“My friends went out at night, I put on cream and took medicine”

In Spain, around two million people suffer from atopic dermatitis, a skin condition that causes redness, swelling and itching. Among them, however, about 50 thousand suffer severe atopic dermatitis (DAG), a much more severe condition that can become very limiting, especially in the summer when, in addition to the worsening of symptoms, is added the insecurity of some patients who see their self-esteem suffer. To raise awareness of HGD, Sanofi and AADA, the Atopic Dermatitis Association launched the Stories with Light project for the second year in a row, a space where, in addition to raising awareness of the disease, we can learn about the stories of patients’ overcoming like Gonzalo Mozas, a young man of 18 years old, a fan of cinema and philosophy, with whom we talked while doing the Camino de Santiago.

Your life is marked by GAD because you have always suffered from it. How did it affect you, what things were you unable to do because of the illness?It affected me a lot because since I was a kid I noticed that I had to do things that other kids didn’t have to do, like run to take a shower after getting out of the pool and put cream on myself, I couldn’t do some extracurricular activities, I had to I gave up American football because I couldn’t wear the team, I got a lot of sweat sores… For me it was a completely normal thing, but when I started to grow up, especially as a result of adolescence, I realized that this was not normal, that I was the only one of my friends who did, who had a lot of limitations… and it had a big impact when it comes to relating to other people, because people were already looking at me, they were surprised that I itched so much that I had scars your hands…

When you were little, you told your classmates that you were injured because you were in the war…Yes, I had to use other tools to connect with others and I told my colleagues that the cuts and scratches on my hands were because I was in a war, so they would think I was a tough person, not that I was Broken… Then, later, when I was 13-14 years old, it was more difficult because people run away from you, they don’t understand what’s going on with you and it affects you more. Because many people have dermatitis, but severe atopic dermatitis is something else.

Adolescence is said to be one of the worst times because patients are less adherent to treatment. Was it your case?Well, in my case it was the exact opposite, it was reaching adolescence and taking the treatments, the routines even more seriously… I “got involved” very little, but the dermatitis didn’t allow me. I was always very aware that I couldn’t be as free as people my age because if I left treatment I was much worse off, I couldn’t afford it. So while my camp mates were out there at night, I had to dedicate myself to putting cream on, taking my meds and trying to get more rest or it would get worse.

“As a child, I used to tell my classmates that the wounds on my hands were because I was in a war, so that they would believe that I was a tough person, not that I was broken”

How are you now?Well, I’m pretty good now. On the one hand, because I have pretty much got the disease under control and can almost lead a normal life. After years of trying different medications, I am on a medication that is helping me a lot. On the other hand, since I found my place in AADA, the Association of People Affected by Atopic Dermatitis, they helped me psychologically to understand what is happening to me, I feel that I belong to a group, I feel… .

How are you spending your summer? Heat makes the disease much worse…Yes, summer is the worst time, especially because of the chlorine in the pools and the heat, which makes you sweat more, and the sweat makes you itch a lot, you sleep worse, which is very bad for the skin… At the most difficult time , which I had, which was adolescence, I directly shut down in the summer, but over the years I develop “tricks” and get along better, such as going north when I can, to the beach, sunbathing – in moderation and protection – because dermatitis is useful…

It seems that you have found the light at the end of the tunnel thanks to cinema and philosophy… What do they mean now in your life, how do they help you?Well, they mean a lot to me because I’m actually going to start studying in film school… And I owe that, in quotes, to the dermatitis, because during the time when I shut down a little bit more because of the dermatitis or having to stay in bed, I spent a lot of time watching movies and reading books. From the age of 12, I went to the cinema every week alone, on the one hand, because the cinema is a dark place where no one can see my skin; and on the other hand, because I really like it and I was so focused on movies that I didn’t scratch it during that time. When I started making films myself, recording things, taking pictures… the feeling was the same, I was so focused that I forgot that I was itching. And philosophy taught me many things, including accepting myself… Severe atopic dermatitis is a bitch, very hard at times, but in the end it made me who I am. Dermatitis, philosophy and cinema made me who I am…

“Severe atopic dermatitis is a bitch, very hard at times, but in the end it made me who I am”

How important is the environment in dealing with disease, outbreaks…?It’s very… is key in all diseases because the environment is also affected and how the environment reacts or what the environment does has a big impact on how the patient is. I was lucky that my mother is a doctor, but still she was trained a lot in the disease, she studied with me… And the same with my brothers, because they experienced the disease directly with me, they contributed a lot, they always gave me creams… and I’ve been joked a lot that to deal with it a sense of humor is essential.

What would you say to a boy or girl your age who is not doing very well?Well, first of all, as far as possible, they should not put any limitations on themselves, should not put any more barriers than the ones that the disease already puts on us. I, for example, am doing the Camino de Santiago and I have to carry a whole backpack with creams and medicines, I have to take a lot of time for myself… but I do it. Maybe it costs a little more to enjoy, but it gets the worst of the lock-in and self-restriction. Ultimately, you develop a sense of duty to yourself and responsibility, which makes you feel doubly proud of the things you manage to do.

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