Time To Be Vulnerable: How I Fought, Beat, and Cured My Cystic Acne [Blog Challenge #6]
The following post is apart of Alex Beadon’s Feel Good Blogging Challenge. Admittedly, I was skeptical about something like this, but it’s turning out to be a powerful blogging exercise!
I’m literally taking a deep breath before writing this post.
Why? Today’s post is all about vulnerability. I think it’s important for us to be vulnerable with each other; it helps us know we’re not alone, that other people think about the same things we do, that other people have the same struggles we do. It also makes us human to be vulnerable.
I started writing this post a long time ago – back in 2011, to be exact – but I was scared to post it. I was scared for the exact reason that this exercise is mean to combat: it’s embarrassing and puts me in my most vulnerable place.
However, it’s high time to share my story. It’s personal, it’s embarrassing, and it can be gruesome at times, too. My hope is that by sharing my vulnerability will help just one other person feel like they can get through what I did. So here we go.
Once a face picker, always a face picker
I’ve always been a face picker, I’ll admit that; but nearly 8 years ago face picking became – literally – a painful reality for me.
In January 2007, my life changed drastically. I woke up one morning with your basic ingrown hair in my armpit. (I’m a girl and I shave my pits, so it’s bound to happen.) Thinking nothing of it, it had come to a head, so I popped it. Just a few days later, that teeny tiny ingrown hair had grown to the size of a grape tomato. At the same time, I also started getting another ingrown hair in my other armpit. Still thinking nothing of it, I proceeded to squeeze them both. Just a few more days pass, and the original ingrown hair had grown to be nearly the size of my fist.
I had just gotten my first cyst.
Now if that isn’t gruesome enough, I cannot even begin to describe the pain these cause. I can still remember it like it was yesterday. Only if you’ve gotten cysts do you know how bad the pain is. Even touching cysts can move you to tears.
At this point, I decided enough was enough and I went to see my primary care doctor. The only thing they could do for me was lance it. That’s right, they took a knife to that sucker. Sparing some details, it was literally the most painful thing I’ve ever felt – including two broken arms and two ACL tears and reconstructions.
That first cyst healed, but I still have a scar to this day. The second one cleared up on its own, but I quickly realized touching them was a bad idea.
Over the following few months in early 2007, I got some ingrown hairs in my armpits here and there. I was able to control them with heat compresses and not touching them.
From body to face
The next time I remember getting a cyst was in April 2007 at a cheerleading competition. We had our hair pulled back tight in braids; so tight in fact, I soon had little bumps around my hairline. Thinking they were just small pimples, I tried to pop them. This worked at first, but by the time I got back home, I realized these were not pimples. I just had my first bout of cystic acne.
I went back to my doctor, who recommended a hot compress and a 2 week antibiotic that would clear them up. I don’t know if it was the antibiotics or time that ended up clearing them up.
In the summer of 2007, I worked as a lifeguard on the beach. As it turned out, sand, sweat, and salt water seemed to be the perfect recipe for cysts to occur.
My year(+) of hell
This went on for over a year. I would use a hot compress and wait the little (or big, rather) buggers out. I was in my last year of college and working full time at the college pool, so there were often times little I could do to cover my cystic acne up. Starting my first job, I would sometimes have to call out sick because my acne was so out of control.
If you Google cystic acne, the images are graphic and horrible. Believe me when I say they feel 100 times worse than they look. The embarrassment and the pain that accompanies this condition is traumatizing and anxiety-ridden to say the least. I used to keep pictures of what my face looked like during this time, but have since gotten rid of them because I hate to remember it.
Several years ago, I discovered this video. This girl shows what it feels like and the work it takes to cover up this condition. For, when you have cystic acne, all you want is beautiful, flawless skin.
Treatment after treatment, and then….a cure!
For nearly a year, I tried using a regular antibiotic (Spiralactone). Antibiotics taken regularly are hard on your body and can cause additional side effects; I even had to change my birth control because of it. I knew I didn’t want to be on the Spiralactone for life, so I looked into other options.
I saw dermatologists and specialists to no avail. Finally, at the suggestion of another doctor, I set up an appointment with a homeopath. A self-proclaimed tree hugger, I didn’t have full faith that such a hippie dippie solution would work for me, but I figured I might as well try everything.
After several months of homeopathic remedies, my homeopath put together the perfect cocktail for me.
My cystic acne was gone!
I didn’t hold my breath…I kept waiting and waiting for it to come back. But lo and behold, whatever remedy I took worked! You can only imagine my excitement after years of dealing with this condition.
I don’t still don’t know if it was the remedy or time that took away my acne, but it doesn’t matter. It was finally gone!
An ongoing battle
Like many people, my acne stems from hormones and stress, so I do still get breakouts. I notice they come during stressful times and that time of the month mostly these days. However, they are nothing like what I used to struggle with; just a pimple here and there.
To manage this, I’ve taken to natural skin care solutions, getting as much water and sleep as I can, eating right and getting exercise, and trying to do things that keep me as anxiety-free and stress-free as possible.
Light at the end of the tunnel
It’s been a long and hard battle, but it seems this chapter of my life has finally closed. My skin has caused the most vulnerable and anxious part of me to come out, and I have to fight it every day to get back the confidence I had before this started 8 years ago. If you suffer from cystic acne, just know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.