The scariest thing to happen to me on Halloween was a pea-sized blister on the bottom of my right foot. As a college freshman still getting used to living in a dorm, I blamed it on the communal showers.
“Great,” I thought. “Only two months into my college experience, and I get athlete’s foot even though I wear shower shoes!” I cursed my bad luck, started to use an athlete’s foot spray, and hoped that everything would calm down in a few days.
In a strange turn of events, the foot spray only increased the blister to marble-sized, causing walking normally to be incredibly painful and basically impossible. Fed up on a Sunday night, I texted my mom a picture of the blister and described to her my excruciating pain.
She told me to go to a doctor early the next morning, so I woke up two hours earlier than I usually do on a Monday and headed to the nearest urgent care clinic. It was impossible not to notice the incredulity of the physician assistant as he said that I did not have athlete’s foot and that he had never seen something like my blister before. He set up an appointment with a podiatrist for that same day, and I thought my issue was going to get resolved once and for all.
The podiatrist, however, said that I had dyshidrotic eczema, a skin condition that would take about two weeks to go away if I used a cream twice a day. He explained to me that there are many things that can trigger dyshidrotic eczema, and one of those is being under stress. After I told him how painful I found walking to be because of my marble-sized blister, he also prescribed to me a knee scooter to help me out.
What followed was the strangest week of my life. I always took pride in the fact that I had never broken any bones, had never needed a cast, and had never needed crutches. All of a sudden, I was faced with having to use a scooter to walk to my classes, which took longer than my usually quick-paced walking, and take the elevator, which is something I rarely do because I find it faster to take the stairs.
Whenever people who were concerned about my well-being asked what had happened in order for me to have to use a knee scooter, I got a little bit embarrassed. I could tell they expected me to have sprained my ankle or something, so having to say that I was unable to walk properly because of a marble-sized blister sounded a bit silly to me.
I think the embarrassment I felt was not caused by the blister itself but by my strange realization that my stress had gone too far. I never thought that I was intensely stressed, but maybe I had gotten so used to a constant state of tension due to the increase in my daily responsibilities that I did not even notice what was going on with me.
I was embarrassed that I was not able to control my stress and that my stress was controlling me. I knew that I had to change, and I needed to calm down as soon as possible. Then I noticed that I was getting stressed about being stressed, and I wondered how I was going to get out of that cycle.
Thankfully, I only had to use the knee scooter for a week, but the impact of my dyshidrotic eczema will greatly surpass that amount of time. In one week, I learned that I desperately need to slow myself down and not be too preoccupied with everything. It is sad that it took such a strange, intense skin condition for me to realize these things, but now I know how much of an impact stress can have on my health. Starting today, in hopes that I never have dyshidrotic eczema again, I will scoot my worries away.
Mariah Schaefer is a journalism student who is fascinated by stories and whose interests vary from binge watching her favorite television shows to taking double exposures with her film camera. She thinks typewriters are such lovely machines that she owns four of them. Mariah sporadically tweets at @mariahschaefer.