When I compare myself to where I was last summer in terms of my health, the changes could not be more stark. Last summer, my chronic eczema was in the midst of a raging flare, brought on by a terrible reaction to medication. Bleeding, infected, cracked skin covered my body, making it painful to move, difficult to sleep, hard to think about anything other than ignoring the tremendous amount of pain I was in on a daily basis. For months on end I forgot what it was like to sleep through the night, grabbing rest whenever my exhausted body gave up its intense desire to scratch long enough to let me get a few hours here and there. I also struggled with the knowledge that my condition was so very public – literally written all over my face for people to see. I’ve heard often how hard it is to grapple with “hidden” conditions, the ones nobody can see, like pain, but let me tell you, it’s equally worse when you fool yourself (as a matter of necessity) that people aren’t noticing the fact that your skin is a bleeding, peeling, horrific mess, only to get a look or a comment that lets you know they notice, and how.
This was the second time my skin has gotten so bad, but I am resolved that it will be the last time. I’m not always good about taking care of myself, but I’ve learned I really do need to be vigilant about asking for help and taking the steps I need to in order to keep myself in a good place. It’s not always easy, but I find that the concept of pikuach nefesh, the Jewish concept of preservation of life (such a strong commandment that if someone’s life is in danger, it overrides the restrictions of Shabbat or any other prohibitions that may usually be in effect) to be a guiding principle. My eczema was never life threatening, thank goodness, but it easily could have been. In an age of MRSA infections, it is nothing short of a miracle that none of the patches on my face got infected with MRSA, or that the orbital cellulitis I picked up served merely as a good kick in the behind to get my health in order instead of landing me in the hospital or worse. Preserving my health is important. Taking good care of the body I have been given by God is important.
As I take stock of what I want to improve about myself for the next year, my health is definitely on the list. I’m in a good place now, but some challenges remain. But this year will be different. I will be better about seeking appropriate help when I need it. I will be better about taking my medication, about getting to a doctor before things get terrible, and will never, never, if I can help it, let myself get back to where I was last year. I am healthy now, and I intend to stay that way.