By guest writer Nina Ajdin
I’d like you to imagine having third degree burns from head to toe. Your entire body is on fire, yet can no longer regulate temperature. Even in 90 degree weather in the middle of a hot summer, you are shivering, wrapped up in several blankets. Your skin is releasing a thick, yellow, sticky fluid that smells like what you would imagine rotting flesh to smell like. There is skin covering every crevice of your house, and the smell is so unbearable that you puke at your own body odor.
You are exhausted, so out of touch with the world and reality that you no longer feel you are even a part of it. You no longer have human connection and touch, you are entirely isolated. You no longer feel human.
This was my reality for several years. After trusting medical professionals most of my life and being “treated” for mild eczema with topical and oral steroids, I developed a condition called topical steroid addiction. This condition turned out to be much worse than the initial eczema I was dealing with originally.
I then had to go through the excruciating healing process, known as topical steroid withdrawal (TSW). TSW is an iatrogenic condition caused by the use of topical steroid creams. It is a condition caused by a medical treatment, and it is still not widely known, even though the number of people suffering through it is rising drastically every year.
During the early days of the withdrawal process, I would spend up to 9 hours a day in the bathtub, in an attempt to cool my skin down. I ate meals in there, and required 24/7 assistance as I could not even perform the most basic of daily tasks, such as feeding or clothing myself. I spent a lot of my time in bed, with my eyes closed shut from the lymph fluid pouring out of every pore in my skin.
In 2014, I was introduced to kratom, which opened me up to a whole new world of natural remedies. Little did I know at the time, that finding this plant would lead me to eventually being able to work on healing myself using various different natural healing modalities.
But first, although it was not in vain, I’d have to suffer for many years. At 4 years into the withdrawal process in 2018, I was still completely bedridden and unable to function. This was when I was introduced to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and my life has been forever changed since then. I have been forever changed, inside and out.
I met with my TCM practitioner at my house, as she was kind enough to come see me while I was immobile, and drank my first dose of TCM herbs. I didn’t expect much, but at that time I had nothing to lose. I was at rock bottom, and ready to give up on my life altogether. After a few months of trying different formulas and doing my best not to get discouraged, I started to finally see some changes happen with me.
The changes were subtle, and didn’t immediately reflect on my skin. However, the light inside of me that had been buried deep in pain and darkness for so long, had finally started to come out again. I started to regain some passion for life, I had a renewed sense of hope, and this encouraged me to keep going.
After several months of drinking the not so tasty herbal formulations, I started to see the changes on my skin too, and boy were they incredible. I’ll never forget looking at my before and after pictures and the remarkable improvement that had occurred in just a few months. I was completely and utterly blown away.
By continuing to use TCM as the bulk of my treatment, I continued to improve more, and finally started to get my life back. Except, it wasn’t the old life I had prior to going through TSW. It was a new, much better life for me. I no longer had seizures, chronic infections, chronic bronchitis, asthma, and I hardly got sick in general. I was no longer a regular at the hospitals and urgent cares in my area. In fact, they started to become a distant memory.
My skin still continued to have its ups and downs, but became more manageable, and the ups started to last longer than the downs. I was seeing the world through different eyes, like a new born child just opening their eyes for the first time. I was filled with a sense of wonder, curiosity, hope, and a renewed strength.
Now, I have normal skin on the majority of my body. The only places that still flare up, and not nearly as much as before, are my chest and face. These were also the places I used topical steroids the most. The rest of my body looks like nothing ever happened to me. Through the worst of it, I didn’t even think I would survive, let alone have healthy skin. Sometimes I still wonder how I’m here after that kind of suffering, but it truly does show the magnificence and resilience of the human spirit.
I credit TCM, along with other herbal products, for saving my life. I wouldn’t be here today sharing my story had I not delved into this world. Not only has it changed my skin and health in general, but the whole experience has changed me intrinsically. I am still growing and learning, and will be as long as I walk this earth, but I have come so long from where I once was that at times it’s hard to even recognize that old version of me was really me.
I have hope and faith in myself and the world now. I believe that nature (along with our will) has the ability to heal even the most “broken” of us. And through that connection with the earth and all it provides, we can turn those “broken” parts of us into something different, something incredible.
We can be the heroes of our own story, and strive to inspire and empower others to do the same.