As a teen, I suffered from acne. It started when I was very young – my first period arrived on my twelfth birthday and suddenly I had to deal with periods, boobs, hips and pimples.
It was rough.
Luckily, my parents were pretty proactive since I was their fourth child whose mix of genetics and hormones wreaked havoc with her skin. We didn’t waste time with over the counter lotions and potions, but went straight to a dermatologist instead. After trying a few milder treatments first, I was eventually put on a routine of Cetaphil, Xeroderm and Roaccutane.
The side effects of chapped lips, dry eyes and having to stay out of the sun like a vampire were a small price I willingly paid for the result – smooth skin as flawless as a baby’s bottom.
I remember how week after agonisingly slow week my scepticism was replaced, first with hopeful incredulity and finally with joy as my painful, inflamed face sloughed its troubled façade to reveal the smooth healthiness underneath.
It was like magic.
And yet, the damage had been done. While I didn’t retain any visible scarring, I carried the insecurity and dread that bad skin gives you around in me for years.
Many nights I would wake up in a cold sweat after dreaming my acne had returned. It took me years to get used to not having hair hanging like a curtain over my face, and to look people in the eyes, showing my full face without wanting to duck my head or hide behind something.
Roaccutane and the subsequent use of the oestrogen rich birth control pill have given me over two decades of smooth skin and I had finally gotten so used to it that I thought my demons were laid to rest.
How quickly we forget...
A few months ago I decided to go off the birth control pill. Suddenly period pains and mood swings became a familiar thing again. And of course, the odd pimple around my monthly menstruation. But week after week my skin has been getting worse.
Nothing that anyone who doesn’t pay very close attention to me would notice, but enough that all my teenage angst and insecurities have come rushing back with a vengeance.
I am having confusing, jumbled dreams again about painful, festering sores and inflamed skin. In the mornings I dread facing the mirror because I am unsure what I will find. Leaving the house without foundation is becoming a feat of courage again for the first time in ten years and my fringe is getting longer and longer, inexorably creeping down to hide more of my face.
No dermatologist would give me a script for Roaccutane now as they will all say that I’m overreacting. And yes, when I look in the mirror I can see that I am. Overreacting. But I know what kind of trouble lies dormant in my skin, and I am constantly fearful that it will awaken and ravage me.
But this time I will handle it differently. This time, I will be stronger. I won’t let my skin determine my behaviour. I refuse to let a few pimples rule my life.
But most of all – I will be going back onto the pill as soon as my next cycle hits.
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