I've been thinking... I began to wonder a couple of months ago if I was dysmorphic about my acne. I guess I am to a degree - I always think it looks worse than it does - but it didn't seem quite as black and white as that and I couldn't quite work out how to describe my approach to my skin. I think I'm starting to figure it out now though. I'm starting to see that it's not so much about the actual condition of my skin, but how I respond to to it, how I think others perceive it and how I fear they may respond to it.
I certainly have a major issue with how I think others see it. It doesn’t take much for me to convince myself that even a slight breakout is enough for people to be repulsed by the very sight of me. I know that’s not right and it’s certainly a very unhealthy way to think, but I just can’t seem to get passed it. I feel as though thinking this way is more detrimental than the acne itself could ever be, because the thoughts and the behaviours directly dictate what or I do. Or, as is often the case, they dictate what I don't do and what I miss out on. With every year since I first got acne at thirteen, the list of of things I have denied myself is ever-increasing, as is the list of defining moments we may experience through those key, formative years, almost as a right of passage. It's a safe bet that I haven't experienced any of them.
I always find that if I’m coming towards a social occasion or something and I know I have to make an impression, I start wondering about how my skin is going to be. In the days leading up to that particular event, I’ll be looking in the mirror and thinking, ‘OK, am I happy with how this looks and is my aim to maintain it, or am I unhappy with how it looks and is my aim to fix it?’ More often than not, I find that I want to fix it. Ironically, I actually feel worse if I decide that it’s looking good and I want to maintain it, because then I get anxious and start thinking about how it could always get so much worse in the days leading up to that event. Inevitably, my perception of even the smallest pimple which may form during that period is amplified so much that it freaks me out. Blinded by that and void of pretty much all rational thought, I always fall into the trap of thinking I can make it look better. Of course, once I've spent however many minutes in front of the mirror, that small problem will end up looking so much worse, as will anything else I happen to find.
Deep down, it’s probably connected to social anxieties and a fear of looking stupid around people or being embarrassed by the fact that I’m not really part of anything so wherever I go, I’m the odd one out who’s there alone. I’m starting to wonder if I consciously go out of my way to do what I do and I knowingly take myself to the mirror. I wonder if I do this so that I can give myself a reason not to go out there, giving myself an excuse not to face up to those fears.
I went through that same process of self-inflicted mental torture last week as my Mum’s 50th Birthday party approached. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday; constantly wondering what was going on; constantly wondering if the odd pimple had faded any more; constantly having the urge to check my face and see if anything new was forming so that I could “take care of it” straight away and give it a chance to heal a bit before the party. It was fine until Saturday night when I decided to go crazy on it. I’d had a pimple on my right cheek a couple of weeks earlier which had scarred. I happened to run my finger over it last Saturday and felt that it was actually starting to form again. That was my cue and I turned it into a big red angry lump which protruded from my face. I also had a pimple in the middle of my nose which was starting to form.
Now, I already have an indented scar near the end of my nose from about ten years ago when I made a mess of another pimple. What started out as a tiny red bump on my nose was turned into this huge mess which scabbed for weeks because I pretty much dug a hole in my nose to get it out, hence the permanent indent. Strangely, I’m at peace with said indent because it’s very small and I kind of see it as this little quirky feature my nose has. I guess I got lucky in the end. There was clearly a lesson to learn there, but still I went crazy on my nose last week. I knew I’d end up with my nose looking all red and sore for the party the next day, but still I went and did it!
I really don’t understand what I get out of it. There’s no rhyme or reason and, to be truthful about it, it’s on a par with self harming. I mean, to intentionally cause damage to your own body - knowing what the outcome will be - that’s just not right is it.
Between making a mess of my face, not feeling like being around certain family members, feeling so self conscious, insecure and like an oddball, and getting grief from other family members about my lack of employment and an apparent need to, as they put it, “sort my life out” because I’m a “joke and it’s embarrassing”, the whole experience is one I’d rather forget. I am kind of used to it though, I spend most of my time thinking that experiences will turn out this way so I tend not to bother attempting to experience anything.
Where my approach to my acne is concerned, whatever happens, whenever it may be, I simply can’t avoid popping a pimple if I see one. It’s a major problem for me, really. I know it’s gross, I know I shouldn’t do, I know it damages my skin and probably keeps the acne forming which of course is the very thing I don’t want to happen, but I just can’t seem to stop. If I’m going out and I look in the mirror, if I see a pimple, I have to pop it. I could be seconds away from walking out the door so I'd know it wouldn't be the right time for several reasons, but I always end up doing it. Many times, I’ve done it right at the last minute, gone crazy on it, then almost been brought to tears when I've stepped back and seen the damage. It was probably the case that I thought it looked alright beforehand and would have been reasonably happy to go out. Then, just seconds later, it’s a total mess and there’s no way I could go anywhere.
This was always a major issue for me when I had a job, either with regards to leaving the house in a morning or if I happened to go to the bathroom during working hours. Plenty of times I would end up being late because of it. Plenty of times I would end up making a mess of my acne and, if it was near the end of the working day, I’d leave early to try and start repairing the damage as soon as I got home. Obviously, your employer’s not going to stand for that and they’re certainly not going to understand the reason or see it as valid. In the end, that’s why I got fired. I’ve stopped punishing myself for it now, but I don’t want to hide behind any excuses I tried to make in order to save my job or shift the blame. It was all down to me, all my own fault and I carried on doing what I was doing even though it was bad for my skin and knew that eventually, once they decided they’d had enough, my employer would boot me out the door without a second thought. Five years of good service, thrown away for nothing.
When I woke up this morning and looked in the mirror to see if there was any progress following a few days of pretty intense topical application, I was very pleased to see that the mess I had made of my nose and right cheek has all but gone. It’s scarred a little, but that will fade soon. I’m now back to having next to no acne. My guess is that the Doxycycline is helping speed up the healing process and will reduce recovery time. I also use Isotretinoin gel as a topical - Accutane in gel form - and that seems to kill pimples straight away. If I put plenty on, they sometimes vanish over night as if they were never there to begin with. Indeed, for all the mess I made of my face on Saturday, to look at it now, you wouldn’t have a clue and you’d think I was making it up.
As I have done countless times over the last thirteen years, I've sent myself on the craziest of emotional roller coaster rides these last few days, just to get back to where I was this time last week.
I wish I knew how to stop doing this. It’s not a cry for help and it’s not really an admission either, I just wanted to write this down. Even if it’s just for me and nobody feels like reading all this – I wouldn’t blame you! – I’m wondering if I might start to find the answers as I process it.
Whatever, I guess I should be happy that things are getting back on track where my skin is concerned and I should see if I can let go of the insecurities the last few days have raised that I can get back to where I was this time last week. If things continue to improve, I may even post some new pictures next week. Not because I’m vain and like taking pictures of myself – far from it - but there’s someone I’d like to have my picture taken with. Here he is, my new cat, Arnie! Technically, he’s mine and my sisters, but I’m pretty sure I’ll become his favourite.
I’m staying with my sister at the moment and I’m thinking maybe I’ll just stay here more and more until I’ve moved in for good without anyone quite realising. Certainly happy to mix things up between staying here and being home with my parents. Having the variation is nice and I’m happy to be doing stuff for myself so I guess we’ll see how things play out.
Where Arnie’s concerned, I can't actually believe how cute he is and how well he's settled in. He’s sixteen weeks old now and was given to an animal shelter after only a few weeks because he had cat flu and his owners at the time had other cats so they didn't want them to catch flu as well. To say that he hasn't had the best of starts, after just two days with us, he's walking around like he's been here forever, already got into a routine, found his favourite spots to hide and explore, it's really nice to see. He's even figured out that if he runs from the lounge into the dining room and doesn't slow down, he can slide all the way across the laminate flooring!
I've never really been the biggest fan of cats to tell the truth and didn't have many pets as a kid so this is all new to me. My Mum's phobic of pretty much all animals and I guess I learned from her behaviours and learned those anxieties from her when I was a kid. For example, I really struggle not to panic around dogs. To start with, I just went along with getting Arnie because my sister wanted a cat and I said I'd help out while I stay at her house. At this rate, I'll be wanting to move in permanently, simply because it's so cool having Arnie to take care of! My mood's not been great in recent months, struggling with depression and all. I haven't had much to do and I've felt very lonely for quite a while, but having Arnie around gives me some kind of purpose and knowing that he appreciates me taking care of him - he already follows me like a shadow - is really nice. My biggest insecurities seem to be about being judged by people instead of being liked of getting affection, so getting the amount of affection Arnie gives without judging me or anything is doing me so much good. I never anticipated that.