“My first breakout happened when I was just 7 years old. Like, common pimples. After a year, bumps started to appear on my face, back, and chest. Soon after, it became nodular, severe acne. Nobody knew acne that severe could appear on the skin of a ten-year-old girl.
When I was 11, I started taking Isotretinoin, also known as Roaccutane or Accutane. It’s the last resort for people with severe acne. It’s a powerful pill that causes extreme side effects like dryness, joint pain, sight loss, alopecia, nose bleeds, and many other things. At the time, I didn’t know understand what I had or why my skin looked the way it did. I would usually describe it as ‘lumps filled with blood that at any moment can explode.’
It was always hard for me to control my acne at school. Very often, my skin would stretch out to the point where it would break and stain my clothes, desk, and exams with blood and pus. It was so unpredictable during that time, and awful at elementary school.
For two years, I slept on my back so I could avoid the pain of bursting the blemishes at night and not stain my sheets, But it didn’t stop the emotional pain. I wasn’t comfortable with myself at all. My acne gave me a lot of unwanted attention. Many were grossed out or scared because they thought if they touched me they would get infected. I also received a lot of questions:
‘Did you burn your face?’
‘Aren’t people scared to touch you and get dirty?’
‘How can your mom kiss you with all of that?’
This last question has now become, ‘How can your boyfriend kiss you?’
And the answer is always the same: ‘I’m normal, just like anyone else. Acne is normal.’
But people continue to treat me like I have something horrible on my face, like I am unworthy or undesirable as a human being because of my skin.
All of these comments made me feel awful about myself. It wasn’t easy to go to class only to have to run to the bathroom because one of my cysts exploded. I’d come back to all of my classmates gazing at me since I was, and still am, the only girl at my school with that type of acne. I have always felt alone because a lot of people didn’t approach me. Adults were there for me, but we all know it’s impossible to be defended all of the time. So, I tried to focus on my personal interests instead of waiting for someone to love me for who I am. Focusing on myself was how I discovered that I loved myself, and that was enough for me at 12 years old.
One time, when I was in my freshman year of high school, I ran from my class to the bathroom. I was at the sink, a familiar place, wiping the blood and pus from my face when some sophomores looked at me in shock. They asked me what I was doing and I responded, ‘It’s my acne. My cysts usually explode at any time.’
I explained to them what acne conglobata is and that it’s an inflammatory skin condition. They told me, ‘We thought acne was just pimples from stress or bad hygiene.’ I explained that what I have is the censored side of acne that people don’t learn about. One of the girls responded, “Wow, she’s here bleeding and losing time from her classes while I’ve always thought one pimple was the end of the world.’ Those words still hit three years later. It describes the reality for someone like me with the most common skin condition in the world, but yet the worst, most severe type of it. So many have acne, but they still can’t understand or relate to me. I felt so close to others, but so far away.
I have gone through many treatments of Intralesional Triamcinolone injections, over 100 peelings, and I took 120mg of Isotretinoin daily for 3 years and 7 months. I also took 30mg ofLymecycline Tetralysal, an antibiotic. During the seven years I’ve had this condition, I’ve never gone out into the street without sunscreen or a hat that can protect me from the sun. Taking Isotretinoin helped me for a while, but after a month of finishing the treatment, I had a new breakout. This was a really low time for me because after taking Accutane, less than 20% of people have acne again.
I guess I just wasn’t one of those people.
After nearly two years since I stopped the treatment, some side-effects still remain including extreme dryness on my skin, lips, eyes, and hair. My growth is stunted because I took it during my development years. I also have significant loss of eyesight. I understood now that I can’t avoid my nature, but what I can do is face it with a good attitude.
Beauty standards have always shocked me. There are so many modeling agencies filled with boys and girls that want to be famous, appear on television, or simply be seen. And they all have to be what is considered ‘beautiful’ to even get a chance. Fortunately, my parents were never taught that in order to go far in life you had to be good looking. It’s a small difference that’s helped me cope with my skin condition in a country where culture gives way too much importance to appearance.
Girls my age are taught to be perfect. Instead of focusing on enjoying their youth, they’re occupied with using make up, yearning to be voluptuous and beautiful. Most girls dream to be beautiful, but I yearn to be happy with what I have. I am proud of what I have. My friends and family have always supported and taken care of me. That is what really matters in life, not your problems or difficulties, but who is by your side when the going gets tough.
Having a severe and extremely difficult to manage skin condition is not easy. But we can always get something good from our bad days. Acne taught me that not every environment is healthy for me and not everyone will support me no matter what. So, if you have a condition that is torturing you, try to change your environment, not you. You will be happier, healthier, and safe once you surround yourself with good people that see your worth.
My skin condition is hereditary and doesn’t have a cure, but I no longer think it needs a cure. Acne has made me the resilient 17-year-old girl I am today. It made me feel comfortable with my scars and understand that having this condition is just how I am. Acne taught me how to defend myself and have confidence in myself.
After years of being scared of something that caused me insecurity, pain, and self hate, I understood now that the worst of times can only make us better.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Constanza Hernández Concha. You can follow her journey on Instagram and YouTube. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
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