If you have been following my topical steroid withdrawal updates, you may have noticed that this is quite a bumpy ride and that the healing is not linear like with most illness.
I really hope that the worst is behind me, although I realize a flare could happen at any moment. I do experience these moderate facial flares a few times a month - red, irritated, dry and itchy patches of skin on areas of my face where I applied topical steroids the most like forehead, temples, and around mouth - but I can live with them and they don't stop me from seeing friends and enjoying life. Except my face and a few fingers, the rest of my body seems to have been enjoying a nice and long break (I'm talking a few months long), and as much as I want to stay positive, everyone going through TSW have been experiencing an awful full body flare later in their withdrawal, sometimes even when they though they were healed. Anyway, as I said I wanted to stay positive, I wanted to share with you a few essentials which have helped living with TSW easier.
In my first and second month of TSW, my face was completely open, raw and comstantly dripping ooze. As much as I didn't want to use anything on it and let it do its own thing, I almost gave up on TSW because the pain was unbearable - when I say my face was raw, it meant I the first layer of my skin completely peeled off, and my nerves were exposed! At first I thought the pain was due to a headache, but I soon realized it must have been what a few fellow TSW buddies have been experiencing, called nerve pain. I knew this could not go on, and one of my TSW guardian angel recommended zinc oxide paste. My mother found the store brand of Atlas Ihle's Zinc Paste which is the brand I have been recommended since it contains 25% zinc oxide, which is a higher amount that you usually find on diaper rash cream. I kept slathering it on and it was an immense relief - I was finally able to move my face without it cracking or having ooze drip everywhere! Of course, the paste did not miraculously stop the oozing, but it made my life less miserable, and eventually, the oozing subsided by itself. Zinc paste also really helped my neck, hands, and a few other oozing areas, and it was great during moisturizer withdrawal since it contains petrolatum so it would lubricate those areas that were so tight they would prevent me from properly walking, like behind my knees.
Sea salt and baking soda were absolute bath essentials during my worst months (first and second), when I had to litteraly live in the bath. Thanks to the minerals it contains, sea salt promotes healing of skin tissue (it was particularly helpful to heal my itching cuts in the earlier months), soothes skin, helps skin retain moisture, relaxes body muscles, and tranquilizes nerves (providing relief from the dreaded itching) and it is a natural disinfectant. Baking soda also has antiseptic properties and helps reduce the itching, and it will prevent the water from stinging open cuts. Even now that I have been feeling great for a few months, I always make sure to add sea salt and baking soda to every bath I take.
I avoided baths for about a month during the third and fourth months since one time, my whole body got incredibly itchy when I got out and I literally could not stop scratching myself, so much that I made my arms ooze and bleed - that never happened before! I was so scared this would happen again so I decided to spot wash instead, sometimes with washclothes and water, and sometimes with baby wipes (my favorite were definitely Kirkland's Baby Wipes). I am currently in my eighth month and I still try to not bath or shower everyday (especially if I'm not going out that day) since it is not recommended for sensitive skin, and I still don't use soap - only water with a washcloth, baking soda and sea salt. I did try to re-introduce the mildest soap I could find, Dr. Bronner's Unscented Baby-Mild Castile Bar Soap, into my shower routine at the beginning of the eight month, but it stung my skin!
In the fifth month, I started worrying a bit about the open wounds on three of my fingers that never seemed to heal - the disgusting grey crusts would continue to form to cover them even if I picked them off or if they fell by themselves, and the wounds underneath always remained wet and never seemed to heal. I was recommended the moist wound healing method, which I talk about more in this post, and that bascially goes like this: you clean the area with water, apply a generous layer of Vaseline Petroleum Jelly and apply a bandaid (I found flexible fabric bandages work better than plastic ones) or dressing pad (secured with microporous tape). After a few days, I could notice the wounds had shrinked in size - I could not believe it! Finally! They are not healed yet but they are slowly getting there. I have also been trying this method on my raw, irritated, itchy and constantly oozing nipples but it doesn't seem to work as well.
A few years ago, I asked my doctor what supplements she would recommended for a vegetarian, and she said B12 because this is only found naturally in foods from animal sources (although it can be found in dairy products and eggs). I took Jamieson B12 supplements on and off since then, never really noticing a difference, but with TSW, I thought it would be more important to give my body everything it needs, so I decided to take B12 everyday, as well as these new Jamieson Multi Gummies that I found for $3 at Dollarama. Since I mostly always had troubles sleeping since the beginning of TSW, I also gave a try to Jamieson Relax & Sleep, but I am not sure they are really helping.
I have been a big fan of teas for a few years now - straight green tea, black tea, and herbal tea - and I started drinking flavoured teas when I discovered David's Tea maybe two years ago. I started drinking oolong tea about three months ago when I was in a especially rough patch of TSW - I was recommended it for its anti-inflammatory properties but I soon discovered that it is one of the most beneficial tea to drink since oolong tea falls somewhere between green and black teas, as its leaves are only partially oxidized. This means that its health benefits are basically doubled because of the combined qualities of black tea and green tea. I always thought I preferred coffee over tea but to my surprise, I was able to cut coffee completely the day I started TSW without ever craving it. Tea is probably what I drink most, although I make sure to drink plenty of water everyday.
A few other things that helped me, especially in the harder months when I could not even leave the house, are books, magazines, TV series, movies and video games. I have always been a huge reader, but when I was at my worst, I didn't even have enough energy to concentrate and read a book, so I would flip through magazines. I was never a fan of TV and movies in general - they would always bore me! - but since I was not able to do anything else, I started getting into a few TV series - I watched Game of Thrones, Vikings, The Tudors, 90210, Orange Is The New Black, and I am now watching Pretty Little Liars. A dear friend recently kindly offered me use his Netflix account which makes it even easier to watch what I want than streaming websites. My favorite video games will always be The Legend of Zelda series, and I recently almost beat Twilight Princess and I am also playing to A Link Between Worlds. During the fifth month, my energy levels got better, and I was able to start blogging again, which made me really happy, even though I am pretty limited with the products I can feature since I still don't use anything on my skin, but it also makes me happy to start reading blogs again.
We will beat this, one day at a time!