Skin Writing: My Battle with Dermatographism

By Yessenia Anderson

Yessenia Anderson
Yessenia Anderson

As I race to get the kiddos ready in the morning, if the three-year-old hasn’t already tuned into Umizoomi (don’t ask), the morning news will play in the background of the chaos that typically ensues.

Lately, for me, the meteorologists’ constant reminder of summer nearing has been one of the updates that haunt me the most throughout the day. Why? Because summer in Sacramento can sometimes mean a type of scalding heat that is, without hibernating inside, unavoidable. For me, the warmer the weather, the more of a chance there is that my Dermatographia is going to be in full force.

Why?

Because summer in Sacramento can sometimes mean a type of scalding heat that is, without hibernating inside, unavoidable. For me, the warmer the weather, the more of a chance there is that my Dermatographia is going to be in full force.

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Dermatographia is a condition also known as skin writing. When people who have Dermatographia lightly scratch their skin, the scratches redden into a raised wheal similar to hives. These marks usually disappear within 30 minutes or they can last a bit longer and continue to itch.

The irony here? I majored in Journalism, I grew up wanting to do nothing but write. I am a PR professional now and make a living blogging, developing key messages and authoring articles – my personal and professional focus and passion is centered on writing. But this condition, though on the surface, quite literally, might seem ‘kind of cool’ as two of my coworkers put it…. can be quite debilitating and limiting.

The marks can be either be heat or stress induced or in my case, they are both.

As a little girl, one of my darkest and yet clearest memories is of my very first anxiety attack. I can vividly recall my dad coaching me through my breaths outside in the cool night air as family packed in for a gathering inside our house. Managing my anxiety has become just that, manageable. I know the demons there and I can usually keep them at bay.

Now add on a condition that plays off of that exact angst and stress you feel in almost all of life’s daily encounters. For a mother, it means that sometimes I am robbed of a moment with my boys because I have to stop and transition to a calm state of mind (cue kid temper tantrum) and sometimes apply ice to help with the itchiness and swelling.

As a young professional, it means having to explain why I suddenly have scar-like marks on my arms coming out of a meeting or why I continue to scratch through a conversation, sometimes unknowingly.

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My condition affects perhaps up to five percent of the population – it is extremely rare. I hesitated to share my story because I often thought who would care? And or who would relate? But I’ve come to realize that while the condition itself may be rare I am not alone in battling a health related obstacle that affects your every day. I have been told that my condition may only be around for a few years or the rest of my life and I’ve come to peace with it and am finding ways to push through.

It can be hard physically and mentally; I’ve had moments where in my attempt to soothe myself I’ve broken down and cried….and cried… and cried.

But these illnesses and conditions and diagnosis cannot define us.

We are a sum of our parts, our loved ones, our passions, our dreams, our unique personality traits our weird-rare-of-course-I-would-get-this conditions but that PART is simply only that, one part of a whole being.

I most recently heard an inspiring viewpoint by a person dealing with Usher Syndrome, he shared “there is a lot of emphasis on avoiding pain when the benefits of pain and taking on barriers and challenges, is that it hones you, it refines you, it makes you focus, it makes you prioritize, and you realize that there really is nothing you can’t do, you’ve just got to do it a little differently.”

Because I refuse to fall back, give in, and be brought down – I learned to do what my skin does… and rise above it all. 😉

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2 Comments

  1. Angie says

    I have the same condition. I thought I had figured out what was causing it and stopped eating certain foods. Now that Spring/Summer allergies, I realize it’s probably not just specific foods because it’s back with a vengeance.

    It’s frustrating because no one really knows what causes it. It’s a vicious cycle of itch, scratch, hives, INTENSE itch and more scratching.

    On the plus side, when it’s somewhat controlled, it is a fun party trick. haha

  2. Lety says

    I never knew 😳
    But your right, never let it bring you down. You are a beautiful person inside and out 😉

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