So, how am I doin’?

I’m a white, middle-aged, upper-middle-class heterosexual male who moisturizes.

While that may be an odd answer to a seemingly innocuous question about my well-being, it does say a lot. I live in a society that highly values every part of that sentence up to, and including the word “male.” Even with all my eccentricities and social, uh, challenges, I’m practically guaranteed success due to a whole lot characteristics I have little-to-no control over. So, unlike too many folks in my society, not to mention the entire planet, I am financially secure with no fear of losing my job, and certainly not my home. Frankly, were it not for the millions of suffering people out there, I’d be beside myself in glee as this pandemic has turned the world into one more manageable for a self-titled “Anti-Social Butterfly” like me.

Worldwide suffering is where the “moisturizes” part of my answer above clues you in. By-and-large, a vast majority of the “white, middle-aged, upper-middle-class heterosexual males” out there have no idea about the value of moisturizing their skin and think “ashy” is only what happens to wood after you set it on fire.

I normally don’t moisturize (even though I should), things have changed. The reason goes back many years, just after the spectacular destruction of a relationship and, well, my entire way of life. In a futile effort to summarize, it goes something like this: After more than a decade with my girlfriend and her kids, things took an unexpected turn I couldn’t handle, resulting in months of harassment from aforementioned girlfriend which eventually ended when the police got involved, again. Yeah, there is a long, strange, dramatic story there I may write about some day.

Fast-forward a few months after all the chaos, I’m living with my many cats in a 4-bedroom house without a vehicle. FYI, lack of a vehicle was really no big deal as I also didn’t have a driver’s license (another long story) and had been using the state van pool for getting to work. If I needed groceries, a grocery store was only a couple miles away from my house or work. I got really good at speed walking and carrying heavy bags.

It was around this time I started noticing these spots on my arms and legs. While no big deal at first, eventually these now maddeningly itchy spots spread all over my body, especially along the sides of my torso. Parts of my skin made me think of “alligator boy,” and the itching would keep me awake most nights. At first I thought it was eczema or maybe even lupus, but neither of those really fit my symptoms.

I tried various creams and moisturizers at first, and while they helped, the “rash” just kept spreading and getting itchier. When I reached the “alligator boy” stage, I finally broke down and called my doctor. After a few visits, a skin biopsy revealed I had Lichen Planus.

Basically, this is a non-contagious condition where your immune system attacks your skin. The cause is, “We don’t know.” There are a few scenarios which seem to trigger a reaction, but by-and-large it’s a condition that may be common enough to have a name, it’s not common not enough to really have any solid data behind it.

Thankfully, my doctor found some steroid cream which quickly relieved the itchiness and the rash. A number of months later, the itchiness was completely gone and while it never completely went away, ultimately making home on my feet and other spots. I made a couple attempts to address these remaining issues, though ultimately gave up. While it looked weird, it didn’t really affect my life in any meaningful way.

I’ve since theorized the likely cause for my Lichen Planus was stress. When I had another failed relationship followed by my best friend dying, it returned (though not as severe), eventually receding once again.

That’s a lot of words to say that due to a dramatic increase of stress, my Lichen Planus has flared up, complete with itchiness, which I’m treating with moisturizers. In some ways it’s kinda cool as I have rash-bumps on my hands that look like stigmata. I could really do without the itchiness, though.

So, to wrap up: I’m depressed, stressed, and itchy.

I suspect that other than “itchy,” I’m far from alone here.