Social Icons

Thursday, 28 March 2013

TSW (Topical steroid withdrawal) Advice from Josh

Below is an e-mail I sent to Geoff, a friend who is going through steroid withdrawl.  The pictures Geoff kindly sent me and offered for them to go up on the blog.  Cheers pal.

Picture: Me (Josh) after 7 months of TSW recovery
Hey Geoff,

Thanks for the e-mail, I really appreciate you getting in touch and sending through the pictures.  When I look at them, all I see is myself a year ago and I share your frustration and pain.  It's a frustrating stage because you feel fine, but your skin is holding you back.  I compare it to being in the body of an 80yo man, where the mind is willing but the body is all stiff and sore.  It took me about 4 - 6 months before I was back doing normal stuff.  Initially I found that I just had to go through the healing process and there was nothing I could do to speed it up (first 3 - 4 months), but after that I do have some tips that might help you:

1.) Sun bathing - I could only manage 5 minutes at a time, which I worked up to 10 minutes after a few weeks.  The research on sun light is very strong and really made a difference.  Be wary, the heat will make you itchy, so don't force it, just get sun when you can and be prepared to cool your body down with cold compresses when you've had enough.

2.) Walking - Keeping your body active is vital.  When I'm active I heal much much quicker.  This said, it's important not to over do it.  I avoided all gym sessions and strenuous labour because I didn't want the blood vessels to dilate, that's a recipe for going backwards, but walking and breaking up the dry skin is really good.  It also sends a message to the body to work as efficiently as possible.  Whilst I can't back this statement up with medical facts, it really does make sense.  For instance, have you notices that when you are active your brain functions faster?  Thats because your body is working at a good pace, the hormones are firing and the engine is ticking over.  Spend a week laying on the couch and whilst the relaxation is lovely, the mental cognition will be stuck in 2nd gear.

3.) Pushing through the pain - Just recently (month 7) I've got to the point where my skin colour is largely normal, but there is still a coating of dry skin on top.  When I say dry skin, it's not noticable and it's very fine, so my black suits stay crisp, but it's uncomfortable and if I get hot or raise a sweat I'm scratching at various areas on my body.  What I noticed, was playing sport and actively making myself sweat was itchy and horrible that day, but a couple days latter that problem area healed up and the dry skin vanished.  These patches will come and go and move around the body, but it seems like once an area is healed, it is healed for good.

Now I also want to touch on diet

Not everyone agrees, but the following is based on my experience, research and conversations with others going through TSW:

1.) Eat healthy - Cut out the fast food, white carbs and gluten

2.) Cut out sugar - Processed sugar is the devil, it steals vital nutrients from the body and retards your ability to heal.  Of course you don't have to be hard line about it, but a simple reduction like cutting out soft drink (soda) can make a noticeable difference.

3.) Supplements - If you heed nothing else, do this.  Go and buy Cod Liver Oil tablets.  These, along with Prime Rose oil tablets made a massive difference to my recovery.  The science is clear cut and brilliant, Cod liver oil is amazing for skin. Get on it, not fish oil, or Krill oil, but Cod Liver Oil.

4.) Water - Make sure you hydrate your body.  Drink plenty of water and give the skin every chance to heal

Finally, lifestyle tips that made me feel better

1.) Establish sleep patterns - This really hard to do when your cortisol levels are all over the place like an Indian taxi driver (I thought that was funny joke, sorry to my Indian mates).  I made myself go to bed at a certain time and stay in bed until it was time to get up.  Initially this was terrible, I just couldn't sleep, but over time my body got use to the pattern and I started getting full nights sleep and my recovery sped up.

2.) Reduce stress - Don't look at this recovery as a bad thing, look at it as an opportunity to address issues that you've ben putting off for years.  For me it was stress.  I focused on taking time to relax, meditate, watch TV and crank good music.  I actively felt my body unwind and heal.  IT has been shown that the body heals best during sleep, so the logical extension is to reduce stress and chill the heck out!!

3.) Positivity - It's infectious and it has amazing results.  This advice extends to every aspect of life -> Focus on the end goal, how amazing it will be when you are healed and all the things you are going to do.  I actually wrote lists of all the things I wanted to do when I was healthy again.  In my mind I lived it every day; partying, playing sport, doing a dance class, having coffee out with mates, surfing... the list goes on forever and the coolest thing is, when you get out the other end, you've had a chance to take stock and assess what is truly important to you.  I can't tell you how happy I am right now with my life, love and friends.

4.) Tell people what you are going through - I learned this one late, but after I posted the blog on Facebook and told all my friends what I was going through, I felt an amazing weight lifted from my shoulders.  My family and friends rallied around me and no longer was there a white elephant in the room.  This allowed me to go to work, miss social engagements and go out in public all red in the face... and it just didn't matter.  When everyone knows the score, they focus on the positives of the game.  I believe this very very strongly

5.) Focus on the opportunity - As said under positivity, this is a massive opportunity for you.  Never in your life do you get a chance to just stop and think.  This is the world forcing you to chill out, and think.  They say prisoners remember thousands of obscure memories from their past, gain a deep and profound understanding of themselves and become stronger people for it.  Thing about that for a minute.  Here's a criminal behind bars, and they are achieving a level of enlightenment that most pay thousands of dollars for.  This is your opportunity to follow their lead, reflect on your life, those around you and how you want to live your life going forward... I'm tell you, this could just be the most pivotal moment of your life...Embrace it!

Reading back over this e-mail, I really strongly believe everything I've said.  I will admit that I'm currently sitting in a cafe on Chapel st in Melbourne, Australia and with the music playing and people buzzing around, the grammar probably isn't going to win any awards, but the message is worth paying attention to.  I'm going to post this on my blog, and would love any comments about how it helps, or doesn't help over the course of your recovery.

Stay in touch Geoff and let me know how you get on.

BTW, I'm going to be in Cincinnati & Boston in September.  If there is anything I can do for you then, just let me know.

Josh Strawczynski

Pictures: Geoff after day 36 of TSW recovery