That Four-Letter Word

By
Acne. What a repulsive word, right? Why not call it a skin condition? Or how about, inflammatory pores? Or skin prone to irritation? Something less harsh and disgusting as acne. One small four-letter word that pretty much describes my life in a nutshell. Every doubt I've ever had, every time I turned down the offer to go to the movies with friends, every time I didn't feel like going to school, every time I didn't feel like going out of the house, can all be traced back to that four-letter word.

I've had acne for almost 4 years now. And it's not like its the normal, puberty-acne that everyone gets...You know that I'm talking about; the few sporadic pimples here and there, some blackheads in the T-zone, but overall nothing too major. Mine was severe. Everywhere on my face was a pimple or blackhead. Starting from the end of 5th grade, until now almost done with 9th grade. Mine wasn't severe-severe, like on the acne pamplets at the dermatologist office. But still, its not what a teenage girl wants to look at when she looks at her reflection.

I everything, but nothing worked. You name it, I tried it. My dermatologist Dr. Simon prescribed me Tazorac, ProActiv, Retin-A, Clean and Clear, Clearasil, some other prescription drugs that I forgot the names of because I took so many...the list goes on and on. Finally, there was no other option than to start Accutane. Accutane is a very severe acne drug that has really bad side effects. I was so desperate at that point and I was willing to do anything and everything as long as my skin cleared up. After a month or two of preparations, I finally started the Accutane. Dr. Simon told me all of the side effects: very dry skin, chapped lips, dry eyes, muscle aches, and if I had any suicidal thoughts or thought about killing people, I should tell him so we can stop the medication. I thought, hey, this can't be that bad? Just six months and it will all be gone.

During the six months, everything got so dry. I couldn't wear my contacts anymore, so I had to wear my glasses all the time, bringing down my self-esteem even more. My lips were always chapped and cracked, sometimes bleeding. My hands were scaly and dry, and my face was flaky with excess dry skin. I was still breaking out though. I just kept getting huge flare-ups with large cysts on my face. Dr. Simon said its normal to break out like that, though. But I was getting sick of it. Every month I'd go to the dermatologist. He'd pop my face, inject my huge cyst-like pimples, and I'd have to take a pregnancy test and get blood taken out of me. The state of New York requires that all women on Accutane have to take pregnancy tests every month because the medication causes serious birth defects. I would get so frustrated because I'd have to walk out of the dermatologist office with my face all inflamed. I could always feel the stares penetrating through me, and when I got home, I'd cry every time.

But of course, I kept all of my self-esteem issues to myself. Every time my mom and I would come back from the dermatologist, I'd be in a terrible mood. I wouldn't talk in the car on the way back. I'd just put the radio on loud and stare out the window, tears welling up in my eyes. When we'd get home, I'd run straight to my room and cry on my bed. I would see Mom trying to tell my brother and my father to "leave me alone for a bit, she's in a bad mood".

Those six months passed. And my face wasn't fully cleared up yet. So we added an extra month and I went on the seventh month of Accutane. There I was, tired of all the medications, sad that a boy hasb't liked me yet, ashamed about how low my self-esteem was, full of self-pity because of how much I cried, and just angry that all of this was happening to me.

I knew that my life wasn't bad. I have a loving family, good education, good friends, food, shelter, and was generally living a standard life. I knew that there are millions of people in the world who suffer through so much hardship. I knew that there are people my age and younger who are dying of diseases and will never get a chance to see the world. I was aware of the terrible state most of the world is in. So I stopped crying for myself and I started crying for all of those people. I cried for the children who don't have homes or families. I cried for the people who didn't have fresh drinking water every day. I cried for the people who are living in the middle of wars. I cried for all of the battered people in the world, instead of crying over my face for once.

Today I'm finished with the Accutane treatment. I still get pimples here and there, but for the most part, my skin is clear. I guess I expected some kind of metamorphosis to happen once my face cleared up. Suddenly, I'd become an outgoing, beautiful person that everyone was immediately drawn to. It's not like I'm magically going to become a social butterfly. I'm going to actually have to try to change, I'm going to have to put myself out there with all the confidence in the world. But I just can't wait for that to happen. Now that my face is finally clearer, I have to put myself out there more, and be confident.

Having this skin condition really put a dent in my life. It has changed me in every possible way it can. I don't know how I'll evolve to be more outgoing and friendly, when having acne made me so shy.

I have always felt that no one understands me. No one knew my reasons why I wouldn't hang out after school, or why I wouldn't go out to dinner with my friends on Saturday night. I was always embarrassed of myself. I haven't met anyone who knows what it's like to be in my shoes. That's why I'm publishing this essay. To let the teenagers know that it's okay to have pimples! Don't let it bring you down. I did, and it's taken a toll on my life. I can't go back in the past and I really don't know how my life would have turned out if I never had acne. I could imagine that it would be perfect, and I would be beautiful and exude so much self-confidence, but the truth is, it won't happen. I have to focus on the future and keep moving forward.

I want to be beautiful. I want to be strong. I want to be confident. I want to fully believe in myself. And for the first time, I really do believe in myself. Twenty years from now, I'll be reminiscing about my teenage years and be thankful that I've had "skin prone to inflammation". Having that skin condition really helped me grow as a person. I still might come off as shy, but compared to how I used to be, it's a huge step for me. So, that's my story. I hope other teenagers who have similar problems to mine will be able to relate to this. Acne; that four-letter word has changed my life. But most importantly, it has helped me do something that I was never truly able to do before: love myself.
It's kind of funny how one disgusting-sounding four-letter word like acne can lead you to a beautiful four-letter word like love.





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