is a very trying disease not only physically but psychologically and emotionally too. Eczema-specific quirks can be so alienating (stuff like fleeing to the nearest bathroom to scratch uncontrollably). And these little things pile up and can wound one’s psyche. I’m here to support you wherever you are in your healing journey and share what I’ve learned about the major impact a wholesome natural diet plays in recovering our full health. Natural healing, yo. It takes time but it is worth it.
We live in an appearance-driven society. And our skin is definitely of the first things people notice about us. So of course a lot of the drugs are geared toward instant gratification. There are proms to go to and interviews to look shiny for. It’s too easy to blame the doctors who over-prescribe these drugs. We owe it to ourselves to slow down and really listen to what our bodies and spirits need. Countless doctors told me that there is no cure for this disease, but I did not believe them. When I asked them how long I would need to be on steroidal drugs, their answer did not satisfy me.
“How long do I need to be on these?”
“Oh, until you don’t need them anymore.”
An inner voice told me, That is not the way to live. So whether you’ve been told some b.s. by your doctor, your family or even by your own nagging negative self-talk, please believe in yourself and your body’s miraculous ability to heal itself. You are worth it and all crises are opportunities to place your faith in miracles to deliver you, not strengthen your faith in disaster to destroy you.
My skin is not perfect yet (but it does look pretty dang good now!). Healing is a process that rocks back and forth, not an event. I am not attached to the future because I am intent on living an experience and not a diagnosis. If I take each day as it comes, grateful to be alive and happy to learn life’s lessons, I live up to my name every day and breathe new life into its meaning of beauty. Thank you for reading this =)
Love, Mie Ululani