The Life Lesson I Got from My Acne Problems

“Hey look mommy; he has chicken pox just like I did when I was little.” Absolutely stunned, my body began to boil as cold sweat droplets ran down my temple. Seconds later, I found myself looking like a ripe tomato, ready to burst at any second. “Are they talking about me?” I thought to myself, “Seriously? Don’t they think I can hear them?” I was too self-conscious to lift my eyes to see if I really had become their topic of conversation. I continued to look toward the front of the checkout line, impatiently wanting to hide in the darkest corner of a room.

You see, I have had persistent severe acne since 2008. When I would wake up in the morning, I would turn off the bathroom light before I enter because I was just too afraid to look in the mirror. My computer desk was crowded with acne relief products such as Pro-Active, Clean and Clear, herbal spot treatments, and all sorts of regimens. You name it, I’ve tried it. While they all claimed to “set me free,” all they did were irritate my skin more and more.

“You should wash your face with soap,” my schoolmate advised me. Yes indeed hygiene is important, but little did he understand that acne is also predominantly caused by hormonal imbalances, diet, stress, and genetics, something that I have no control over. Acne had greatly lowered my self-esteem and transformed my overall personality. “C’mon Derek, get into the water with us,” my friends convinced me whenever we went to the beach. Despite their efforts, I was not ready to reveal my body acne to the world.

With acne, even standing too close to someone on a crowded train depressed me. I felt like a museum exhibit when I was in public. There were times when I argued with my mom because I was reluctant to go to school due to massive overnight breakouts. “It will go away when you get older” she called. Not swayed, I yelled back, “Then I’ll go to school when I get older!”

When I entered high school, I started to have less and less time to focus on my acne problems. It gradually seemed to me that my acne was only as worse as I thought it to be.

When I looked into the mirror, I was only looking at the epithelial. The world is not a mirror; it doesn’t only evaluate me based on my blemishes, my enlarged pores, or my emerging army of breakouts. Indeed people will notice my pimples here and there, but they will also notice my grey hair, my toned body, my confident eyes, and my charming smile. That is what makes up the world: diversity. Different is good, different is unique; well, at least that’s what my biology teacher said when he taught evolution.

Anyhow, the acne experience did help me realize how minimal my teenage acne story can be when compared to other life struggles. I am sure that someone experiencing starvation would rather have acne than to struggle for food. Spotting new breakouts in the morning should never be a reason to quit school; rather, it should be the reason to uphold a positive attitude and a firm belief that one day my skin will clear.

After all, who gives a hoot about my “trenches” if I don’t bury myself into them first, right? Acne, I truly appreciate your life lesson. You were always there when I never needed you. Just remember that you’re not welcomed for a re-visit.

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