“My name is Emily, I’m 17 years old and I live in Missouri. I will be starting my senior year of high school this fall, and hope to be an English teacher when I grow up.
I started noticed the bumps on my skin about a month before my diagnosis. They were white, and looked like hives. When I itched them, they spread. One bump could quickly turn into thirty. It was quite painful for me for the longest time because I just couldn’t seem to stop itching. My mom determined that I was having an allergic reaction, but to what is the real question. I had no changes in my diet, nor in laundry detergents or soap. Nothing had changed, so I didn’t understand why my body was. Finally, we decided to get a doctors opinion. I thought that they were just going to tell me that it was an allergic reaction and to take Benadryl if it got too bad, because that’s what I had been doing. Immediately after talking to the nurse about my symptoms, he said he thought he knew what it was, but he was going to let the doctor check first. A couple minutes later I got my final diagnosis. It was dermatographia. I had never heard of it before. I kept asking questions such as “why did it just show up?,” “will it go away?” No one could really give me a straight answer, because they said most of the time you really just don’t know.
This was all about 3 weeks ago. I was so self conscious about my skin. I remember the first person I told outside my family was my hair dresser, and only because she made the comment that you could see where the bristles of her brush had touched my skin. I’ve shown a few friends, and have become a bit of a human etch a sketch with them. They’re constantly asking me to draw hearts on my arm or flowers on my leg. I still have a lot to learn about dermatographia, and especially how it’s affecting me. It’s been a long journey so far, but I’m learning to embrace my skin, and be happy that I can stand out in a world that seems so bland nowadays. ”
I am so happy to hear you say that Emily! It’s so refreshing to hear your story of embracing your skin, being unique in this world that’s so mundane sometimes. Cheers to that!
Emily and I have been corresponding for a couple of weeks, ever since she sent me the above story and some awesome photos of her dermatographia. I asked her a few more questions, and learned that she’s a budding artist thinking about incorporating skin imagery into her paintings.
Ariana Page Russell (APR): Please tell me a little bit about you. What do you like to do, what are your interests, etc.?
Emily Hayes (EH): I’ve never been one to stay with one hobby for awhile. I’m constantly trying different things, or trying to learn new skills. This past year, I’ve taken up painting and have fallen in love. I’ll turn up my “Weezer Radio” station, and just paint. Most times, I’ll start at night and won’t stop until the sun comes up.
(APR): Ha ha I used to listen to Weezer in high school too! But that was when they first started out. So funny how certain types of music really stick around.
Do you take anything for your dermatographia?
(EH): When first diagnosed, I took a steroid for about a week. Just something for my body to fight it off for a little. Now I take an allergy pill every morning, and a benadryl if I start to break out too bad. I keep itch cream handy wherever I go, and it’s been my lifesaver.
(APR): That’s great you found something that works for you! You should try coconut oil sometime too. (Everyone who reads Skintome knows I’m obsessed with coconut oil lol).
Now that a lot of your friends know about your skin, does it make you feel more comfortable sharing about dermatographia?
(EH): I’m still not 100% confident, and don’t think I’ll ever be. I’m young, and still in my “I care what people think” stage. But I’m more than willing to talk about it with someone who has questions. No use in trying to pretend like it’s not there.
(APR): That sounds like a great attitude to have! And trust me, you’ll totally come out of that stage… especially since you’re already so self-aware at such a young age.
What do people think about your skin once they find out about your dermatographia?
(EH): I’ve gotten different reactions. My coworkers are constantly asking if they can write their name on my arm, or if I could draw them a picture. Some of them have been my biggest supporters. But some people are a little worried about it. I don’t blame them, I was pretty worried at first too. The main thing I get is people freaking out thinking it’s contagious, and if I touch them they’ll have to be put into quarantine or something drastic like that.
(APR): It’s kind of fun to play tricks on people sometimes… freak them out by telling them it’s contagious and see how they react! Thankfully it’s totally not contagious, so people have nothing to worry about :^)
Do you find your skin inspiring?
(EH): I don’t know if inspiring is the word. I’m still regular ol’ Emily. But now I’ve just got some extra flare to me. I’m definitely going to strive to reach out to people my age who are self conscious about their bodies.
(APR): Awesome news! We need more strong voices for staying positive about dermatographia!
How do you think dermatographia will affect the way you live your life from here on out, for example, the way you take care of yourself or what you do in your free time?
(EH): I’ve read a lot of articles saying that eating healthier and exercising will help with breakouts. I hope eventually (when I find the motivation) that I can change my diet and living ways, to where I can be the healthiest possible.
(APR): You’re lucky to discover this at such a young age! Starting a healthy lifestyle now will help you live a long and healthy life.
Is there anything you’d like to know about dermatographia?
(EH): There is so much. I’m still clueless, and the only information I’ve gotten is over the Internet. I’m still curious on how it just randomly showed up one day, with no evidence of it before in my lifetime. That’s probably my biggest question.
(APR): Well, I hope you’re okay with some uncertainty in your life, because I’m not sure that question will ever be answered for any of us. Nobody seems to know why it suddenly shows up in some people and not others, but I think it just has to do with our unique responses to life in general: how we handle stress, what and how we eat, genes, where we live, what we do, etc. Somehow there was this perfect formula for your dermatographia to manifest… Lucky you :^)
Thanks for the interview, Emily!
All photographs courtesy of Emily Hayes