My life only started at 29

This is a post I have been wanting to write for the longest time. As mentioned in my Hello Superpowers post, I went from 84kg at the start of my MBA program to 68kg in 1 year (and for the first time in my life ever I have abs!)

My friends thought I just decided to lose weight so that I can get back to dating. Apart from a few close friends I have told, I didn't want to share the reason behind this.

You see, I suffered from Topical Steroid Withdrawal since 12 years old. It began as eczema/psoriasis, a skin inflammation condition quite common in hot and humid countries like Singapore.

A typical dermatologist would perscribe you steroid creams. Unknown to me and my parents, overuse of steroid creams can cause over-reliance and once stopped, the skin would go through terrible rebounds. I am talking about intense itch, extensive dead skin shredding and even bleeding. This is what I mean by my post 90% of everything is crap. Modern medicine is one of those "90% crap" things because millions of people are suffering from Topical Steroid Withdrawal and are told that steroid creams was "the only way" to deal with eczema/psoriasis.

12 to 18 years old

My condition wasn't that bad during this period, I was still very active and I even represented my high school in national level sports competitions. However everytime I stopped using steriod creams, the rebound came back stronger and I had to increase my dosage. During this period, I didn't realise I was suffering from Topical Steroid Withdrawal.

18 to 25 years old

This was the period that I went to 2 years of National Service in Singapore and completed my 4 years of Computer Science degree.

It was Hell.

I was taking steroid pills every 3 months (cream no longer worked on me) to control my condition. I could no longer exercise and even bathing was a torture because there were open wounds on my skin from scratching. I was wayyyyy overweight, and guess how that affected my self-esteem and social life. However, I realised my condition was Topical Steroid Withdrawal during this period because I noticed that my skin became perfect when I did a study exchange in California and Beijing, 2 cold/dry places. I was so surprised that I researched intensively on what would have caused my condition.

25 to 27 years old

I love Singapore, it's my home, and Asia is undergoing tremendous growth. I am also a very ambitious person, so I decided to launch my first startup in Vietnam right after graduating, hoping that by going to Vietnam, my skin would improve like it did in California/Beijing.

Tl;DR: It didn't.

27 to 29 years old

I didn't want to leave Singapore and move to a dry/colder place, I placed hope in recovering from Topical Steroid Withdrawal. Based on anecdotes from Reddit and online communities, our bodies will recover by itself as long as we stop using steroids, however we have to go through a hellish withdrawal period that could last years.

It was 10x more difficult than what I had experienced before.

- I was bleeding everyday from scratching.
- I could only sleep for 2-3 hours a night because of the intense itch.
- I went on walks every night by myself because that's the only time the temperature wouldn't make me skin hurt and others won't be staring at my bad skin.
- I went on multiple 3 days fasts to see if fasting would reduce my itch.
- I still continued my day job as a mobile developer because I didn't want a gap in my job experience - Thanks to COVID I could work from home.

This lasted for 1.5-2 years. The worse parts were:

- I was making my family worry about me, but they couldn't do anything to help.
- 1 by 1, my friends stopped contacting me, because I couldn't meet them in person and life just got busier for them. It also made me realise that family is truly the only people who would stay by your side. Most friendships need to be maintained.
- My quality of life/ ability to concentrate and learn greatly decreased because of the constant itch.
- I was jealous of everyone else because they were healthy, able to go out for a walk in the day, able to go for a run, able to chase their dreams, able to see the world. I believe my self-esteem was demolished during this period and I was a very resentful person.

Maybe this is what people with terminal illnesses would feel like.

29 to 30 years old

I was 70% recovered by my 29th birthday, but I was still in a very bad condition by normal standards. So I finally decided to move to New York for my education and my skin.

Unsurprisingly, my skin recovered quickly after moving because of the change in environment (New York is cold or dry most of the time). And for the first time in my life I am completely normal!

So I promised myself this 1 year is for making up on all the that time I lost, to build back a normal life.

I worked f***ing hard to get in my best shape ever, backpacked 9 countries, and get a good job.

Because this comeback is personal. I need to prove to myself that I am still capable of doing great things.

How's my skin now?

I still get skin rashes in hot+humid places. However I have to go back to Singapore to find out how my skin will react. But it was generally well during my 2 months backpacking!

Why I don't talk about this much

Because others don't get it as they haven't experienced this personally before. I don't expect you to understand what I have been through after reading this post anyway.

So why write about it?

Writing is therapeutic, I want an outlet to let it out of my system. I believe this experience has shaped who I am tremendously and I appreciate life a lot more now (I would have never been able to backpack!). There is no more self-pity. I am just f***ing happy with my life now and want to make the best use of it.

So watch me, as I am going to do amazing things.