Today I set a new national record in the sport that I love. On one breath, without any fins, I swam 82 meters and came out cheerful and smiling. However, I looked in the mirror and felt like a failure. Now, one thing might not seem connected to the other but hey…hook sentence, right?
After my record, I took a quick shower and changed before the lunch held for all participants. As I washed my hands, I looked in the mirror, and lo and behold – I did not see a strong, proud, fierce woman who just accomplished an impressive feat without any training. No, I saw my skin, its inflammation, the scars around my jaw, and how ugly I felt.
I suffer from hormonal acne. Yes, suffer. It began as a teenager, and I took birth control for over ten years to ‘manage’ it. I stopped taking the pill around 2019 because I wanted to be clean and not have to depend on it. Slowly but surely my skin got worse, a global pandemic and the stress it brought upon me (and the world) did not help and in 2020 it got very, very bad. Luckily, I had to wear a mask so I could cover up the part of my face I disliked.
I tried what seems like everything: benzoyl peroxide, AHA’s, BHA’s, chemical peels, facials, I learned about skin and type of acne, I took MANY supplements, drank all the green tea, did a liver cleanse, months-long diets to reduce inflammation. I was miserable. I looked at myself in the mirror and did not recognize myself and hated the reflection I saw. Eventually, in February of 2021, I went back on the pill. My mental health was more important. In a matter of weeks, my skin cleared up.
I knew I still wanted to be able to live life as a real (biological) woman…with an actual period, hormonal fluctuations, and everything they bring. So, I continued to learn about hormonal acne, about the hormones that play a part in our body, things that can help, everything. In February 2022 I took a short trip to Bogota and couldn’t find my pills, so I just stopped taking them and waited…Slowly my skin began acting up again, not as bad as before but just there. I learned that the worst time for my skin is during ovulation, which probably has to do with my testosterone levels, I embraced having an actual period and feeling all the feels that those crazy hormones bring on the days before. I continued a strict skin routine, getting clinical facials every few months, I am mindful of my ovulation period and avoid a higher intake of sugars. I even talked about my struggles publicly (which may seem like nothing but it’s hard for me.)
And yet, here we are…6 months after stopping the pill. Back to where we started.
I was hoping my less-stressed life, my time in the ocean, and my personal growth through meditation, yoga, and freediving would have helped. But it hasn’t. Not enough. I am tired of waking up and the first thing I do is touch my face to see where it hurts today, of looking at myself in the mirror even before I pee to see what it is. I am tired of stressing out about a possible whitehead every time I am surrounded by friends. I am tired of having to put on make-up when I go out to feel a little less ugly. I am tired of this makes me feel unattractive and skyrockets my insecurities the moment I receive any rejection. I am tired of comparing myself to others constantly. I am tired of crying about it AGAIN. I am tired of hearing people say “You look fine” with glowing perfect skin. I am tired of being suggested acne products every time I’m checking things out at a pharmacy.
I am tired of giving this one thing so much power over me… but honestly feel like there’s nothing I can do.
I feel like a failure.
I know my acne is a sign of inflammation, which means my body and system are out of balance. In other words, it means there is something wrong with me. And I feel like a complete failure for not being able to accept myself with it and love myself regardless, and a failure for not being able to fix it. I feel like a failure because although I look so confident and strong, this one little thing eats me up inside every time I catch a glimpse of my reflection, that it’s actually on my mind while I’m doing a breathe-up before a deep dive, that it takes up so much energy from me.
I haven’t even gotten started with everything that taking the pill means to me. So many concerns and worries when it comes to pregnancy (although let’s be honest it’s not like I can worry about that now), the long-term effects it can have on your body (it may take years to re-balance certain hormones), all the unknown side effects it can have. Taking it again will feel like taking ten steps backward. I am fully aware it’s a band-aid to a deeper issue, that I need to find what it really is, but I’m just shooting darts in the dark and the more time goes by the worse I feel about myself.
So, I guess today instead of a PB cake I “earned” for my new record (sugar makes your skin worse!), I’ll be taking a little pill packed with hormones, swallowing it with a gulp of freshly squeezed failure.
If you managed to read this far, thank you for listening to my rant. Don’t take your skin, or your health, for granted and please be mindful of your words and eyes when you see anyone with skin issues. It may seem silly to you, but you have no idea what it may mean to them.