My On-going Recovery Journey Part II – Treatment Programs

Hi Friends!

Welcome back to Part II of My On-going Recovery Journey.  This post will focus on the treatment programs I feel that I most benefited from after I completely stopped corticosteroids. These programs, along with the  lifestyle changes described in my previous post and the occasional prescribed antihistamines & antibiotic creams, are what I believe improved my skin to the state it is today.

In evaluating any course of treatment, I consider its effectiveness and long term sustainability. Main points of consideration are as follows:

  • Does this program involve the use of prescription medication?
  • What are the mechanisms of action of the treatment?
  • What are the side effects?
  • Does this program address the symptoms or the root problem?
  • Is there an end date to this program?
  • Will my symptoms recur once I stop the program?
  • Costs & time commitment

As each point below could be its own blog post, I will instead provide a high level description of the program, what the treatment focuses on, and how it benefited my skin recovery.  As always, if you have any questions or would like me to dive deeper, feel free to comment below or let me know.

My hopes for sharing my journey is not to prescribe specific steps, but for readers to understand my approach & thought process to recovery, so that they can be empowered & feel confident to find and customize their own path to recovery.

My On-going Recovery Journey Part II – Treatment Programs:

1. Narrowband – UVB Phototherapy (NB-UVB): 
NB-UVB Treatment uses fluorescent light bulbs to treat moderate to severe skin conditions, which in my case is Eczema.  These light bulbs emit a concentrated small part of the Ultraviolet B Spectrum (which is present in natural sunlight) on to my skin.  This treatment was covered by my country’s provincial healthcare system. 

Personal Goals:  Reduce inflammation, heal broken skin, and reduce itching.

How it works:  Twice a week, I went to the hospital and entered the Narrowband UVB Light Chamber.  The duration was dependent mainly on how the last treatment went (specifically, how my skin reacted).  Depending on the patient, this can be between a few seconds to 5 minutes. Don’t underestimate this light – it is possible to get burnt in seconds so it’s important to keep track of how your skin reacted and communicate with the Phototherapy doctor.

Important Note:  The doctors had told me upfront that although NB-UVB Treatment can clear skin conditions, it is temporary and not a cure.  If I don’t figure out the triggers, the eczema will come back.

Personal Experience & Outcomes:  After 11 months of the treatment along with the other things I was doing, my skin did improve.  Even though it wasn’t fully clear, I decided to stop the treatment to see if my skin could continue to heal itself. It has been 4 months since I stopped NB-UVB and my skin has continued to heal without it.


2. Psychotherapy Sessions:
Around the same time I started Phototherapy, I met with a psychologist (referred by my family doctor) once a week for 6 months, then once a fortnight and eventually on an as-needed basis.  Psychotherapy treatment was also covered by my country’s provincial healthcare system.

Personal Goals: 
  • Have a trained professional psychologist listen to the stress, anxiety, depression and fears I face in order to gain practical strategies and advice.
  • Learn to manage stress, anxiety, depression, insomnia, physical pain that comes with TSW/Eczema.

What I did: I recorded down the emotional stress & struggles I experienced during the week to discuss them with the psychologist.

Personal Experience & Outcomes: During the sessions, I was taught stress/anxiety reduction strategies when dealing with challenging scenarios. Over time, my anxiety has reduced and I am able to enjoy life as those situations don’t bug me as much. These in turn boosted the healing of my skin.

It has been a few months since my last psychologist appointment. This is not to say I don’t have stressful situations to deal with, but when they come up, I know how to handle them better.

One note, I believe that the success of psychotherapy has to do with finding a psychologist that is a right fit with the individual. So, if your gut feeling tells you a specific psychologist is not working out, I encourage you to find one that would be a better fit and aligned with your goals.

3. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Group Program
This was a supplementary program recommended by my psychologist. This program focuses on building mental capacity to respond to life stresses through the introduction of guided meditations, discussions, mindfulness exercises and home practice. This treatment was also covered by my country’s healthcare system.

Personal Goal: Learn additional techniques to cope with stress, anxiety, and physical pain.

Time Commitment: 2 hours/week, 8 sessions

What I did: Showed up on time & kept an open mind.

Personal Experience: I have always been skeptical about mindfulness – admittedly, I never really looked into what mindfulness really was about. In this case, since it was a free program provided by the health centre, I figured that if I just showed up and sit through 2 hours without scratching – this in itself would be a benefit for me. So I attended all 8 sessions with an open mind and tried their different mindfulness experientials. I learned that mindfulness is the practice of being fully immersed in the moment of carrying out tasks without focusing on negative attitudes or thoughts for that activity.

Outcomes: Reduction of stress & anxiety. An increase in my well-being, relaxation, and happiness. This in-turn helped the overall healing of my skin though a reduction of scratching.

One major benefit I gained, is the daily ability to enjoy and finish chores such as washing dishes and fold laundry, despite the intense physical pain, itch, and lethargy I was experiencing. I was able to do so, by practicing mindfulness while doing those chores.


4. Healing Care Group Program
This small group (4-6 people) program offered are led by 1 or 2 trained facilitators. The only costs for the program were for the materials and books used throughout the program (which I get to keep).

Personal Goal: To identify, face, and address the underlying root causes of stress & anxiety that led to the most recent outbreak of severe eczema.

Time Commitment: 2.5 hours/week, 16 sessions.

What I did: Showed up on time and kept an open mind.

This program is not for the faint at heart, but for those who truly want to be healed from deep emotional wounds. This program kickstarts a lifelong personal journey dealing with unaddressed issues from the past with the goal to experience healing & freedom.

To show you a glimpse of the program, here is a simplified fictional example – Michael, to illustrate:
  • Life Situation: Frequent Burnt Out Leading to Severe Health Problems
  • Stress Causing Behavior: Workaholism
  • Emotion behind the specific behavior: Fear
  • False Beliefs (The innate lies that the individual believes which caused his fear): “I will get fired if I don’t work long hours and set personal boundaries.”
  • Wounds (The individual reflects and identifies a specific incident from the past that resulted in the belief of these lies): During Grade 4, Michael went to his friend’s house to play after school without telling his parents. When he returned home in the evening, he was severely punished and was told that he will never get good grades if he don’t put all his time into studying.

Personal Experience: While Psychotherapy & Mindfulness Programs equipped me with practical coping strategies, they did not address the healing of underlying emotions, false beliefs, and specific past events that triggered stressful reactions.

Outcomes: Breaking free from past events that triggered stress and anxiety-inducing thoughts. Increasing freedom from past emotional wounds, cultural & societal pressures. Increased confidence in being myself. Greater ability and confidence to set, communicate, and exercise personal boundaries without feeling guilty.

That’s it folks – Those are the four treatment programs which I found helpful in getting me to where I am today.

What about you? Have you tried out any of the above programs? What was your experience and outcomes like? Different people respond differently to treatments, so please do leave a comment so that our community of topical steroid withdrawal or eczema sufferers can learn from your personal journey.

Healing & recovery is a lot of work and though I’m not completely healed, I feel it’s all worth it in the end. Whichever path you take, the benefits of this journey is rewarding – increasing freedom & confidence to truly live.

To see glimpses of how much my skin has improved, click here and here.

Best,
Catherine

Disclaimer: All the content found on this website and blog is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace proper medical advice. See here for more details.

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