Last week I started rehearsal for A Christmas Carol. It’s kind of surreal, because one year ago I unknowingly began Topical Steroid Withdrawal during rehearsals for the same show. I’ve truly come full circle. Even though I’m not completely healed physically, I’m much stronger mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. A year ago I was literally suppressing panic attacks on stage, crying in the bathroom during intermission, feeling lost, confused, and like I was drowning. This past year has been the hardest challenge I’ve ever had to face, and I’m still facing it daily, however, I have grown immensely. Thank God for the lessons I’ve learned and will learn. This year has been a whirlwind of unexpected obstacles and blessings to say the least. It’s frustrating when things don’t go as planned, but if you learn to open yourself to the possibilities of unforeseen circumstances and find the positive in the situations you don’t plan for, it’s amazing how God can change you for the better.
Just to give a short recap, last January and February I was planning on moving to New York, however in March I moved back home to Seattle, and now eight months later I still live at home. I’m currently in Washington, DC for A Christmas Carol, but I’ll be back home in January. When I initially moved home, I thought I would be there for a few months, figure out why my skin was breaking out, heal it, and go to New York. HA! How wrong I was. Suddenly my health took the forefront of my life and everything else seemed trivial: auditions, new headshots, networking, my career...it all took a back seat. I remember my mother being worried because I was going to miss audition season on the east coast. I just shook my head and said, “audition season will be there when I get back.” I used to obsess over being seen at certain auditions, and suddenly I had no desire to even be onstage or do the things that had been such a huge part of my identity. I thought I was losing my passion, but my focus was being shifted so that I could grow into a better woman.
Initially it was hard for me to accept what was going on with my health, mainly because I had no idea what was happening. I just knew that something was wrong. I went home with the mindset to heal, but I kept trying to accomplish so many other goals at the same time: I wanted to travel, I wanted to do a fitness competition, I wanted to save up for my big move, I needed to start a YouTube station and consistently put up content, I needed to work on new monologues and songs. Even though it felt like my passion was fading, I was still focused on the same goals I had before my health began deteriorating. There were all these things that I felt like I needed to do so that my time home would be productive. I was so focused on this checklist that healing wasn’t even my top priority. I felt like not pursuing my previous goals would be letting my skin condition win. I didn’t know how to be still. I knew I was home for a reason, but I didn’t know how to let go of control. I was still trying to make things happen instead of accepting where I was and living in that truth. It wasn’t until I finally took a month off in October to focus solely on my health that I learned I was going through Topical Steroid Withdrawal and was able to accept this process and the fact that I didn’t know when I’d be healed.
Before October I kept trying to put a timeline on my healing and plan for when this would be over. I still speak healing over my body every morning and think of the day when this will all be a distant memory, but I’m living in my present reality. I no longer make plans with the thought of, “my skin will be better by then,” because I honestly don’t know. All I know is that this is my reality now and it won’t be forever. I kept thinking that God would heal me before I had to travel or before I had to be onstage, but the lesson I’ve had to learn is that I can be onstage and be happy and live a life of purpose despite what’s going on with my health. God is teaching me to find peace within the storm. Letting go of control and learning to be still has been the hardest lesson I’ve learned thus far. It’s always been terrifying for me to not know what’s next, and this experience has completely altered any preconceived notions I’ve had of my next step. Instead of relying on my wits and human ability, I am completely reliant on God’s strength.
I recently finished reading “Battlefield of the Mind,” by Joyce Meyer, and the following quote from the last chapter really resonated with me.
God arranges events quite often in a way that we would not choose because He knows what we really need…It is important for God to arrange our circumstances in such a way that we have to face ourselves. Otherwise, we would never experience freedom. As long as the enemy can hide in our soul, he will always have a certain amount of control over us. But when God exposes him, we are on our way to freedom, if we will put ourselves in God’s hands and permit Him to do quickly what He desires to do.
This past year has forced me to look within and expose every insecurity, every ill thought towards myself and others, and every bad habit I’ve picked up through the years. Not only that, but it’s taught me the importance of walking with God. Not in front of or behind, but WITH God. I used to run around like a chicken with its head cut off trying to find validation from anyone and anything. The reason why I felt like I lost my passion was because I lost sight of my purpose. I didn’t know why I was performing anymore. I was just trying to get a job, but I’ve learned how to be still and tune in to God’s voice. In doing so, He’s created opportunities that weren’t even in my vision. First of all, this is the longest I’ve been home since I left for school in 2007. Being home, I’ve been able to spend time with family, especially my grandparents and nephew, who was born while I was in school, and I performed in a short play that my mother wrote about my grandfather and Seattle jazz musicians. Since I’m no longer paying rent, I was able to visit friends all around the country in places I had never been before, and my skin was fairly calm during those trips. Not only that, but God has blessed me with the opportunity to work at 5th Avenue Theatre and Village Theatre in Washington in 2016. It wasn’t even my plan to work in Seattle, but God knew what He was doing.
Most importantly, I’ve learned to be vulnerable. I used to hold everything in, because I didn’t want to appear weak. I never wanted people to know how much I cared in fear of being hurt. Basically, I was afraid to be myself for a large portion of my life. Starting this blog has been a HUGE blessing and all God, because being this open is completely out of character for me. I’m normally very private, but being able to share this experience with you all has been therapy for me. Every time someone comments, sends a messages, follows the Instagram page, or sends words of encouragement it reminds me that I am not alone. There are other people going through the same struggle as me, and that pushes me to keep going and keep writing, so from the bottom of my heart thank you for the support.
All in all, I’ve learned how to take much better care of myself. I’ve kind of had no choice, all things considered, but I feel much more centered and focused than I did a year ago. I don’t know what’s next for my life or when my skin will stop flaring, but that’s okay. I know that God has a plan, and like I’ve said before, this is all for good. If you’re going through something in your life, and you feel like you just can’t catch a break, I encourage you to consider, “what lesson am I supposed to learn from this?” I felt like my life was falling apart when this first started a year ago. Now I know this experience was meant to push me into my purpose. Lastly, I want to leave you with this quote that hopefully will encourage you through whatever challenge you are facing.
Much love and until next time!
I'm Lauren, aka Just Du Pree, and I want to thank you for reading. This is a space where I share my very personal journey healing from eczema and topical steroid withdrawal (among other things), life lessons I've learned along the way, and occasionally the thoughts of an awkward Black girl (no Issa Rae). I'm a performer and filmmaker, so if you feel so inclined, pop over here to see what goes on in my mind on the regular. If you like what you see, you can stay up to date with my work here. Much love, friends!