A Letter to My Acne This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

November 13, 2017
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In the seventh grade, I was the happiest that I have ever been. I glowed with positivity and laughter dripped out of my mouth as though it were the fountain of youth itself. My nimble fingers scrambled up and down the neck of a violin and pressed shut the keys of a flute. I was the human embodiment of music itself, filled to the brim with excitement and emotions that I hadn't yet learned to control. I was unrestrained, sensitive, but bold.


That summer, I looked back at my school year and my eyes were opened to what I had never noticed before. My classmates were separated into social groups, and I was at the very bottom. I was the black music nerd with frizzy hair, glasses, and braces. I wore clunky brown sneakers and used a rainbow bandana as a headband. I saw the popular girls, watched their pin straight hair flow onto their backs, spotted their Vera Bradley backpacks and Forever 21 outfits. It hit me too quickly that my little bubble wasn't all that existed. My mind was opened to social standards and I was crushed by the fact that I did not meet them in the slightest.


I tried changing myself to be just like them. I became insecure and changed my interests and clothing choices and hair so that they aligned with theirs. I got over that phase quickly, giving up on trying to be like everyone else. With that acceptance, my confidence should have surged back. I should have become full of self-acceptance and self-love. My life would become one filled with positivity and spirit, friends, and good times. None of that happened.


It all started with you.


Every aspect of my life changed as soon as you decided to stroll onto my face, my back, my shoulders, and my chest. You first arrived as a minuscule bump in the center of my tiny smooth brown forehead. You would go away, I figured. I'd make you. I determinedly searched the internet for ways to make you dissolve into nonexistence.


I got a q-tip and dipped it in hot chamomile tea and pressed it tightly against you, wincing at the burning sensation of the scorching liquid mingling with my skin. I went to bed hoping that the home remedy I had found on Google would send you scrambling for an escape from the dissolved herbs chasing you out of my pores.


I woke up the next morning to the horrifying discovery that you had multiplied.


Every day, I would awake to find you non consensually reproducing anywhere you pleased. My skin was no longer mine. The baby-soft olive colored wrap protecting my body that I was always proud of was soon conquered by bloated bumps that decided that they had the right to drive me mad and send me scrubbing myself with every medicated wash under the sun in a fear-driven craze. You put me into a downward spiral, sending me digging too deep and too fast until I hit a rock that shattered into pieces that scattered everywhere. It’s impossible to recollect them all because they’ve settled in nooks where they’ll always be. No matter how many times I sweep my mind, I'll never be able to clean out all of them.


I began to pick apart every flaw that I had. I began to compare the angles and dips and curves of my body to that of a covergirl’s. I began feeling an itch tickling the back of my soft pink brain. At random moments, it would turn into a rash that made my fingers tingle. It eventually became irresistible to scratch no matter how much effort I put into keeping my hands at my sides, fiddling with the hem of my sweater or tapping against a table. I didn’t bother to put any ointment on it because it never worked on you, did it?  My mind became filled with disorganized filing cabinets stacked on top of each other, each drawer labeled with a feature, and inside of them were notes of all of the inadequacies that any given part of me had.


I don’t think that I would have ever hit that rock if it weren’t for you. It was a thick safe that I kept my insecurities in. They didn’t bother me before unless someone mentioned them. The safe would then crack open for a moment but slowly shut in time, and the comments were soon forgotten. You were the shovel that pried it open. You let them all loose and now they roam free to romp my mind like a god for as long as I live.


My smooth complexion has changed completely. My face has become covered in pimples that are all about self-improvement and strive to make themselves and their offspring more horrid and stubborn every day. Black spots that look like spilled pepper station themselves anywhere a patch of you was once mounted. My back and shoulders and neck are overtaken by lines of you playing follow the leader that destroy any stretch of untouched caramel that they can find. Some decide not to follow the crowd and settle on my small chest, climbing upwards to cover my prominent collarbones and the skin stretched tautly between them.


I am no longer complimented on the clarity of my skin. Instead, I am reminded that my forehead is “so oily, do you need a tissue to wipe it off?”. And there is absolutely nothing that I love more than having someone say, "Ugh, my acne was so horrible last year. It was terrible, I hated it so much. It made me look so ugly. oh my god, I never left the house without makeup on. It was, like, as bad as yours, basically." It's even better when complete strangers recommend that I get Proactiv.


I look in the mirror now and see a walking game of connect-the-dots. I don’t want to be a page ripped out of an activity book, the page that everyone skips over because it looks too difficult to handle. The page that is crumpled and dog-eared and used as a placeholder, the page that nobody sees as worthy of filling out because of its unaligned dots printed in an off-red ink that looks more maroon. I don't want to be the page that sticks to one in front of it so that skimming fingers happen to slide over it when the book is flipped through.


I no longer have faith in the rumors I hear from others that I am beautiful. The features that I once loved are now meaningless to me. I have counted every day of the past three years of during which no cream or medication or facial mask has made you choke. I crave the unblemished skin that I was born with, not this field of scars and unborn acne bubbling beneath the surface of each pore on my body.


I want you to run away as quickly as you ran onto my body and crossed the finish line that I never really bothered to mark clearly before it was too late.  But even when you’re gone, my belief in myself will never fully return because you cracked open my safe and there is no repairman that will be able to fix it.

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