Like all of us, 2020 has been a lot for Jessica Simpson. Between caring for her three kids during a global pandemic, dropping a tell-all memoir and continuing on the journey of her sobriety, she’s managing it all day-to-day like every other busy mom. It helps, of course, that she’s finally found something that works for her when it comes to managing her lifelong struggle with eczema — so there’s one less thing to worry about.
Simpson sat down with SheKnows to talk about publishing her memoir, her policy of regularly “confronting herself” to navigate her past addictions and traumas, her quarantine parenting advice and how she’s finally gotten her lifelong struggle with eczema under control.
How she’s continued doing the hard work of kicking addiction and ‘confronting herself’ daily — even during quarantine.
Simpson said that journaling has been a huge part of her process on her road to sobriety. And even though the stay-at-home time during the pandemic can make a lot of us feel like we’re spending too much time in our own heads, she’s continued to find ways to explore and connect with herself using an old reliable mindfulness tool: her journal.
“I have actually had some really good moments with myself. Every morning, I went back to journaling. I released a memoir right before the pandemic and a lot of the memoir was like my journal entries. I really loved rediscovering my younger self, because that childlike faith was so beautiful and unique,” Simpson tells SheKnows. “And so, for me, every morning I get my journal out and I just confront myself. And just no matter what it is, if it’s ‘I need resilience today,’ ‘I need patience today,’ or if it’s just talking about something that I’m going through randomly. It’s just really good, especially if you have a family, to confront yourself before you step out and be a mother or be a friend or be a daughter.”
“I think that isolation for me has been a lot of self-awareness — and it’s actually been quite interesting. I feel a lot more creative… Every morning, whether it’s fears or just the chaos in my head, I get out and I just talk through it. And once I either vent, repent, pray or like, you know feel a moment of joy, or whatever it may be. It’s just good to write it down like and to know it that way. It’s not like you’re burying it and then it just comes out in a burst.”
This was all building on the same process that Simpson said gave her the courage to release her memoir Open Book in February. From her time as an early aughts reality star, her tumultuous relationships, traumas, personal demons and addictions, Simpson really laid it out in the open for readers — which means she certainly couldn’t hide any of those (literally) sobering realities from herself.
“I think the challenging part of [the memoir] was actually the therapy before it like releasing it. I felt confident. I had courage. Nobody could judge me for being honest, you know? And that was like that bravery that I found within myself to just put it all out there and not be afraid,” she said. “I mean, I have felt so much better ever since I put that out, ever since I’ve confronted it. Sobriety, with the clarity, I have not wanted a drink through the pandemic at all. Everyone’s like ‘How are you not drinking? Aren’t you, like, freaking out?’ And, no, actually, I feel like I’m clear!”
On finding the system that actually works for her eczema.
Simpson remembers being a younger teen, back in Texas, throwing a leather jacket or a hoodie over her cheerleading uniform in eighth grade because she had a flare up of eczema on her arms that she was self-conscious about — or, worse, her peers made her feel self-conscious about.
“I can remember we always that was like sunscreen or something that was clogging my pores. I lived in Texas, we kind of blamed it on the heat rash,” she said. “I will never forget ending a game and like everybody like going in for a hug and people rubbing my arm [saying] ‘What is that? What’s on your arm?’ And I didn’t even know! I was like, ‘oh, it’s just, you know, it’s a heat rash.’ I didn’t know what to say. So then I started putting the letter jacket on or I put a hoodie on over my cheerleading outfit because I was so insecure about it.”
And until fairly recently she said there were some over-the-counter creams she’d turn to but there were still moments she would get flare ups (including last summer where she said she wore a big black hooded sweatshirt because of the bumps). She finally decided she needed to do something more and shortly after having her youngest daughter, Birdie Mae, last year with husband Eric Johnson.
“But when you have a newborn, it’s like all you’re thinking about is like, ‘Am I going to produce milk? Is this baby going live? Are we going to be OK?’ But all of a sudden I didn’t want to post pictures; I didn’t want to send it to my best friends.”
“When it was like really intense for me was right after having Birdie, and that was like 16 months ago. Eric was taking pictures of me holding Birdie and we were gonna send them out on a group/mass text and you know, you know, it’s just sharing it with your friends and family. And I looked at the picture and I was like ‘Uh, have I not looked at myself in the mirror at all? Have I not, like, noticed this in the shower? Like, what is going on?’ But when you have a newborn, it’s like all you’re thinking about is ‘Am I going to produce milk? Is this baby going live? Are we going to be OK?’ But all of a sudden I didn’t want to post pictures; I didn’t want to send it to my best friends.”
Her doctor’s solution was to get her on Eucrisa, a steroid-free topical prescription ointment for mild-to-moderate eczema: “For me, it worked within two weeks, like I saw a major difference. And that’s not the same for a lot of people — because everybody gets it differently and their skin reacts differently. Like some can have like burning and stinging, but that wasn’t my experience at all.”
And because eczema is a chronic condition she’s dealt with for so long, she said it was a relief to feel like she had a grip on it that isn’t scary or intimidating and that it’ll help her down the line to know there are safe options out there if her kids have to deal with similar conditions.
“Actually, I’ve noticed bumps on my baby recently. So it’s going to be something that I need to talk to her pediatrician about,” she said. “There’s like bumps like all in the back of her arm? So they don’t bother her, like she’s 18 months. So they don’t bother, they don’t itch. But like with babies, there’s so many different rashes. Like, the skin is new. It’s so sensitive.”
How she and her family have been getting through the pandemic together.
Ultimately, she says that she and Johnson have done their best to keep calm and help them stay comfortable even among the “new normals” of masks and zoom school.
“We just try and make our home feel as comfortable as possible for them and not make them fearful, even if they go out and are wearing masks. It’s normal right now and everybody’s doing it. So they know what it is, they know what’s going on and they want it to be over because they would preferably not to do school on Zoom.”
While her son, Ace, 7, is definitely feeling the loss of sports, the at-home former athlete father definitely comes in handy. Simpson says the two have really bonded during the extra at-home time together, burning off some of that athletic energy.
Meanwhile, Simpson and her daughter, Maxwell, 8, have been doing all sorts of mind, body and spirit soothing activities together — from prayer and breathing exercises to skincare.
“My eight year old daughter loves to pray with me at night. It really just calms her to know that she’s praying for people that are sick. I mean, she prays every night for the scientists. She prays every night for COVID to go away,” she said. “She is a strong believer, you know? And she’s she’s so she’s been amazing through all of it.”
She even shares a trick Maxwell taught her to do when they need to calm down — crossing her arms over her chest and patting her shoulders and breathing through it when they get overwhelmed.
And, in the time-honored self-care tradition, the two totally love their mommy-and-me face mask time — but Jessica has to keep an eye on her mom-only products: “Maxi and I, we do face masks every night because she sees that I love face masks,” she said. “And now wants to use mine! And I’m like ‘hey, you know, but these have unicorns and flowers and glitter on them. Let’s use these!”
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