There’s lots of things that are unfair in life and as women, most of us know the feeling of looking at another woman and being more than a little envious of something she might have. Be it luscious full hair, an air of confidence, great eyes, long legs, a fantastic smile or a wonderful figure. For me, I envy every person with good skin. A seemingly simple trait on the surface, pardon the pun, but for anyone who’s ever suffered with cystic acne well into adulthood, they’ll understand clear skin is the ultimate wish. And when I became a mum last December, I really hoped I could put my acne-filled days behind me.
Oh come on, don’t be so vain, it’s just some spots, get a hold of yourself!
No. It’s not. Decades of acne, that becomes adult acne is not just spots. It’s a lifetime of being unable to look new people in the eye because you know they are looking at those spots. They don’t mean to, but they just can’t help it, especially when it is severe or cystic acne that you’ve tried your best to cover in several layers of concealer and the thickest foundation you can find; but really nothing short of a brown bag over your head will cover these things up! It’s knowing that by now, in my 30’s, this skin condition is likely to be with me for pretty much the rest of my life. It’s avoiding mirrors because I often look like the Elephant Man, it’s wearing hats to cover my face, it’s running away from cameras, growing my hair long for armor and praying my hormones don’t cause a flair up when I’m due to go to a meeting.
Above all, it’s been a gradual grinding down of my self-confidence. It’s debilitating and it’s ultimately knowing that my options for treatment are limited to a drug with horrendous side effects, extended runs of antibiotics or get stuck on the pill-treadmill once more.
And speaking of acne treatments, at this stage, I’ve been there, done that, bought the t-shirt and set it on fire. I’ve tried most lotions, potions, creams, regimes and diet changes to help keep my skin at bay. I’ve had numerous doctors and dermatologist appointments and at times, I have indeed been able to enjoy periods of good skin. And dear God was it incredible. I don’t think I can fully describe what it was like to wake up and not feel a new cyst coming up. To be able to leave the house without having to spend ages putting on my slap, trying to cover my spots and scars. To meet new people and have them look me in the eye without seeing their gaze drift down to my jawline and chin. Alas those good spells never lasted long and they always came at a price.
My last bastion of hope came after I found out I was pregnant last year. I wished it might finally solve my skin problems. You hear anecdotes that ‘oh your skin will be glowing when you’re pregnant,’ well if by glowing you mean a glut of angry acne, then yes I was glowing!
Nevertheless, as my pregnancy wore on, my hormones seemed to settle down and so did my skin. It was wonderful, but I soon realised that it was the post-pregnancy hormone-fest that I should be worried about. And I wasn’t wrong. There I was trying to grapple with this new world of motherhood, when right on cue my skin decided to flare up. Painful breakouts and clusters of cysts along my jawline and chin made their familiar advance and then the strangest thing happened. I didn’t really care. It was as if becoming a mother had definitely done something to my brain. Apart from the fact I had so much more to think about then my own skin, it was as if I no longer gave a damn about what other people thought of me…
I’d let acne define me for far too long and now after pushing a tiny human out of my body in a room full of strangers, it somehow liberated me and allowed me to throw away that heavy bag filled with devastating self-consciousness I’d carried around with me most of my life.
Now don’t get me wrong, my skin still gets me down and I do still look at those with a flawless complexion and sigh, but there’s no denying my whole outlook on life has changed. This is me. This is how my skin is. Sometimes it’s okay and other times it’s not. Sometimes I’ll have time to try and cover it up, but most of the time I’m too busy with the baby to give it a second thought. It’s unfair, it’s not nice and it’s hard at times, but this is me.
Accept me as I am or don’t.
Because this mama won’t let a skin condition define her any longer.