Insecurities. We all have them.
Some have many, others have few. But, no matter who you are, I guarantee you that you have your “thing.” You may have conquered it or it may be excruitiatingly present in your life right now. You know what I’m talking about..
That thing that can take over your day, your week, your month, your whole world.
That thing that stops you from looking into people’s eyes and being vulnerable.
That thing that makes you feel like it would be safer to just stay in bed and sleep all day.
That thing that makes you feel inadequete to everyone around you.
That thing that speaks such incredibly harsh words in your head that you would never say out loud.
That thing that makes you feel like you are the only person in the whole world going through this pain.
I have hidden my thing to every single person around me for about five years. One day during my junior year in college, I made my thing a reality to those around me. I have been slowly telling the important people in my life about my biggest insecurity one by one. And by talking about it, the shame has lessened. And now, I’m ready to tell the world, here on my blog.
My thing is my skin.
Since my high school days, my skin has controlled everything.
It started with the occasional pimple on my chin that would turn into me picking at it for hours. Those hours were hard: me trying to pick and pick at something that I didn’t like, trying to make the situation perfect, and not stopping until it was. Sound familiar?
After the picking, came the scab, and I would try my hardest to cover that scab up with makeup. When that failed, I would spend the entire day at school covering my chin with my arm whenever possible, looking away when people would talk to me, and isolating myself into my desk, my book, or any corner that I could find. One day, it was so bad that I asked my dad to pick me up. I went to my guidance counselor’s office and when they both asked, “Why?” I said that I just needed to go home as I hid my face with shame.
This struggle translated into my college years. It was extremely hard for me having roommates. There were less places to hide. I wouldn’t leave my dorm room without makeup and I avoided going to any parties if my skin wasn’t up to par. After my freshman year, I decided to embark on a two month cleanse called, “Acne No More.” No gluten, dairy, fried foods, heated oils, alcohol, or late parties. A lot of juice cleanses, liver cleanses, meal prepping, plain food, and isolation.
The cleanse had a lot of good principles that I use in my routine to this day. But, I wasn’t in a stable place to start it and it was too much all at once for me. I felt secluded at parties, at dinners, and even at work. All I wanted was clear skin and I was willing to do anything to get it.
Turns out the cleanse gave me an incredible amount of whiteheads as a result of the “healing crisis” My body was detoxing so much that it was all coming out through my pores. One entire summer of sacrifice, and all I was left with was more whiteheads than I ever had before.
I felt like all you could see were bumps, and not who I really was. I finally opened up to my friend one night at Rowan when I was back at school, and she suggested I see a dermatologist. I had already seen one in the past and went on antibiotics for my skin.. so unnecessary. But, I decided to try again with a different doctor. This time, I was given a couple of ointments that helped a tiny bit, but I still wasn’t happy when she said, “It doesn’t matter what you eat, it’s your age. You’ll outgrow it.” That didn’t sit very well with me. I found a therapist at school, but never opened up about my skin, wound up finishing my sophomore year at college and still feeling “eh” about the whole thing.
After my sophomore year, one of the scariest moments in my life happened. Everything was going okay around me, until I saw a bump on my forehead. It appeared as a deep pimple that was nowhere near ready to come out. But, I felt like I needed to pick… and pick…. and pick…. for hours. In the mirror. Making myself bleed, cringing in pain, needing to pick, to rid myself of something I did not want, something that made me feel imperfect and ugly. I would take a break and then come back to pick for a whole other hour. After having enough, I put a band-aid on the mess I created & I woke up the next morning and picked some more. I don’t even know what I was picking at this point.
I let the spot go and kept a band-aid on it for a couple of days. I couldn’t go out with this huge mess on my forehead, so I lied and told my boss, my friends, my family that I had the flu. I just wanted the days to go by and the wound to heal. After 4 or 5 days, I went to take the band-aid off and the scab came off with it. What was underneath scared me.
I was left with a huge gaping hole.
I was mortified. I couldn’t believe what I’ve done to myself. I called dermatologist offices to see what could be done for my scar. They all said the same thing. They didn’t do work on scars in their offices. I needed to call a plastic surgeon. I called and called around looking for the office that would take me the soonest. One office was able to take me a week later, I was thrilled. When I originally saw my doctor, I told him I ran into a door a couple of weeks prior. He told me the scar was still a baby and that it might heal on its own. In the meantime, he sent me over to see his esthitician, Irina, and that was when I knew that everything was going to slowly fall into place. I never felt more cared for and taken seriously about my skin until I met her. I saw her bi-weekly for microdermabrasion, a treatment intended to help large pores, acne prone skin, and scarring. I eventually saw her at her house, where she had her own little mini spa. I opened up to her about how the hole in the center of my forehead really got there and confided in her about all of my skin insecurities. The picture below is about two months after I had originally picked.
I don’t have a picture of my scar when it first happened. I couldn’t bear to look at it, let alone take a picture of it. I only remember it being even bigger and deeper than it was in this picture. This was taken after many appointments of microdermabrasion and many rounds of very expensive micro needling done at a Medical Spa in hopes of improving the scar without surgery. But the hole remained, the tears flowed, and my confidence was lower than ever.
I decided to revisit my plastic surgeon in September of 2014 to see if he would now operate, since I gave it 4 months to try to heal on its own with very little luck. He agreed to do the scar excision: a surgery where he would remove the old scar, to create a less noticeable scar. This is my scar revision journey.
Getting here wasn’t easy. Not too long after the surgery, I picked at my new scar, and that’s when I realized I had a serious problem and my cousin urged me to seek therapy right away. This time, I made sure I found a women instead of a man and told her about my skin right away.
During this time, there were many, many laser treatments that made my scar worsen before it got better. A load of money spent, terrible regret, suicidal thoughts, relationships with friends and family put on hold, and many other things that I blacked out at this point. I’m very lucky the important people in my life understood the importance of mental health and stood by me through it all.
Currently, I still struggle with loving myself even though I have this scar and continue to breakout during my period. I am making it a priority to research the effects that different hormones and foods have on our skin. I hope put my findings into action in my own life and share my knoledge and experince with others to lessen the horrible effect that acne has on our confidence and self-worth. I truly feel it is in my soul to become an esthetician like my own, Irina, one day. She has drastically changed the appearance of my pores, skin tone, and texture, and has guided me through each and every decision I have had to make with my scar, the skin products I buy, and the food I eat. I want to help others like she has helped me.
It turns out that there is a new skin diagnosis in the DSM-5: Skin Excoriation Disorder. At the time, I was treated for OCD and Depression as it was before the disorder was being treated for. I was given Prozac after many appointments of exploring other options with my psychiatrist. I was against it at first, but I am not ashamed that I agreed to take it and I am not ashamed that I am still on it.
I am finding a balance of working with my plastic surgeon for check-ups and for medical skin care products, my therapist to let out everything that I keep inside, my psychiatrist to make sure I am where I want to be with my dosage and to one day slowly come off, and my esthetician to feel cared for, maintain my skin, and give it the love it needs.
This post was saved as a draft in here for quite some time. I kept coming back and writing more, but never had the courage to finish it or post it.
Today is that day.
“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light. ~Brené Brown
I want to help others own their story. Skin insecurtites aren’t really talked about. And I want to start talking about it.
This is the first step.