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This Year Has Been Crazy For Me. Happy, Sad, Learning, Etc. (Long Post!)

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Hi :) It's been a long time since I've posted.

This year has been crazy for me so I'll start with a brief history to give you guys some context:

I'm 28 in October (boo!)

Started seeing a dermatologist at 13/14

Diagnosed with Body Dysmorphic Disorder at 16 - (Relating to my skin, naturally.) Coincidentally, I have 20/10 vision.

On and off Accutane 5 times, the longest period being 3 years, (10mg daily) I stopped taking it 1 year and 5 months ago to prepare my skin for C02 laser resurfacing that the dermatologist had not yet agreed to do. (LOL)

Have used every prescription acne medication in gel or pill form. I'm not being hyperbolic, if it is commercially available in Canada I have been prescribed it. I've even tried drugs not specifically for acne, like Metrogel. I've also tried Finacea before it available in Canada.

I have "slight" acne scarring.

I've had: IPL, Restylane, Juvederm, 35% TCA Peel, Full Face Erbium Laser Resurfacing, 70% AHA, and lastly Carbon Dioxide Laser Resurfacing.

This year has been crazy for me. I had made a lot of progress in terms of coping with my skin issues. I had been living for about 2 years like a normal person: Going out, working, living life regardless of the condition of my skin. Even when it was bad, I still went out.

At the beginning of the year, I told myself this would be the last year that I would live controlled by my skin. Working toward that, it meant that I had to do the absolute and final thing for my scarring. Up until July I had done everything else except Carbon Dioxide Laser Resurfacing.

I wanted to consult with a dermatologist I had originally saw when I was 18. He did C02 laser resurfacing and is one of the best at it. (Also, incredibly inexpensive! Win, win!) He said no when I was 18, but I remember one thing he did say: "Anything left behind after a C02 treatment would just have to be dealt with, there is nothing else available that will provide any added benefits." I asked my family doctor to refer me, so I could ask him one more time if he would do it. At most, for full face he charges $1,200 CAN. I believed he would say no. I saw him when I was 18 and since then, my skin is decidedly better. I've had multiple treatments. It made sense to me I would be told no again.

So, I consulted with a plastic surgeon who used Active and Deep Fx, also C02 lasers. He said yes within a few minutes of meeting me. Of course. I would be under general anesthesia and take about an hour. He said he would go as deep as the laser would allow in my areas of concern. But: $4,000. I had the money, and I was more than willing to spend it. He was my back up, if my first choice dermatologist said no...again. I do not believe that Active or Deep Fx lasers are that great or effective.

In the months leading up to my consultation I was happy but so nervous! Regardless of how the procedures turned out there is nothing else I could do about it so I would have just to live with whatever was left. That felt nice. On some days, it felt horrible...what if I couldn't? What if my life post laser isn't that great? It has too power, how could it possibly measure up to 10 years of waiting and wanting?

June 30th was the date of the consult. A few days before the consult I actually broke my back tooth from grinding in my sleep. I've never done it in my life. Over the course of 3 weeks, I was stressed out enough to have broken a tooth. The ER doctor and my family doctor couldn't believe it. It hurt, but I was still more concerned with my consult. The day of the consult, I was a mess. I had been prescribed Dilaudid for the tooth pain. (The part that hadn't broken off was still there, because I couldn't get a dentist to remove the tooth any sooner than 4 days after my consult with the dermatologist!) I went shopping with my fiance earlier to life my spirits and to buy a few things I needed before the consult. If he said no, there's no way in hell I would have been in any condition to go out. I'd be back home, crying my eyes out for days. I sat down to wait for the bus, and immediately started sweating. I've been sweaty before, walking outside in the summer, etc. But this was disgusting. Dripping off me, my shirt was soaked, I leaned over to find a place to throw up...I was pretty sure I was going to. I didn't, thankfully. The bus came, and I could barely walk toward it! We get the office and I run into the washroom for like 10 minutes. I go into his office and no sooner than I sat down did the dermatologist come out and say my name. My heart is beating faster even as I'm typing this out! LOL!

My fiance was really nervous too. He knew how much this meant to me, and what the doctor saying no would mean. I was talking with him for 45 minutes. He said yes, he'd be happy to do it. But, he said the quality of my skin in the areas without the scarring was great and said he would not laser over that. Instantly, all of the problems I had an hour earlier were gone. I walked out of the room and nodded "yes" to my fiance who looked so tired and relieved after I told him.

I called to schedule the appointment. I would have to take considerable time off of life to accommodate this procedure. When I called, she said they had 2 available spots: July 22nd, or November. I was speechless! I had waited all of this time, and then suddenly I'm wishing it could be pushed back a tiny bit? It was literally a few weeks in the future at that time. I said July 22nd would be great. A hard decision, but I didn't want to have this carry over into another year. July 16th was my last day at work, everyone knew I was getting this done. LOL.

The day of the procedure, I wasn't really nervous. I knew it was going to hurt like hell. Erbium laser resurfacing was very, very painful. Like shaving over the same spot multiple times, in the desert, with a dull razor. I wanted this, though. The treatment itself took 20 minutes. He injected me with a nerve block in 2 areas; left and right cheek. He was going over a single spot on my upper right cheek, and 2 smaller but separate spots on my left cheek. I barely felt it! I didn't even get a Percocet or anything before hand. Just the freezing. It was all I needed. I couldn't believe it. One assistant was helping him, and the secretary was holding a mirror so that I could watch it happen. (I had asked to hold a mirror but he said he didn't want the chance of anything getting in his way so he asked the secretary. The only way I can describe how the skin was removed was to imagine a window perfectly covered in snowflakes. Now imagine the snowflakes melting away vertically, from top to bottom. Instantly the skin was red and oozing. He wiped it away and lasered over the same area a second time. I may have felt the second pass a little more because I was looking, but it was still the least painful procedure I had ever done. Clearly the skill of the doctor in this case. (In telling the dermatologist how my Erbium treatment went, he said "No wonder it hurt so bad, they didn't do nerve blocks! I can't believe that!" All I got with Erbium was a Percocet and EMLA, the topical freezing agent. I sat there during the 45 minute long procedure squeezing my belt buckle so hard it almost broke. I lost feeling in my thumb from squeezing for 5 days. LOL. He said the doctor should have given me nerve blocks and nothing else. In hindsight, I definitely agreed.

The healing process was similar but still different to other laser recoveries I've had. It took 2 full weeks until they stopped oozing and epidermis to grow back over it. Immediately after the laser, it looked as if a puzzle piece of depth had been cut out of my face. It looked pretty bad, but I thought "Wow, that's a strong laser. I can't wait to see what happens."

I didn't shave, or leave the house for 25 days. Also, I was unable to use any acne medication or products during this time. I would be allowed to shave, provided I avoided those areas completely. So, I sat in the tub, with 25 days worth of facial hair. It wasn't fun. I had to press a face cloth over my face to wipe off the shave gel.

In a way, it was the best 25 days of my life! It was so freeing to not use any acne medication. To just go to bed. Unfortunately, I had to sleep with the spots covered in ointment (I winced at the ingredient list, they seemed likely to cause pimples. But healing is more important, I slathered it on all the time) and I slept sitting up. So, that wasn't fun at all. I expected to be a pimple covered mess. But my skin had never been so smooth, clear and even. Not dry either. I was thrilled to death. But scared too. I had gone more than 10 years ALWAYS doing something for my skin. Now, I'm not doing anything and I am not breaking out? I cried about it, more than once. I also had to decide what acne topical to go back on. My rationale was, I'm going to break out eventually I always have. May as well just go back on something. So I did: Retin A Micro. I started getting pimples. Was it the Retin A Micro? Was it the fact that I hadn't used anything in 25 days and so it's just getting it out? I didn't know. I was upset about it though.

Now, it's been exactly 66 days since I've had the procedure. The areas are still slightly red. It's significantly lighter than it was but still visible, there but not there. Even 66 days later. The only way I can describe is picturing white paper with a part of it uniformly colored deep red, and then putting more white paper on top of it until the color is barely visible. That's pretty much it.

Most importantly, I'm super happy with the results. The right cheek I didn't care that much about, but the left cheek has improved so much that it is literally almost invisible. Even when my skin is in horrible shape, or really red or sweaty...it's hard to tell there was depth there. So, of course, that's amazing and what I wanted, second only to complete unrealistic erasure. LOL.

I'm still not applying Retin A Micro anywhere near the lasered areas. The whole experience changed me in many ways. Seeing my skin not having used any medication but using a thick ointment made me realize that sometimes pimples just happen even if you're doing exactly what you're supposed to. I knew that of course, but wasn't really to risk anything. What the means is, I don't need to worry if I did something wrong or more importantly, be so rigid and unforgiving with my routines. I changed my shaving routine, and it's way better! I use the recommended amount of Retin A Micro and my skin isn't red at all. Still dry though. I couldn't apply the right amount before. I was too concerned that if I broke out, it was because I wasn't applying enough. I couldn't let myself be ok with a thin film. It didn't feel like enough. Sometimes I would reapply more over a certain area. I had to stop that. Psychologically, I just couldn't do that stuff before. It was too important so I would do whatever I had to in order to have clear skin. Even when I was obviously hurting myself.

I'll never be ok with pimples, I still get quite upset when I see a new one. Unrealistic? Yep. I told my doctor that the reason it upsets me so much is because I've spent so long with them, that now even one is unacceptable. Also, when I was doing anything for my skin I would have understood if I got a pimple. In a way, it would have been less stressful. But doing all the good I thought I was doing and still getting them? I would have meltdown.

I see the dermatologist again in November, and I have been thinking about going back on Accutane. Again. Accutane has been very good to me. Only side effects were dry skin and lips. It helped me psychologically, preventing acne 99.9% of the time for me. An occasional whitehead, that's all I got. And I think now that my scarring is as good as it's going to get, going on Accutane will be even more healing because I won't be breaking out. I'm in a place now where when I do, I'm much better at coping with it. Accutane just lessens the chances of a breakout.

Even though I've just proven myself a total crazy person, it's still nice to have said what I've said. After years of living a certain way and avoiding things, I'm happy that I've made such progress. I have to re-teach myself certain things, have to stop myself from hesitating from when there is no need to...it's just a habit. I lived that way to cope and now that I don't have to do as many things...it's great, but it's strange and sometimes overwhelming.

Thanks so much for reading! I will post pictures of the C02 treatment at some point. I'm not really ready to go through them all yet.

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After years of living a certain way and avoiding things, I'm happy that I've made such progress. I have to re-teach myself certain things, have to stop myself from hesitating from when there is no need to...it's just a habit. I lived that way to cope and now that I don't have to do as many things...it's great, but it's strange and sometimes overwhelming.

Edited by PaulH85
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