Thick Skin

In this I discuss my experience with acne, and how I dealt with it. You can see my previous post on the 1975 concert at Malahide Castle here.

At the time of writing,I’ve been given a compliment on how well my skin looks. Milky, apparently. It makes sense. Lately I’ve been actually using the creams I was prescribed, instead of letting them build up and gather dust on my locker. They’re making a difference, and I do look better for it. I have little bother with my skin apart from the normal breakout or two.

But it wasn’t always this way. For a few years, I was cursed with acne. Red, angry, blotches on the face. Not just the odd spot.

It stems back from the age of about fourteen, where it usually starts. I was a lover of sweets and rich, greasy food at that time, so in my head I blamed it on that. It’s still debated as to whether that type of food causes it, but in any case, it doesn’t really help I’d imagine.

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Small spots on the mouth became big angry pustules on the nose. An unsightly shade of red. The more you scratch and pick, the worse they’d become. Don’t mean to be gross, that’s how it is.

I tried a lot of remedies. I looked online, tried cucumber on the face and all the rest.I tried Clearasil, but I heard nothing but bad things about it and sure enough,it did fuck all for me except burn. I also tried that Neutrogena stuff that Vanessa Hudgens used to advertise.I would put it on at night as a mask, then wash it off later, in the hope it’d make a difference. Nope. Maybe your skin would be softer, but that’s it.

 

In this time, photographs were an obstacle. Would they highlight my bad skin? I remember tilting my head at a school talent show so my ‘’bad side’’ would not be seen.  I used to get it in my scalp and all, you see. And some were only too happy to point it out. All you could do was hope the lighting was good enough to mask it.

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There were some incidences I can remember, where some people outright told me how awful my skin was, others made inside jokes and comments among themselves thinking I wouldn’t realize. There was even drawings, fucking drawings of my face with big red dots on them. Each time it hurt, I’ll admit, but I never cried over it,and it never got me down for more than a day. It was stupid, childish stuff, and I forgive those involved. Just watch what you say. You never know.

My skin only got worse with time, I began getting cyst like sacs of fluid on my face, lesions. I began just living with it, trying this and that cream in the meantime. Eventually, I was convinced to see a doctor about it, and it took some convincing, let me explain why, in amateur psychology.

When you have a problem, any problem, you may often be afraid to confront it, therefore acknowledging there’s a problem. So you live in denial. Denial is a coping/defense mechanism. But you’re held back in the fact that you won’t acknowledge there’s a problem. And so you don’t move forward. For a long time I would cringe at the sound of the word ”acne” and still do.

I lived in denial for a time about my skin, and just got on with it. Until that doctor’s appointment. I was given a dose of antibiotics, tetracycline if I remember correctly. From then on my skin marginally improved. Still not 100 percent,but better.

Around the summer time of that year, I came off the antibiotics. Whether it was by choice or I was delayed getting my prescription, I can’t remember. I had been taking them daily for months as instructed, up to that point. Suddenly, I started breaking out in a rash type thing all over my head. Crusty, angry pustules. It was easily the worst I had experienced in my problems with my skin. It really, really got me down.

I went back to the doctors to get it checked out, but the doctor needed a second opinion as even he wasn’t sure. I came away from that appointment none the wiser as to what was wrong, and I was put back on the antibiotics.It cleared up before long.

Sure enough, it happened again,and again. I had wanted to come off the antibiotics and just heal up naturally, as I felt I had probably built up a dependence on the tetracycline after months of them in my system. After the third time, I just waited it out, and stopped the antibiotics altogether.

The antibiotics never really helped that much. I never noticed a massive difference, and the ridiculous breakouts when I came off them weren’t worth it.

With those out of the picture, I was no closer to clear skin. It got worse,again. None of the bad stuff from the antibiotics, but still worse.

I got out the shower one day to find my face was ‘’purple’’ with acne, according to my mam. At that point I had reddish scars on my cheeks that went purple with heat. It had spread to my back too. I had tried honey and hot flannels as another remedy, but no joy.

Off I went to another doctor, where she recommended Accutane, a super drug proven to be effective as a final solution against acne. She took some pictures and sent them off to Beaumont Hospital for a dermatologist appointment.

From what I had read of Accutane, it was known to cause depression in some patients, and there have been suicide cases of suicides linked to it. With this in mind, I went into my appointment wary. I wanted clear skin, but not at the cost of my mental health.

I ultimately decided not to go forward with the Accutane because of this. And so I found myself back to square one.

I continued to suffer with breakouts and at one point tried BB cream, as a kind of concealer to mask the redness. Those stubborn spots would not let up.

Lemon water? Tried that, no change.

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A year after, I was back at the doctors to discuss options, and agreed to go ahead with the Accutane this time. Nothing was changing, at this stage, nothing would unless drastic action was taken. I wanted those scars gone.

I went through the same process with Beaumont, and got blood tested. They came back fine. My prescription was written, and I started the course of medication in September 2013. I noticed some side effects in the first few days. I was quite moodier, there was one day in particular I remember being pissed off over something small. My hair began to dry up, as Accutane strips the skin of it’s oil.

Other than that,it was working. For the first time in years, I was looking at the prospect of clear skin.

It got better and better over time. My mood often suffered and I missed a chunk of school, but nothing major. I had regular appointments to check on my progress. By my final exams, my skin was pretty much glowing. I finally came off the medication the same week I finished the exams. The struggle was over.

Having bad skin does affect you a fair bit.

It can make you feel that when you’re speaking to anyone,they’re looking at your skin, not you.

It can make you think twice as to whether you want to go anywhere ’’looking like this’’.

It can be used as a weapon against you by people who should (and hopefully now) know better.

It can make you paranoid as to who is saying what about your face. It can have you ducking and dodging photos for fear of it showing.

It can make you feel different, unusual, nobody has it as bad as me. Confidence and self esteem can suffer.

In short, it imposes on your life.

But there is ways of coming through it,be it medication, or a simple face cream, we are all designed differently. What worked for me may not for the next person. Do your research. Talk to your doctor if it’s becoming a real issue. Talk, talk, talk.

 

Thanks for reading, and listening.

 

I would love to hear from anyone who has gone through similar.

 

 

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