Before I even got to celebrate my very first birthday, I had developed a serious case of atopic eczema and a lot of different allergies that would make my skin break out in violent rashes that would itch and make me scratch myself until I was without any skin on my hands, and I had to wear bandages. My parents treated it with alcohol and strong cortisone ointment, twice a day, every day for years and years. I was always visiting hospitals and doctors, one doctor even used me as a research object because of my serious illness.
This was a very painful experience, both for me and my parents who would hear me scream and cry because of the itching, the bleeding sores and wounds, and the excruciatingly painful alcohol treatments. I couldn’t stop myself from itching and my fingers, hands, became my worst enemies. The same hands that loved to create and make beautiful art. The same hands that were my best friends. My body had urges and desires to hurt myself, to cause myself pain and torments, and I was helpless and could not resist these urges.
And this is only the physical experience of my childhood physical trauma. Of course I felt awkward about the red spots and rashes, the constant itching, all the allergies and the way it became a social handicap for me.
Some kids where disgusted with me because I was always scratching myself and my body was full of bleeding wounds, scabs, with pus and my eyes were puffy and swollen because of all the allergies. Most of my classmates accepted me, but some kids were bullying me and teasing me because of my physical appearance.
I remember one kid told me he was not allowed to touch me because his mother had told him I might be contagious. That one REALLY hurt. And it was completely untrue. Even so, I felt so disgusted by my own body – and even though I was a victim of this disease, I felt like a perpetrator – to myself and others, by just being me.
In first grade, when I was 7 years old, the entire class got a children’s version of The Bible. And our teacher was reading it out loud, I guess it was the basic ‘stories’ from the Bible and it took us some months to study it while she was reading the biblical stories. After she finished reading from it and we had all the basic biblical dramas alive in our heads, she asked us to paint something from it, that had made a big impression on us. Most kids made drawings of angels, the crucifixion or the virgin Mary.
But I made a drawing of a poor leper (with sores all over his body) in a monk’s robe, visiting Christ.
According to the Gospels, when Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. A very sick leper came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”
Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cured of his leprosy. I am sure I felt a connection to this poor, sick man who just wanted to feel clean and accepted for his physical existence.