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Vanbelle

Don't Denigrate The Substance. Just Think.

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They say phobias are an irrational fear--yes. But, more specifically, they are irrational usually because the object itself is associated with genuine, universal human fears.

For example, take crazy feather lady. Starts at 2:28. You don't have to watch but it's a little funny, I won't lie.

The main takeaway from the video is when her behavioral therapist said:

You are not afraid of this feather. You're afraid of death. You think this feather is going to kill you.

Edited by Vanbelle

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The phobias I have were learned through my own experiences and the behaviours of others which I picked up on as a child. The only reason they remain is because I haven't altered my way of thinking. As long as that way of thinking remains unaltered, the phobias stay, even though it's very rare that anything happens to show me that the phobia is actually warranted now. I'm phobic of dogs, for example, due to an experience I had about seventeen years ago. In the time since then, I have not experienced anything to show me that the phobia of dogs needs to stay in place in order that I should protect myself from them.

The behaviours I have as a result of my acne are down to things I experienced mostly in my teens. It definitely does cross into phobic territory, in the sense that there's a fear of being judged, shunned, laughed at, or even physically assaulted. That is because I experienced those things in my teenage years, thanks to bullies who targeted me because of my acne. So now, when I break out and I have to deal with acne, I associate it with the potential for those things to happen. Those thought patterns are there because they have remained unaltered despite the fact that, for the most part, that protective mechanism hasn't been warranted to such a debilitating and restrictive degree for at least the last seven years.

There are clear similarities and patterns between my phobia and my response to attempting to cope with acne.

I started one-to-one cognitive behavioural therapy sessions almost two months ago. I touched on some of this to begin with and that was what set the ball rolling for me to go back to my doctor and seek alternative medication which would work better for my acne than the other things I’d tried. Although clearing my skin doesn’t have to be the be-all and end-all for me to be happy and live my life, I did feel like I needed to see some improvement there in order to generate some enthusiasm which would allow me to start making changes.

Since seeing the therapist, I have also arranged to start group sessions elsewhere. I talked about things with the second therapist when I went along to see if group sessions would be suitable and, as it happens, I ended up explaining my situation almost like I have in this reply, virtually word for word. I likened my situation to a phobia because that was the best way I could think to describe the irrationality of it. That must have been the right way to go because the therapist understood perfectly. She was quite keen to express her shock when I explained that some of the behaviours and thoughts I have, as well as the way I feel about myself in general, are connected to things which happened as long as thirteen years ago. She was genuinely surprised to hear that I had put such negative, restrictive and self-hating behaviours in place in an attempt to create a coping mechanism for these things which had taken on an almost phobic nature; a fear of being disliked, laughed at, made fun of, insulted, left out, or even physically assaulted. I experienced all those things during my school years when I was bullied, singled out entirely due to my acne.

It was clear that the therapist was looking at me – and my skin - and thinking, ‘Based on how your skin currently looks, you’re so out of touch in relation to what you think it looks like and how you think people will respond to you.’ I could tell that was what she was thinking and, although I don’t really like the fact that I fell into that trap long ago, she was right. Because I still make that association between my skin and those things, even the slightest blemish is enough to trigger those insecurities and near-crippling fears, to the same degree as when my skin was actually bad, and all these feelings get channelled into the blemishes on my face. I see the acne as a physical manifestation of it and so I attack it, often quite literally. I hate that mentality, that approach and the acne. Because I see it as a representation of how those bullies saw me and what they thought of me, I learned a behaviour that was equivalent to theirs, turning it inwards and hating myself.

There’s a degree of logic to it, in the sense that it seemed like a natural progression because I never addressed it. Yet, at the same time, it seems totally irrational. Still, the good thing about the therapy is that it allows me to break things down and come to an understanding about how and why things are the way they are. Once it’s broken down into a manageable order like that, it’s easier to fix as, one by one, you learn to alter the behaviours, ways of thinking, and the way you approach those relevant situations.

Edited by PaulH85

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PaulH85:

I'm so glad you went to therapy. While acne is a common symptom, there is no common cure, and yet a host of mental torment. It can really rip someone up. I'm sure this post is only a glimpse into what it's done to you.

I've seen your pictures Paul. I would like to say, although this is no substitute for sitting down with a therapist and really talking things through, that you have nothing to worry about. You know, I always hate when someone would tell me that, but I think sometimes it's good to hear. I'm not implying to just "try and stop worrying," because it's not so simple. But, I do know that half the battle is recognizing that the people that matter will only think the best of you. I only hope you can think the best of yourself.

If you ever take a look at my regimen log, which I don't suggest (it's a hot mess), I have a rant where I said this: I've been so fixated on being pretty, on feeling pretty, that it started driving me bonkers! I became pretty obsessive and anxious. Then, lightbulb moment: maybe it's not being pretty. No one ever said I had to care. This has been all me. Why do I have to give a crap about being pretty?

I don't know if that will help...but, ultimately, it's what's helped me the most: 1) realizing that people shouldn't care, and 2) realizing that I don't have to care either. I just don't have to care. It's not a requirement to being happy. For example, like you said you internalized the judgments of those bullies, I hope you know that your skin shouldn't matter so their opinion shouldn't matter. What matters is what you think of yourself, and you can be in control of this. You can.

Does that make sense? Sometimes I still relapse, but what always helps me out is thinking: even if someone did think I'm gross or ugly, it's not my job to care. I just don't have to care.

You always have something to add. Feel free to reply to my posts any time Paul smile.png

Edited by Vanbelle

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Great post! I'm also a big believer in the cognitive behavioral therapy approach. When you start to explore and find the root of your thoughts, it's very enlightening and liberating. Writing them down helps a lot more than trying to just change them in your head.

I would really recommend anyone who has trouble with body image or anxiety or depression to read "feeling Good" by David Burns. It's helped me tremendously in getting out of the same ruminating thoughts I'd been stuck in for half a year. One thing that probably stops a lot of people from getting out of their comfort zone is fear of negative experience. "But what if people DO make hurtful comments to me?" And that's legitimate- if you have severe acne, it's possible that some people will make comments. Behavioral therapy also teaches you how to deal with those in a more effective, empowering way. It's really changed the way I think about thinking! :P

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I went to sleep soon after I posted my reply to this. I fell asleep thinking about this subject and it was the first thought to come to mind when I woke up. Got me thinking about myself and my approach to things I suppose. The main issue to tackle once you recognise the problem and decide to move on seems to be figuring out what it is you're actually going to move on to.

For so long, I was "the kid with acne". Based on my school experiences, I know for a fact that everyone saw me that way at the time. In the end, I started to see myself that way, too. I became that and the behaviours and "coping mechanisms" I put in place essentially become my personality. So, take away the acne and the supposed need for those mechanisms, I'm not sure who I am. It's certainly something of an identity crisis , in the sense that there's nothing to build upon because I'd rather erase all traces of who I have been - acne included - and start anew.

Like you said, Vanbelle, it's about control. There's always a choice in terms of how you respond to things. I guess I just wasn't strong enough to respond in the right way. Actually, the right way would have been not to respond at all. I was just far too sensitive - always have been and probably always will be - and I was trapped with the wrong kind of people who took advantage of that and used it to make themselves feel better.

It really hit home actually when I started posting on the Org on a regular basis, how much I'd been left behind and how that was due to the fact I had cared too much and had let it get to me. Before getting to know people here, I assumed all acne sufferers were doing exactly what that suggests: suffering. Being held back in life; holding themselves back; shying away from things; hoping that everything will come together if their acne eventually clears. Instead, I started getting to know plenty of people who have happy lives, wonderful relationships with great partners, a good social circle around them, and they like themselves. They might dislike their cane and find it annoying and all, but they don't hate themselves. They recognise their good qualities, embrace them and project them for others to see. Their approach is the polar opposite and so is the resulting life they lead.

From a physical perspective, I was seeing pictures of people here who didn't look how I felt I looked and how I felt inside. I thought I was ugly and that's how I felt. But when I saw pictures of people here - attractive girls and handsome guys - I hardly noticed their acne because I could see that they were happy and there was so much more to them as people. The acne didn't define them like I had allowed it to define me. Not only that, it seemed as thought they gave it next to no time or attention and had indeed realised that they didn't have to care.

Seems really scary to me, to be that way and lead your life like that, even though that's essentially what I crave and have indeed cried over not having and not having a clue how to get it. But, that's where the cognitive stuff comes in. It's hard because it makes you face up to these things and makes you see how screwed up you've become. At least that's how I felt anyway. But once things happen and even just the slightest change demonstrates that it can be done, it spurs you on. I guess it'll just take time and patience. After all, I've thirteen years worth of hard-wired thought patterns, behaviours and perceptions to remove and/or alter.

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Great post! I'm also a big believer in the cognitive behavioral therapy approach. When you start to explore and find the root of your thoughts, it's very enlightening and liberating. Writing them down helps a lot more than trying to just change them in your head.

I would really recommend anyone who has trouble with body image or anxiety or depression to read "feeling Good" by David Burns. It's helped me tremendously in getting out of the same ruminating thoughts I'd been stuck in for half a year. One thing that probably stops a lot of people from getting out of their comfort zone is fear of negative experience. "But what if people DO make hurtful comments to me?" And that's legitimate- if you have severe acne, it's possible that some people will make comments. Behavioral therapy also teaches you how to deal with those in a more effective, empowering way. It's really changed the way I think about thinking! tongue.png

That's a good point. Despite all our confidence and well thinking, the world is full of dicks ready to try and bring you down. And only a buddhist monk entrenched in insane mental control might deflect such comments.

My prescription for dealing with bullies and jerks usually starts letting yourself be human (aka, being okay with the fact that it hurts), and then knowing that you have so much more to offer than whoever made that ignorant comment. By making fun of your acne they are putting a big neon sign on their forehead saying "I'm EXTREMELY STUPID and SUPERFICIAL." I bet they're one of those people that their circle of friends secretly hates too.

There's no quick and simple answer to dealing with those situations. But eventually you remember that the bully is the low-road, and in the end you're on top.

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