First of all, I apologise for my long absence since posting my last blog. I went through a rough time this summer and struggled to get myself encouraged again to blog. Based on this, I thought it would be good to share the story about what happened over the summer as it was eczema related.
Before I start my story, below are examples of different types of environments that affect me:
- Aeroplane – due to no natural ventilation and conditioning, therefore my skin is prone to dry. I managed this by taking small jars of cream with me on the plane (under 100ml obviously due to airport security).
- Anywhere where it is too hot, dry or humid – due to being sweaty causing the itchy skin
- Anywhere where it is too cold – due to cold air cracking the skin. As winter is coming, I am going to into depth about this in another blog.
- Anywhere with high levels of dust – this triggers asthma as well as eczema.
- Going from one extreme environment to another – e.g. in the summer going from hot into air conditioning on several occasions and in the winter going from the cold into the warmth.
In September 2015 I started a new job and the office was located in a tall building on the 10th floor. Although the office had nice views of London it was not possible to open windows and there was no natural ventilation. I did not think anything of it at first, however, over time, it lead to complications.
The eczema when starting the job was under control. Things got worse a few months in due to stress at home and moving house twice. However afterwards, I still had flare-ups and very dry skin which resulted to several trips to doctor and hospital using steroid creams, antibiotic creams/tablets and sick days off work.
The air conditioning and no natural ventilation in the office dried out the skin which caused flakiness and flare-ups. Also, the temperature there was not consistent. In the morning it was too hot and then went cold a few hours later. This issue not only affected me but also other people.
One day I was speaking to someone who said that their skin had become dry and they didn’t even suffer from eczema. After reflecting on this comment and comparing to what the eczema was like prior to September 2015, I realised the office environment was the reason why my skin was the way it was. I raised the issue with my manager and was referred to occupational health who carried out a risk assessment. The problem was that the organisation I worked for rented out part of the building which was owned by another organisation, therefore was difficult to resolve and was beyond management’s control.
Basically, I knew that in order to protect my health I would either have to find another job in the same organisation on another site or leave completely taking into consideration layouts and the surrounding of office environments during interviews. Last year, a one year fixed term opportunity came up in another department off-site which was not a promotion but a sideway move in an area which I had an interest in while studying at university. I applied, went for the interview and was offered the position as a one year secondment with the possibility of the position becoming permanent. Although it was a temporary move at least I would be in a different office environment for a year and could make comparisons before and after. My plan was to find another job within that year to avoid returning back from secondment.
Four months prior to the secondment end date, I could not be given a definite answer regarding the role becoming permanent due to financial constraints. As planned I applied for several positions elsewhere and went for interviews but was not successful. I then found out just less than one month prior that there was the funding for my role to go permanent; however, I had to go through a very bureaucratic process and re-apply for the position.
As I was going through the application process when the secondment ended, I had no choice but to return to the original office which was my biggest nightmare. There was also no negotiation to extend the secondment while applying which I was very upset about. I knew that returning would make things worse and I became very anxious.
Over the last year, the eczema had improved dramatically (bearing in mind I did have phototherapy treatment during this time (see blog https://deeperthaneczema.co.uk/my-phototherapy-light-treatment-journey/ ). So many people commented on how much my skin had improved. I had no eczema related sickness days off work or any major flare-ups.
On return, there were no environmental improvements and people complained the same way as one year ago! As well as being upset about everything I also was very confused spiritually. I could not understand why would God send me back to a working environment that harmed me? All of this made absolutely no sense. This stress and anxiety took my focus away from blogging and other non-work related activities because my main priority outside of work was to apply for other jobs (in case I was not successful) and preparing for interviews. A few weeks later after returning I was interviewed was offered the position permanently and returned a month later.
The amazing thing was throughout the short period of two months while I was there despite the air conditioning, the inconsistent temperature (this included the week in July when it was 38 degrees in London) and overall stress with the workload I had no eczema issues and everything was still under control by the grace of God!