I am thirty five, day one of this blog should have started over 18 years ago. But I was living in denial. The constant mirror checking, the self hatred, the shame, the fear of catching my reflection in a car window… The inability to enter a dressing room.
As a man the shame was even greater. I had to hide it even deeper. I am not vain, in fact I love everybody for who they are… Except for one person. Myself.
It began with Acne when I was in high school. I would stare at each pimple in contempt. It was a small thing at first. And then I lost control. Everything I did to prevent each pimple only made things worse. They hurt, not just emotionally but physically. I could feel them on my face and I could feel people looking into them, looking past me.
It started as one, but as hormones took over one became many. And after time they would leave a small scar, a mark on my skin, and shame was all that was left.
I would admire those who were scarred more than me who did not seem to care.
What I never understood was the casual response of others to my facial scarring . I told very few people of my concerns over my skin and when I did it was only because I ran out of other options. When I was 16 I approached my mom seeking a trip to the doctor to find some kind of treatment for my skin. She provided reassurance that my teenage acne was just a phase, and that mine was really not that bad.
In desperation I tried every product I could get my hands on.
First it was benzoyl peroxide 10%, several iterations of Oxy and Clearasil, this turned into excessive face washing. I would carry skin cleansing alcohol pads in my bag at all times. I would sneak into the bathroom during my breaks to wash my face. Only in this clean and non oily state would I find a bit of peace. And then the oil would return, It was a disgusting layer that I was always conscious of.
The oil to me was a breeding ground for more acne and I was on the offensive. But the more I washed my face the more acne I would acquire. The acne blemishes seemed to always come at the wrong time. My first high school dance welcomed several new lesions. Those would remain for several months. Much longer than my date who left me after we entered the gymnasium. Further proof, in my mind, that I was gross and unworthy of affection.
I finally made it to a dermatologist who started me on oral antibiotics. This helped so much! After the first month when the acne became worse I found my face clear for almost 3 whole months. My confidence grew leaps and bounds, I would look at myself with affection for the first time. I remember this time quite well, it was the first time I could talk to someone face to face without the feeling of the blemishes on my face.
And then the antibiotics stopped working, the acne seemed to become worse, and now unstoppable. I retreated to what I knew best.
Washing and salicylic acid and topical antibiotics and more checking.
The avoidance of mirrors. The occasional avoidance of life.