Tackling depression in TSW & the Dark Times in Life

Thanks Lorraine Glover for the beautiful artwork!

Topical Steroid Withdrawal is a process that will not only transform your body for the better as you physically heal from the toxins of the steroid use, but it will also test you mentally and emotionally.  Many warriors have gone through the trials of depression while healing and have found ways to cope, stay strong and to keep pressing on.  I felt that it would be a great idea to reach out to those on the facebook groups, itsan.org forum, and to those who have already healed from eczema and get their accounts on how they got through the dark time in their lives.

Here is the question that I proposed to the participants:

In what positive ways have you pulled yourself out of the depths of depression whilst battling Topical Steroid Withdrawal or going through any dark time in your life?
**add your name (anonymous if preferred), TS use, and current month of TSW your in (or date you stopped TS), blog site if you have one**

If anyone is interested in participating in this with their accounts, I would love to add it to this post 🙂 !  This post will be something that I will add to a main page on this blog so my readers can check it out and get inspiration from it when they are needing a boost of encouragement!  Please email your account to eczema.holistic.healing@gmail. com . THANKS!!!

Here is my response: 
Throughout my life I’ve been pretty good at masking my emotions.  I guess I could say that I became great at putting up a facade when I would be dying on the inside.  Going through the health challenges that I’ve gone through in my life; Hodgkin’s Lymphoma back in 2008 and the beginning of TSW in 2012, I’ve broken down those walls, and my emotions came flooding out like never before.  As a child dealing with eczema, it would be an annoyance, and I would feel different from others at times and even envious, but I never fell into the depths of depression like how I had in these past more recent years.  It’s something that I wouldn’t want to talk about, but at my darkest times I felt like as I would simply describe as, “I don’t want to be here”.  I wouldn’t dare say the word… suicide, I would think it, but never let that word come out of my mouth… because to me that was too extreme, and I didn’t want to speak anything into existence, but deep down the way I felt was along those lines.  It was an insanely dark time, where I could only describe it as being at the bottom of a dark hole, trying to claw my way out with zero strength or the will to climb.
What would keep me going in those times was thinking about the future, and what I will become, and how I will be in the best health of my life for all of the suffering.  Although it has felt like an eternity, I knew that what I was going through was truly temporary, and that if I really looked at it on a bigger scale that this time that my body needed to take to heal was honestly a FRACTION of my life.  Yes, I’ve missed out on some years in my 20’s being sick and not really being able to “go outside and play” but this “healing time” that I’m taking now, will leave me way better off in the future.  There is an amazing little book that I read that put everything into perspective.  It’s called Zen and the Art of Happiness by Chris Prentiss.  The premise is that “everything that happens to you is for your best benefit”.  All the pain, suffering, etc… it will all benefit you in the end.  That small statement alone told me that the pain that I’m feeling, the unfairness of it all, everything… is for my benefit!  So I had to pick myself up and know that these trials would not be wasted in the end!
I also became more spiritual through my depths of depression.  I had nothing to hold onto but the Lord and the faith that he will bring me out of this experience.  I kept inspired by reading different religious texts, listening to sermons, and different teachings of faith to keep my mind right.  Constantly having gratitude for the things that I did have in my life helped a lot as well.  Dr. David Jeremiah’s book When Your World Falls Apart was a great inspirational spiritual book that helped me out of the sadness and gave me a different view of suffering.  The Bhagavad Gita was another great text that gave me an understanding that we are all spiritual beings, the importance of being of service to others and that the presence of God lives in us and is all around us.
Having encouraging friends and family members to talk to in my dark moments helped me a lot.  I was always one to stay closed off when I would be going through the worst of it, but I’ve learned to open up more, and let others listen to my woes and calm down my weary heart.
This experience has also taught me to push my sadness aside and be of service to others.  Being of service will give you a sense of purpose and will uplift you in ways you could never imagine.  I reach out to those going through bouts of sadness whenever I can, and be a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on. I feel purposeful when I can coach others on healing their eczema, and it lifts me up, knowing that through my trials I can teach others how to heal.  I plan to make holistic healing from eczema my mission, and help as many people as I can to get back their lives and be in the best health of their lives.  I now know the importance of treating my body as the temple that it is, and I want to be of service to others experiencing pain and health issues.  Again… nothing is wasted! 🙂
 So to recap…
  • Look to the future, stay hopeful and have never ending faith.  Tell yourself that what you are going through is temporary and will benefit you immensely in the end.
  • Stay inspired and look to a higher power to get you through the dark times.  You were not made to suffer, and the divine doesn’t want you to, just know that there is a purpose in everything.
  • It’s ok to have feelings of sadness and times when you want to be alone, but don’t let it consume you, and don’t stay reclusive.  Confide in those whom you trust and who will encourage and lift you up in your darkest moments.  If they really love you, they will be there for you no matter what, and you will never be burdening them with your woes.  As many times as my friends would tell me I’m not a burden to them, I’d still have to remind myself that it’s ok to reach out.
  • Be of service to others.  Just helping another person out will give you a sense of purpose, and will make you feel better that you could uplift them in their time of need.

Jen Hall

-used TS from 10 months up until 26 years old

-stopped TS March 2012

Eczema was the hardest time of my life. For those who suffer with it (or have a close friend or family member who suffers with it), you’ll probably know that eczema comes with a lot of physical and psychological baggage.
I remember being incredibly suicidal, depressed, and I was throwing pity parties everyday. I remember wondering why I wasn’t already in the hospital. It was the darkest and scariest time of my life.
Here are some ways that helped:
  • Affirmations, prayer, and visualization – although the journey gets discouraging and frustrating, you have to keep having hope to carry you on. They say that when you visualize things, it helps brings things to pass – so use visualization techniques and affirmations to imagine your skin healed. Write post it notes around your house with affirmations such as “Your skin will heal” or “You have beautiful skin!” to keep you feeling positive. Prayer also gave me strength to know that someone was out there looking out for me, watching out for me.
  • Surround yourself with a great support group – I never did a good job with this and I never found other sufferers to talk with. I should have though. It’s important to remove anyone who is negative and who brings negativity in your life. I encourage you to go on forums, talk to other eczema sufferers, or join Facebook groups with other eczema sufferers. http://www.EczemaVoice.com is a good platform that will allow you to encourage each other and find others who can encourage you.
  • Be thankful – despite everything, count your blessings for what you do have in life and be grateful. It will help bring your focus to the good things in your life, so that you can stop focusing on what you don’t have. It’s scientifically proven that people who do this are happier as well! 🙂

-Abby Lai

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In addition to the supplements and diet, the “X” factor that has kept me sane in some of the darker times has been my faith in the unconditional love by the divine, my faith in the innate healing power of my body, regular breathing exercises, Yoga, Meditation and meditative walks.  I follow Art of Living, an organization founded by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, whose spiritual practices my wife and I follow.  By following these practices, I have been able to change my lifestyle for the better.  I am also filled with a sense of gratitude and a strong passion to serve others in whatever capacity I can, hence the start of the blog http://www.SayNoToMD.com .  I believe, each and everyone of us has an innate capability to make the change that can truly help us recover from our illnesses – be it physical , mental or emotional. 

My Name: Syed Abbas (though I go with “Bahu” which is my spiritual name).  I have used topical steroids (different ones for my head, face and legs) as well as steroid injections and pills for MD for over 10 years, starting in 2001 and stopping in 2012.

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This is a tough question, b/c I feel like the depression and anxiety ebb and flow throughout the TSW journey. When I was at my worst (February – April 2014), I just pushed through by surrounding myself with supportive people and just taking it one day at a time. I was really upset when I found out that it could last for months or years. I cried…a lot!

Sometimes, I just blocked it out. I wouldn’t look in the mirror, I dressed in really loose/baggy/shlumpy clothing to keep myself covered. I hid in my office, withdrew from social settings – ignored my friends – all so I wouldn’t have to face TSW-reality.

I also reached a point over the summer where I adopted a “oh f*** it” attitude. I wore shorts/tank tops and didn’t care if people stared.

When I would get upset, I’d cry to my husband and he would comfort me. He would tell me that I was still beautiful and that he would always love me. He didn’t quite understand what I was going through, but he supported whatever I wanted to try as a “cure.”

Now that I’m healing (nearly 90% there!) I see a light at the end of the tunnel.

I used TS off/on for 20 years, most frequently in the past 4 years.  Oral steroids frequently in the past 3 years.  I’ve been in TSW since Jan 2014.

-Beth S.

I’ve been following the writings of many medical doctors who have been working with brain biochemical disturbances proving beyond the shadow of a doubt the relationship between gut, liver and the brain.  These doctors are saying that most brain biochemical disturbances start in the gut, then the liver and then it affects the endocrine glands which regulate hormones and as a result can affect the brain. The gastrointestinal tract is a huge body of nervous tissue.  The enteric nervous system lines the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, and the colon. Scientists consider it a single entity, even referring to it as the body’s “second brain”.

To balance the chemicals in the brain, one must address the health of the gut and the liver first.  As a result, when the gut and the liver work better, they take the burden off the endocrine glands and you’d be amazed how the mental function goes back to normal!

If drugs are used to help with brain related dysfunctions, they end up stimulating the production of neurotrasmitters and the end result is complete exhaustion of glands in the body and soon the drug won’t work any more but can cause major problems to the liver and kidneys that have to process these drugs.  Foods on the other hand, nourish the body and thus produce the kinds of neurotrasmitters that the brain need to work with and function normal again. 

It’s amazing that 50% of people with depression or any mental challenges such as anxiety also have constipation, allergies, candidiasis, bloating, hormonal imbalance, can’t sleep at night (liver related), ringing in the ears, fungus on toe nails….etc.  These are all classic symptoms of gut and liver dysfunction. Taking a medical drug is addressing only the symptom while creating more problems to the liver and kidney.  The best solution is to go to the cause which is a change in diet and the use of supplements to enhance the function of the gut and the liver such as probiotics, enzymes, Q10 and blue green algae.

Check out this great article: If You Can’t Beat Depression, You’re Gut Bacteria Could be the Reason

-Donia Alalawi


Going through topical steroid withdrawal has been the most challenging thing I have ever experienced in my life. There are no five stages of grief that you can follow your progression by and there’s no twelve-step program to break ourselves of this addiction.  And yet, we have all found ways of coping with the pain, discomfort, and depression of it all.

The best way I can describe this season was that I jumped in a car, put it on cruise control, and drove straight through hell. It was a miserable ride. BUT even though my surroundings and circumstances were awful and repulsive, there I was safely nestled in a car, my soul untouched by demons and satan himself, and God drove me through it. Yeah, my car totally got beat up, but I was safe inside. God didn’t put me on this journey. He hated that I was going through it just as much as I did, but He was so gentle to guide me through it. Even though my body was physically tortured, my soul was at peace and I was filled with a supernatural joy and hope only God could give. So first and foremost, my relationship with Jesus Himself has helped me overcome with joy in this trial.

And it was those around me, especially my husband, who held my hand through this journey. So many people were praying for my health, and the more prayers that were sent up, the more blessings, healing, and answers came down. One of those answered prayers came in the form of http://www.ITSAN.org where I literally asked God what was happening to my body and immediately He led me to that website. No kidding. There I found a community of fellow fighters in the same battle: those who went before me led the way with experience and strategy, testimonies that I was excited to walk into myself; those who were beside me in the same steps and struggles learning how to cope day by day and cheering each other on; and those who came behind me asking the same questions I first asked and I got to encourage
them that they can keep going, which reminded me of how far I have come.

So when I step back and take a look at that beautiful community, I see a cross: those warriors before me, beside me, and behind me. Which then brings me back to a divine plan of a Savior who understood our pain, overcame, and promised us hope and victory in His name. Because of Him, through Him, and by Him have I been able to endure through the most challenging season of my life and still be filled with joy.

Joan Huang 


Used topical steroids intermittently through life since birth, became addicted May 2013, and am currently in the 6th month of withdrawal.

There are 2 phases of my TSW, the first 2 years, and the current one, which I shall call “my 3rd flare”. The first 2 years of my TSW was really tough, the depression is very real and it cloaks my entire world, so much so that the negative energy I have pushed people away from me. But I always believed that I’ll heal one day and this depression I felt will be gone with the winds as well. 
I truly believe the only thing that got me out of depression was my healing skin. But to persevere and trot on until my skin heals, it took a lot of faith and hope in healing up eventually. Not once did i stop believing in that. It was like the carrot I dangle in front of myself just so I can continue my TSW journey. 
i didn’t actively try to pull myself out of depression, since I feel like it’s a process that everyone has to go through, much like the 5 stages of grief. instead of trying to resist it, I let myself go with the flow. of course I did try to do things that will lessen the load on my mind and emotions by engaging in relaxing activities. Every morning and night, I make sure to say a word of prayer to give thanks to all the things that I still have in life – all the tiny little things that I’ve once taken for granted. Giving thanks doesn’t just make me feel better, it makes me a happier person as I’ve learnt to appreciate life a lot more than I ever did. Counting my blessings puts me in a better perspective when I’m stuck in a really bad situation like TSW. 
Right now as I’m dealing with my 3rd flare, nothing much has changed – I’m still hopeful and very confident that I’ll heal (since I’ve already seen the light at the end of the tunnel!), I still believe in natural healing, I am still thankful. What’s different is the addition of a brand new “perspective” that the first 2 years have given me – the depth of depression back then has tilted my scale so much that whatever shit i’m going through right now seems so small and minuscule as compared to the past. 
So if you were to ask me how to deal with depression during TSW, just keep reminding yourself that whatever you’re going through right now WILL END eventually, and all these moments will come to benefit you in ways you can never imagine in the future. We’re all inevitably shaped by our environment, TSW will make us all braver, more compassionate, stronger, and happier at the end of it all – only if you allow yourself to fall, and then learn to pick yourself up in the process.
Stay strong and don’t stop believing.

Name: Juliana


TS used: hydrocortisone, betamethasone, mometasone

TSW month: month 44 (as of dec 2014)


I think on some level I’ve been depressed most of my life. It’s hard for me to say if that was caused by the steroids as I used them from the age of 6 weeks old, and have used them weekly my whole life, and Elocon for the past 3 years. I’m now 27, and in month 7 TSW. At about month 4 I really started going downhill, had a breakdown at work and quit. I’d stay in bed for days with the curtains shut, ignore my family coming through to check on me, not speak to my friends or partner about it because I didn’t want to face knowing that I really was in the pits of depression. I told my parents I didn’t want to be here anymore, what was the point?

I then started seeing a psychiatrist once every 2 weeks, then a hypnotherapist once a week, meditating every day and started taking antidepressants from my doctor at 6months TSW, let’s just say I’m finally so sick of feeling down that I’m attacking this from all angles!! I got disability allowance from the government, and I’m seeing my friends more and am finally feeling like I could come off the benefits and get a full time job (I’d never managed to hold down a full time job before because of my eczema and depression) and I plan to move out from my parents house to live with my best friend.

I’m still taking my medication, and I probably will until the spring time, but as my eczema improves I keep feeling better and have more energy. It’s not been easy, but I have an amazingly supportive family and my friends are fantastic, I know I wouldn’t be here today without having them to lean and depend on.

-Laura Mathieson


I like this question because it already assumes that you’ll experience Depths of Depression when battling Topical Steroid Withdrawal (TSW). This is a fair assumption of course. Skin illnesses and skin issues are damaging both physically and emotionally. It is so, so important to take care of your mental health.
My short answer to this question: 
1) Journaling – it is therapeutic, vent your struggles out;
2) Talking to a professional – see a therapist if funds allow it;
3) Being in supportive/healthy relationships;
4) Joining a community/forum/blog that would have other people in similar situations as you;
5) Finding a distraction that is rewarding.
Long answer:
(1) We as humans experience a lot of emotions. Keep a journal. Write it all out. How do you feel? What was your day like? Are you anxious about anything? I find putting thoughts onto paper really therapeutic. When I started journaling I started noticing patterns more too: “oh, I ate tomatoes that time too when my face flushed red…” or even “I should remember this so I can write about it in my journal.”
(2) I’ve recently started seeing a therapist and it feels so right. Talking to friends and family really helps, but there’s something so different when you’re paying someone to listen to you. They are unbiased. They are people who listen and offer suggestions and you don’t end up feeling like you’re burdening them. Remember that a good therapist not only listens, but lays out treatment plans too. Of course not everyone has money for this so some alternatives:
– E-mailing “Jo” from http://www.Samaritans.org.
– Talking to your school guidance counselor.
– Talking to your doctor for resources for programs.
I’m sure there’s tons of resources out there that are low-cost or even free.
3) I hope everyone has someone close to them that supports them and loves/cares for them in a healthy way. I am always sad to hear/read when a fellow TSW warrior has an unsupportive partner or family 😦 because this is so important for emotional health. If you have someone ‘close’ to you that is blaming you, calling you mean names, or is controlling – leave or avoid them. You are not obligated to make them happy if they aren’t taking care of you.
“None of this is your fault”, “that sucks”, “you are more than your skin”, “you are strong”, “you are beautiful”, “I care for you” – you should be hearing these things.
TSW is an illness and we do need a lot of support, however, remember not to be entirely dependent on another person. Remember to look after yourself to the best of your ability.
4) Join a forum or group where you’ll find people just like you! If we’re talking about TSW, there is http://www.ITSAN.org and http://www.NoMoreSteroids.com. If we’re talking about illnesses in general, check out http://www.ChronicBabe.com.
It took a lot of weight off my shoulders when I found people experiencing the same symptoms I was experiencing. That feeling of “you are not alone” is so powerful and needed.
5) I think it’s important to find a distraction, especially one that is rewarding. I have been working an office job throughout my journey and it makes me feel good to be productive. I play video games from time to time too. My latest distraction has been a Nintendo DS game called Rhythm Heaven. General message: do something that makes you happy!

San, Stopped TS May 2012, check out blog for more info: sanwichsays.tumblr.com


I’ve had eczema my whole life. It was never a major problem until June 2014. I guess it was the combination of coming off of a steroid injection, coming off protopic, a terrible diet, and smoking too much that caused my skin to go haywire. Within one month my arms were engulfed in this red, spreading rash that itched like crazy. My face and neck were bright red for two months. I didn’t know I was going through steroid withdrawal until around the third month. This is when my depression set in because this terrible disease can take up to two or three years to cure. I left my friends and apartment in the city and moved back in with my parents because it was easier for me to cope with what was happening to me. I was able to focus more on myself and was less stressed out. My skin has been improving since but I still get times were I feel depressed. I hate sitting around the house all day but it’s all I want to do. I try to stay as busy as possible with school and work so I don’t get depressed. The one thing people suffering from this disease is the ability to be normal again. Not to be ashamed to look at yourself in the mirror, to be able to actually shower again and not get all red from the water, to be able to wash your hands correctly, not to worry if a certain food or material is going to make your skin flare up.  

There are days where I don’t want to leave my bed and don’t want to talk to anybody. I hate how antisocial this has made me.

Once I fully heal from this, I am going to appreciate the simple things in life way much more. It may be hell now, but this is only a fraction of our lives and once this heals I will be the happiest person in the world.

The major thing that has helped make this process easier is changing my diet. Since starting topical steroid withdrawal I’ve been eating a lot healthier. It wasn’t until December that I took full control of my healing. Starting December 1st I cut out all animal products and went on a strict supplement program. The only food I consume are fruits and vegetables and over 75% of this food is organically grown. The most important element to me.

During this whole journey, this has been the website I came across in the first month: eczema-natural-healing.com. The information this woman has provided changed my whole view on and I’ve been following her diet plan to reverse my eczema. I read the whole thing multiple times. It was my bible. After one month I saw pretty great results such as softer, less itchy skin. I am going to continue to eat this way until my eczema is gone. Even after its gone, I will still avoid fast food places and soda, candy etc because my taste buds have changed and I no longer crave any sugary, processed foods. Seeing little improvements by changing the way I eat has helped me a lot with the depression of this journey.

Having just turned 21, this is one of the worst times someone could be going through this. All my friends want to do is party and while I used to love it, I just don’t want to be bothered now. Feeling excluded just adds to the depression but I just have to remind myself that this is tempory. The red, flakey, itchy skin will soon hopefully be a forgotten memory and I will get to live a normal life again. To anyone reading this that suffers from this, just know that it will get better, it may take up to two or three years but we will all heal with time. Also I would like to give a shout out to Jen for giving me that extra push with my diet and being a great source of information and a great friend 🙂

Happy Healing Everyone!


-Quit TS May 2014.

-slight use as a baby, on and off for four years and a steroid shot in Feb. 2014


6 thoughts on “Tackling depression in TSW & the Dark Times in Life

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