Growing up I always had clear skin. All through high school I never had to apply make-up because my skin had that typical “I’m 16 and I’m so lucky because I never get a single pimple” type of glow to it. I never thought that years down the road my life would turn completely upside due to severe cystic acne, but it did. For anyone who’s never had severe acne problems, you probably think I’m being dramatic, huh? Nope, not at all.
Let’s start at the beginning, the root cause of my acne: Hormones. Between 2011 and 2012 I gained around 30 pounds, weighing in at around 185-190 about a year after I graduated high school. I thought that I was miserable, so in 2013 I decided to make some serious health changes in my life. The beginning of 2013 started the weight loss journey that would change my life forever. I dropped from 190(ish) to 123 pounds in one year. Yep, one year. Now if you’re thinking “123 pounds, that’s great!” you may be right if you’re talking about a naturally small-boned girl who’s around 5’3-5’4 but that’s not me. I’m 5’10 and I have a naturally athletic build… now let that 123 pounds sink in. I was skin and bones. My hair was falling out all over the place, I was eating 800-1000 calories a day in nothing but vegetables and tuna, and I was going to the gym twice a day. If you want a good way to mess up your hormones, that’s it. And there began my acne nightmare – first popping up on my cheeks, then spreading to my jawline, and afterwards spreading to just about everywhere else; acne controlled my life. So here I was: hungry, disgusted with myself, and severely depressed.
Having severe acne is a vicious cycle of one morning saying “this doesn’t define me” and the same night crying yourself to sleep because you can’t stand the sight of yourself in the mirror. It’s a cycle of cutting all of your friends out of your life because you fear that they’ll judge you, but then being depressed because you have no friends. It’s a cycle of wanting to have a slice of pizza with your family, but having so much anxiety about eating greasy foods that you immediately hate yourself the rest of the night after you eat just once slice. It’s a cycle of trying every face wash and home remedy known to mankind and having no success. You’re trapped and you’re hopeless. You start to view yourself from an out of body perspective – you start to see yourself from other’s points of view and you hate yourself. It truly drove me to the edge. I didn’t want to wake up in the morning and go to work. I didn’t want to hang out with my family or friends (any that I had left at least). And most of all I never DARED left the house without make-up on. I truly hated every aspect of my life. I finally realized that I was not miserable at 190 pounds, this was the true definition of miserable.
This went on for 3 and a half years. Imagine hating yourself for 3 and a half years straight. Along the way life becomes meaningless and you wonder why you’re even still here. Well I am and I’m damn proud of it. In the winter of 2016 my acne finally started clearing up. Now don’t get me wrong, I have scars and I will always have scars, but I can finally run my hands along my face when I’m washing it at night and not feel completely ashamed of who I am. I can wake up in the morning and feel proud of my skin when I look in the mirror. I can go to the local grocery store without make-up on and not feel like everyone is staring at me, completely disgusted by my appearance. The feeling is freeing.
So do I hate acne? 10000% yes, just like everyone else on the planet, but it’s also taught me a lot. It’s taught me to love and to be loved, regardless of flaws. It’s taught me that I am tough enough to overcome anything that life wants to throw at me. It’s taught me that society’s standards of “perfect” are bullshit and unreachable. But most importantly it’s taught me to open my arms to just about anyone who needs it, especially people who have walked in my same shoes. There is a special bond between two people who have severe acne/scarring and no matter where I am (work, school, the store, etc.) we both know that even though we have never met before that we are not strangers to each other.
And to everyone who struggles with weight, please learn to lose weight the safe way – no more than 2 pounds a week. Any more than that can really destroy your body, and I’m not just talking about suffering from acne. I stopped having my period for a year and a half until my doctor finally said “you NEED to gain weight, you are killing yourself”. It took gaining 15 pounds back for my body to finally realize that I wasn’t dying, thus resuming normal processes. My doctor also said that there is a good chance that I will have trouble conceiving children in the future, so please take care of your body. Learn to love yourself before and after your weight loss, as well as every step in between. I look at my before pictures when I weighed 190 pounds and I realize how much I love the girl in those photos (and how much I don’t regret the taco bell midnight runs).
So thank you acne for making me realize that everyone is beautiful regardless of what they look like.
And thank you eating disorder for teaching me the importance of loving and taking care of myself.
And just for kicks, here’s me at 190:
And at 123:
Do not kill yourself trying to be what society views as “perfect” because I promise you that life is worth much more than how others view you.