When it comes time to reflect upon the last four years of my life, there is one particular experience that I cannot avoid remembering. It was a suffering in a very strange sense. On the one hand it was written all over my face wherever I went, completely outward and unavoidable. On the other hand it was something so painful and personal, that it took me years to be able to talk about it out loud with even my closest friends. It is an experience I hated and yet could never fully regret: my journey with severe acne.
It all started in ninth grade. I was a pretty carefree dancing in the backyard kind of a kid until then, so I can honestly tell you that I didn’t notice until it was already pretty bad.
By the time I was sixteen, I had tried everything. From natural tonics and remedies to dermatologist prescribed antibiotics and all the diets, drugs, cleansers, and therapies in between.
I shrunk into periods of partial hermit-hood when well-meaning folks called me out on my appearance. I know they were trying to help me by suggesting remedies and printing me articles about healthy eating, but there wasn’t a single bit of advice I received from someone that I hand’t already found from my own research. Their well-meaning comments hurt me, because I assumed they thought I was clueless, careless, and dirty (I was overly sensitive, I know).
For three years l brushed my teeth in the darkness because I was too afraid to turn the light on and see my reflection in the morning. I felt subpar and half human due to the silent dismissals I received from strangers passing by on the street. I learned that what you don’t say out loud can still hurt.
On the one hand it was a struggle I shed way too many tears over. Yet, through it all, I almost always had a reason to keep on smiling. I knew from the beginning that each pimple would not turn out to be in vain.
I learned so much from having acne.
I worked harder in school and challenged myself to develop new skills because I wanted a deep inward person to balance out a physical body that I viewed as completely worthless (not a healthy thought btw). I did tons of research in nutrition and physical fitness which ultimately helped me to develop good habits and discover the joys of a healthy lifestyle. My writing (a favorite outlet when my face had me feeling lonely), improved dramatically and I ended up getting published in multiple teenage magazines. I learned that people aren’t as shallow as the movies portray them to be. Okay, so some of them are, but there are tons of precious jewels out there who care more about who you are than what you look like.
Although I must admit there were too many depressed and maybe slightly self pitying-ish nights, my struggle with acne was ultimately a positive experience. I want to share my story because at my worst I could never find any encouragement about the positive benefits to such a horrid (and common) condition. I want teenagers struggling with acne to know that it does not have to ruin your high school experience. In fact, acne helped me to become a focused and accomplished high school student.
My journey with the physical aspect of acne is not over yet (although I have improved a lot in the past few months), but I have learned to accept it as a physical condition that cannot define who I really am.
I can finally accept that the Lord knew what he was doing when He made me this way. As crazy as it sounds I have absolutely no regrets, in fact, I am thankful for everything that acne has taught me.
(One added bonus? Acne was an experience I ended up using in my college essays. It helped me get into one of my dream colleges. You can read an early draft of that essay here, if you are interested.)