Since I before I was 12 I've had acne. It started out like any teenager with a blemish here and there and a spray of tiny blackheads across my nose. Progressively it got better, then worse, then better again. I tried everything at the drugstore, Proactiv, Retin A, and a whole slew of medications from the dermatologist. Sometimes it would get better but it was always a precarious situation. I would go to sleep with a clear face and wake up with 5 or 6 cysts and even more whiteheads. Are you grossed out yet? I certainly was.
By the end of high school I thought it was over. My senior year I had a face washing ritual of Proactiv, using Clinique moisturizers, changing my pillow case every night, never letting my shirt touch my face, and CONSTANTLY running to the bathroom to dab on Neutrogena spot treatment. It was overwhelming but my skin was tame for a time.
In college it just progressively got worse. I was on Minocyline for over a year, still trying all kinds of drugstore products, fanatically changing my pillowcases and shirts, caking on more and more makeup. For four years it was a never ending fight. I cried, complained, hid behind makeup, avoided cameras on bad skin days, picked, and scratched. It was overwhelming and whenever anyone asked me to do something I never considered the activity, but what my skin situation might be. Any kind of overnight meant planning to "put on my face" before anyone else was awake, going out at night meant carrying a big enough purse for my makeup.
I have really distinct memories of moments where I would break down crying when I looked in the mirror. My 21st birthday, a weekend my boyfriend came to visit me, and my college graduation were particularly painful.
My friends always said that they "Didn't really notice." My boyfriend said, "You're beautiful no matter what." Other things that really bothered me were people telling me that my skin wasn't really that bad and that they had seen much worse. Of course they had, on kids, not someone in their 20's!
It was so much more than that. I was uncomfortable in my own skin. I was in pain physically and emotionally. Even with makeup and photoshop I couldn't hide the bad spots.
My 21st birthday and a photo LK was kind enough to do extensive touching up on
Wearing gobs and gobs of makeup in the gross August humidity
In May I took my first dose of Claravis, the generic Accutane, and started the 8 month process of clearing up my face. I wrote about it here a few months ago. It was pretty horrible to say the least. Between fighting with my insurance company, scraping together money to pay for it, and the painful side effects, I just hoped it would be worth it. Every single inch of my face was on fire all day all the time. I rarely ever left my house because it got worse before it got better. It was so awful. I was a complete wreck, angry and sad all the time. The worst was the unsolicited advice for how to "fix my problem." People were constantly telling me what to do about my skin, because my skin was the worst it had ever been and I couldn't exactly hang a sign around my neck announcing that I was already doing something to fix it! The worst was when strangers offered help in front of my friends. Another horrible thing that happened pretty often was that I was asked "What's wrong with your face," or "Why are you covered in chickenpox/bugbites," by adults and children alike. Having clear skin seemed like something that would never ever happen. The frightening side effects (loss of night vision, permanent liver damage, suicide) never seemed quite as scary as having acne forever.
When I was on Claravis, this is how I looked with makeup and a bit of photo touch-up
Now that my skin is clear I love letting people take my picture, going out, and even going out without makeup on. I wished for so long to have clear skin and now I have it. Every single time someone compliments my skin I want to cry from happiness. I worry a lot that I'm going to wake up one day and it will be all broken out again and I will have to go back on Claravis, probably more than I should. Would I do it again? For sure. Would I recommend it to other people? Yes, in a heartbeat but only if it were really necessary. It was the best thing I ever did for my skin. So, thanks to those people who noticed, it really means a lot to me.
Late January 2010 just before I finished taking the meds