Being the partner of somebody living with a lifelong skin condition must feel very difficult at times. Seeing the pain, anger and frustration first hand can undoubtedly leave you feeling very helpless. Rest assured, as a husband, wife, parent or friend, there are so many simple things you can do to support someone through their troubles.
The first thing I'd say is simply BE THERE! Don't ever get pushy. There's nothing worse than somebody telling you how to live your life - whether that's in terms of lifestyle or dietary choices, treatment options or expressing emotions. I understand the temptation to share your opinions, but it can actually have a really detrimental effect and simply serve to make the person battling with their skin even more stubborn or resentful.
Lend a Listening Ear
Living with a skin condition can feel frustrating, infuriating and just downright unfair at times! Sometimes it's lovely to be able to vent without judgement. Sitting and listening might not seem like a big thing to do, but it can make a huge difference to somebody's day. Being listened to and understood is a wonderful thing. Make time to truly hear your friends frustrations without offering comment.
Choose Fun Hobbies we can Share
I used to dread those girly shopping trips and spa days friends seemed to book endlessly throughout my twenties. Whilst everybody else was getting excited at the prospect of picking out skimpy new skirts for the weekend, I'd be desperate to escape the bright glare of those awful changing room lights! Sooo many hen-do's through my years of battling with psoriasis were based around spa weekends. I hated the thought of missing out, but equally dreaded the idea of having to bare my skin in public.
Sometimes chosen group events are unavoidable. It might not always be the decision of the person battling eczema, but if you're choosing something for your friend or partner to do, consider whether they will feel comfortable dressing a certain way or experiencing a certain situation. Put yourself in their shoes and think about how you might make the event more enjoyable. Speak to them directly and ask if there's something that can help them join in without feeling super self conscious. There are lots of events that don't need to involve skimpy outfits or stripping off!
- A foraging course. Getting out in nature as a group
- A sightseeing city break. Exploring new places together
- Enjoying a relaxing retreat. Healthy, zen inducing and fun
- Booking a private country home. So that nobody feels self conscious
- Adventure activities. Zorbing, rock climbing, go karting or biking
Keep in mind that not everyone feels comfortable stripping down to a bikini or swim shorts.
I can't count the number of highly perfumed, fairly toxic, lotions and potions I was gifted at birthdays and Christmas over the years! I knew how much my skin hated them, so I regularly used to re-gift them to friends or charity shops.
If you've never had to battle with your skin, picking natural, gentle products might not be the first thing on your mind, but they can make a huge difference to the recipient. There are lots of lovely gift options available
- My book Skin Healing Expert. Hardback and beautifully photographed
- Why not home-make some natural skincare in pretty pots
- My Skin Saviour Balm is a lovely all-round product for lips, body and face
- Choose soft, gentle fabrics. I love Om Ah yoga clothing
- Gift beautiful herbal teas or candles. I love Nikki Hill Apothecary
The simple fact you've put extra special thought into your gifting idea is wonderful in itself.
Share Your Ideas Kindly
When you're watching somebody battle with recurring skin flares, there can be a massive temptation to frantically share every single article you read or Instagram post you stumble across. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this and I can see it from both perspectives. For the long term eczema sufferer it can feel irritatingly like you're pushing your opinions onto them. For the desperate helper it can feel exciting to find something that might be of benefit and feeling keen to share.
I would say, don't stop sharing - just do so gently and kindly without expectations. Making dietary changes might not be for everyone, just as pharmaceutical medication isn't right for all of us. So whilst you might be jumping around excitedly at the prospect of natural healing, the person battling with their skin is the one who has to live the reality.
The old saying 'you can lead a horse to water' rings so true here. Whilst you can light someone's path, it's unfair to drag them down it! Sharing a social media post, passing on a life changing book, linking a website - these are all fantastically helpful resources, just don't hound that person or force them to follow your ideals.
Comfort Me When I Need it
Research shows that a simple hug can boost our immune system and instantly increase oxytocin levels. This, in turn, helps to heal negative feelings such as loneliness, isolation and anger. It boosts our self esteem and helps us to feel less alone. Just like listening, it might seem like a simple action, but it can completely transform someone's day.
Struggling with a skin condition can make us feel dirty or contagious. Hugging is another way to reassure us that we're most definitely not!
Encourage and Support My Changes
I hear stories at completely opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to making healthy lifestyle changes as part of a natural healing program. From meeting couples on my retreats who offer unconditional love and encouragement, to hearing from people who tell me their family considers dietary changes unhealthy .. it's amazing how people respond in extremely differing ways.
This isn't about offering approval, it's about understanding the needs of the person making the changes. It's something we want to do for ourselves and it can be a huge help to simply share some words of encouragement or at the very least to refrain from dismissing the path we're on.
To take it one step further, seeking out new and healthy activities you can both enjoy together would be amazing! Whether that's trying a new local plant-based cafe, or going to yoga together. Even something as simple as a weekly walk in nature. Having somebody by your side through this journey honestly makes it so much more manageable.