It’s only when I sat down to write about how acne affected me, that I realised just how deep its impact had been on all my feelings. I originally decided to put thoughts on paper before my skin cleared up and I forgot how it felt, and lost all the lessons I’ve learnt – such as: once you are stronger you don’t get weaker.
To anyone on the outside, acne may seem like a skin-deep issue in a teenager’s life. But when you have it bad, it really can batter your emotions. Just at a time when you are starting to grow into your adult self, it affects everything because it’s always holding you back. It’s like carrying an extra weight on your shoulders – and a heavy weight at that.
I wanted to remember the emotions so that when it passed, I could thank people for being there for me and understanding that I was going through more than they could see. But right now, I get too choked up with words, which is why I am writing this.
This is how it all began
In Grade 8 I had a few issues with my skin. It was oily and the acne on my forehead was very bad. It was almost swollen over and so painful. I managed to get a nickname, “Pizza Face”, at school from a few girls who had been my friends. Surprisingly, it didn’t shatter me. I was still confident and never felt self-conscious. I never even wore make-up to cover it up. Of course, all I wanted was for it to clear, but it never got me down too much. I do remember the one time that it really did get to me: I was going to a wedding and no base looked good on my skin. I just broke down. I think that must have been the first time.
In the April of Grade 9, I decided that all I wanted was to start on Roaccutane and put my bad skin behind me. The dermatologist gave me a prescription, and my skin soon started feeling and looking so much better. A family friend warned me that it might flare up, but I didn’t think it would. It was fantastic, “my best friend”. And I loved the fact that, while on the medication, my hair just never got dirty!
However, there was still a part of me that worried: “What if I am the one person on whom it doesn’t work?” Nevertheless, I stayed on the medication and didn’t think about it too much. I was scheduled to be on Roaccutane for four-and-a-half months.
Just when I thought it was going well
I had been invited to a dance when my skin started breaking out, and my major worry was that I wouldn’t be able to cover it up. It got really bad. My best friend’s older sister told me to stop worrying. She sat me down, and gently and patiently covered the redness in my skin. She made me feel confident and beautiful, something I really needed to feel, and she needs a huge hug for that.
From then on my skin only got worse. The holidays came, and so did the pain under my skin. We didn’t know that the pain was caused by the infection. I wasn’t too worried: all I needed were antibiotics and I would be A-for-away, right? Well, that’s what I thought. I took strong antibiotics for two weeks. No improvements. Another two weeks. Nothing. My body was just resisting the antibiotics.
I started pressurising myself to think positive. I started losing hope that I would ever get back the gorgeous skin I once had. My confidence, something incredibly important to me, started to crumble, and it became a lot harder to talk about the condition. The days my skin seemed worse were the days I felt miserable. Every single day I thought about it, as much as I wished I wouldn’t. It was constantly on my mind. I couldn’t even make it look good with make-up.
What made the situation harder and it’s something that people may not realise, is that it was uncomfortable and painful. I was so looking forward to the day I could smooth on make-up without it hurting. Some days I didn’t even want to go out because of my skin - I just wanted to keep to myself.
The turning point
I remember the first day of spring. That is supposed to mean new life, sun, warm weather and happiness. But I felt my skin was particularly bad, like the weather outside. But just because the weather’s bad, it doesn’t mean that spring hasn’t arrived. One night I watched Army Wives. One of the characters spoke about how winter turns to spring and how spring turns to summer - it’s guaranteed. It was exactly what I needed to hear. And when spring came, I thought it would only be good news for me. And it was - things started heading in the right direction for me.
There was a beautiful song I would listen to when I felt down. Sometimes it would play on the radio, just when I most need to hear it. The lyrics I will always remember to be true are “even this will pass”. In the end I was on Roaccutane for seven-and-a-half months. My skin only started to improve in the last few weeks of being on the medication, and it has continued to improve.
I am happy about my skin now. Although I have scars, it is comfortable and clear again, and the scars will go in time.
I will never be angry that I had to fight this battle because it allowed me to see how much people care. My family and friends didn’t judge once - they accepted me. They would make me feel on top of the world when they saw I needed it, and I’ve thanked each one personally for their role in holding me together.
These months really made me stronger, and when I look back I can see how far I have come. I think that battles like this when we’re young prepare us for larger things in life. Something I would like to say to people with acne is: “Even this will pass”. They are not alone - so many people go through it. - (Alex Green, August 2009)