Slightly bewildered I shoot upright, flooded by the same uneasy feeling that’s had me in its grip the whole week. Like someone is pranking me and I cannot trust my own senses. Like even if I am not being fooled, this will be over soon. It feels too good to be true and that keeps me from feeling as happy as I should.
I run my hands through my hair and stroke my soft, rash free neck. The effects of years of scratching are still noticeable, but the wounds have disappeared. I expect to feel a wide array of things, but I don’t. No itch on my shoulders, no pain in my hands, no tight scalp. It reminds me of phantom pains. If you are used to experience your body in a certain way for years, it is hardly possible to accept a radical change like this. I just can’t get used to it.
One month ago, I took the first dose of Methotrexate. Nervous for the effects, aware of the weight of my decision and desperate to get rid of the itches. A day went by and then a week, but nothing happened. I knew it was a slow drug, but the fact that I was still struggling and using tar ointment after two weeks was a bit of a downer.
But eventually the effects came, obviously, the negative ones first. An upset stomach, a bloated feeling –read: farting– and a major deviation in texture of my stool. These would later prove to be permanent guests. Then I noticed that my skin was calmer and the itchiness was not as intense. Until I woke up today and, for the first time in years, the eczema had disappeared from my neck. Shocking!
Regular check-ups in the hospital showed that my liver and kidneys could handle the medication, so I could continue to take the pills until the three-month-point on which the effect should be optimal. It is obvious that this does not mean that the medication is not dangerous; the cramps I’m having are no child’s play. I am also retaining water, which explains the abrupt weight change of three kilos.
But hey, my skin is REALLY A LOT BETTER. It almost felt like my eczema slowly melted away. Especially the fact that I (almost) got rid of all the itchiness makes an enormous difference! No scratching means healing wounds, means a stronger skin, means less itching. The right kind of vicious cycle.
What is also epic, is that my big and small coping mechanisms (keeping the house dust free, wearing the right kind of clothes, avoiding negative stimuli, washing the bedlinen, etc.) finally really have an effect. For years, regardless of doing my utter best, I could only hope for less itching. Now I am still spending a lot of energy in avoiding negative stimuli… but at least then the itchiness completely disappears for a short while. And that makes it so much easier to keep up!
Less itching also means less time spent on maintenance, better sleeping and literally spending less energy on scratching, which means that I am also figuratively more comfortable in my own skin. There’s just a fuckton of energy left that I used to spend on being ill. And this gives me the space to really recover; physically, but more importantly emotionally. Finally.
And yes, it is still a very dangerous drug with a lot of risks and a big impact on my life. For example, I am absolutely not allowed to become pregnant, up until six months after I stop taking the medication. Moreover, drinking alcohol is strictly forbidden… like… not at all… which I find a lot harder than expected, especially because I was never a heavy drinker. Something about freedom of choice. And of course, the long-term effects on my liver are still unknown.
But if you don’t mind, I prefer to not think about these things for a while and first enjoy this newly found carelessness.
-Alcohol free- Cheers!
Header image by Hanne Kause, portrait by Abel Planting.