Episode #45: Sarah Harris

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Sarah is a writer and audio storyteller who’s lived with moderate-to-severe eczema for most of her life. Her work has appeared in Jezebel, New York Magazine’s The Cut, and Slate, and  aired on All Things Considered, Morning Edition, NPR Newscast, The World, The Takeaway, and Snap Judgement. Previously, she produced the Forbes podcast Hiding in the Bathroom, was awarded a National Geographic Young Explorer grant, executed feminist marketing campaigns, and was on staff at North Country Public Radio. She holds a BA from Middlebury College and an MBA from Clarkson University. Sarah lives in northern New York with her husband, cats, chickens, and llama.

When talking about her experience with eczema, a chronic skin condition, Sarah Harris is not just incredibly thoughtful; she’s also laugh-out-loud funny. For instance, she calls her experience with eczema herpeticum “the best clickbait ever,” but also acknowledges that it was shocking to be told that her eczema had all of a sudden re-manifested as a dermatological emergency. On today’s episode, Sarah and I talk about what it’s like to have a condition that’s visible in some ways but invisible in other ways, the challenge of talking to doctors about things that embarrass us, and why she wants to keep complicating the conversation around skin.

To spin it as story or to spin it as funny makes it a little easier to deal with.

Here are some of the things Sarah and I chatted about:

  • The assumptions people make about skin conditions, and the difficulty of deflecting those assumptions

  • How she developed a sense of confidence growing up while also managing eczema

  • What it was like to attend a summer camp where all the kids had different skin conditions

  • Going back to camp as a reporter, and doing a story for the radio show Snap Judgement

  • How eczema and allergies often go hand-in-hand, and the sensitivities she has today

  • The huge flare-up she experienced in her mid-20s, after many years of her eczema being quiet

  • Feeling defeated about her skin, and how her now-husband stepped up in that moment

  • What it was like to have her eczema remanifest as a sexually transmitted emergency

  • Over time, developing a more nuanced understanding of herpes and disclosure to partners

  • Why using her body for science--which she used to think was cool--isn’t a priority for her now

  • The skincare craze that took off a few years ago--and why it’s such a seductive concept

  • Her reaction to the fact that people were talking about skin, but only skin that was normative

  • Starting Skin Stories as a way to dig into people’s experiences around this complicated topic

  • Why (unless you’re a dermatologist) it’s impossible to know what’s right for anyone else’s skin

  • The importance of being intentional about language--specifically the phrase “suffering from”

I want my body to be mine. I don’t want it to belong to medicine.

 
 

Follow Sarah: Skin Stories / Instagram


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Amanda Guerassio