Face Value

Dermatological treatment may be slowly changing my face, but it’s rapidly changing the way I think about it.

It’s been almost six months — wow, time flies! Six months since I brought my shameful face to the dermatologist. In the sixth months I’ve been using prescription topical treatments, my face has gone through SO MANY CHANGES.
I mean, you think it’ll be slow progress. You’ll be WRONG WRONG WRONG! 
There are days when your face dries COMPLETELY out. Sometimes, I can feel it cracking when I smile. Sometimes, by the end of the day, it’s flaking off all around my chin. I can’t feel it, but it’s like I’m wearing a beard of dandruff.
And then there’s the PTSD: when I wake up in the morning clammy and nervous, certain that there’s a throbbing, juicy whitehead somewhere on my face. I’ll stand in front of the mirror and poke my skin until I’m convinced that it was just a nightmare.
And then you wake up, out of nowhere, with your entire chin swollen, red, and hard.
You’d think I’d be crushed at this, hurtling back in time to when a zit like that would keep me locked indoors for weeks until it healed, finding excuses to stay inside like the Hunchback of Notre Dame.
This morning, I felt oddly at peace with the abomination forming on my chin. My old thoughts would have been of self-hatred and self-blame, as if I had done something horrible to deserve this. Karmic pimples. “I was rude to a stranger,” “I snapped at my boyfriend,” “I ate all that cheese,” “I spent too much time in the sun.” Ask my therapist: I’ve spent entire sessions wailing about how my face is the outward presentation of the damaged and unworthy human being I am. My face is the curse that keeps me permanently humble and downtrodden.
Then, the primary concern is concealment: nobody must know. I have to hide this somehow and make everyone believe I’m normal!

Amazingly, the biggest change is not that I no longer get breakouts — but that I no longer fall to pieces over them.

Eyeshadow on fleek day

I no longer feel like breakouts are somehow my fault. I’ve been able to realize that they’re out of my control. No more mythologizing, no more self-castigation. 

At the beginning of this journey, I had an “all-or-nothing” vision of success: either my skin would become flawless, or it would not. The bizarre stops along the way to healing (hello, can we revisit the dandruff beard?!) had led me to a different realization: the perfection I craved for myself was impossible to attain. I have to relinquish any illusion of control over my skin, because it’s not up to me. It’s not my fault, it never was. Do I regret all those years of not seeing a doctor? Yes — because this realization is more valuable than clear skin: I cannot hate myself for things I have no control over. So that’s that. Dermatology updates, over and out.

2 responses to “Face Value”

  1. I totally get what you're saying here!! I've suffered with acne for years and have tried so much stuff! (one of which contained bleach and made me feel like my skin was melting off of my face – probably cause it was!). I still go through times where it's pretty bad and it can get me so down BUT I go through times where it's average (like at the moment) and I'm over the moon about it! Some people would still be upset if there's looked the same but I'm literally ecstatic – mainly cause I can get my make up looking good! hahaha life eh!?

    Laura x

    • This is why I love you! You totally GET me! Yesterday, I went out without any concealer on and it was like "I AM LIVING MY BEST LIFE." This morning I woke up and it looked like someone had put glue around my mouth and chin and it had dried and was flaking off in big, rubbery chunks. This stuff is NOT for the faint of heart. I have a suspicious twinge of pain near the side of my nose today and I'm like "What's going on there, buddy?" The drama of my face is never-ending. 😛

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.