"I have Eczema (Atopic Dermatitis) by birth, a skin condition, that is so far incurable. The best you can do is to take good care of yourself, avoiding things which exacerbate it. This is my journey of self-acceptance and self-love.
I used to be a diffident person, hesitated to go out in public, and was not ready to face the world because of how bad my skin looked. I was having a hard time due to infections. My eyebrows literally became non-existent. My head hurt because of insomnia. I could not smile or do any kind activities due to my skin being extremely flakey and dry.
This condition also affected my education. I was restricted not to opt for any field that demanded hectic physical work. I was okay with this since I had never considered applying for an army-related field where there would be physical labor. A small part of me wanted to try, but it was not a big deal. I was happy with whatever field I chose.
But this condition especially affected my student life, including my mental health and social interactions in the way that I started to become critical of how I appeared or what people would think, which eventually made me somewhat isolate myself. My condition would get triggered so I was always irritated. My sleeping pattern was eccentric. I would go for days without sleep and then sleep some days for many hours straight. But my family was supportive, and their support kept me going.
I had to encounter situations where I was discriminated against on the basis of how I looked, which disgusted me to the core and did affect my mental health a lot. It then made me realize that you never know how your words can heal a person or break their heart into a million pieces. I was constantly reminded of all the beauty standards prevailing in our society, shattering my world inside. I have always been the strong thick-head kind of person who was taught to be comfortable in their skin, but being raised in a society which was constantly nourished by all the beauty standards prevailing in our society made my self-acceptance journey very difficult.
And no matter how hard I try to overcome this; it is still unconsciously there.
Eventually, I made peace with myself and that one shouldn't be fooled by these fake standards. I started embracing the not-so-good part of my skin and the flaws (perfection) that I was born with. I decided to face my challenges bravely without any hint of self-pity. I started changing my perception, one step at a time.
I started doing things that made me happy and look on the positive side. I started smiling more and more to feel good, ignorant of the fact that it still hurts. There are still days when it becomes unbearable and it becomes very hard to face the world. But then I have to remind myself that 'it is okay, it's okay to feel sad and depressed. But this pain should not define you.'
There are people who think they are superior. Well, to those people, I hope you find peace.
If I were given an option of not having Eczema, I would never consider it. I have fought unseen battles, braved demons the world has never known. This condition defines me, made me who I am today. In the world of filters and flawless skin, I mustered up my courage and created an Instagram account solely to educate people about my condition, spreading the message that it is ‘normal’ to have imperfections.
‘How you love yourself is how you teach others to love you.’
I still have a long way to go in my struggle of self-love. We all have flaws, but they make us unique. Nobody’s world is perfect, and it can never be. I hope you will walk on this journey knowing you belong. I hope you would not give up on yourself.
To all the people who feel low about their insecurities, I hope you will remind yourself: You are worthy of all the love even if it does not feel that way. You matter."
From Afsana: While Mahnoor Khokhar describes how Eczema has influenced her education, she describes a larger journey of a self-acceptance and self-love that each of us can continue to learn from. Please continue to support our platform by reading these stories and being in full presence with these women on our platform, and if you also have a story to share as a Pakistani woman, please contact us.
Written by Sana Jamil and Usman Khawar of Afsana