As a teen, I had acne. NO SHIT. Almost all teens get acne.
Having said that, I will let you guys know immediately that I will NOT be posting any photos on this post of acne. Yay! You’re saved from that nasty hormonal grossness that most of us have been through! So anyways, I had acne. BAD. I had it all over my poor reddened, pimple covered face. Also, I had acne on my shoulders and back. I had zits here and there and everywhere as most teens do. What I also had though, was something that is called Keloid Scars. A keloids is a growth of extra scar tissue where the skin has healed after an injury. This problem is more common in people ages 10 to 20, and in African Americans, Asians, and Hispanics. Keloids also often run in families. So basically on top of your scar, is another, puffy, welt looking scar, resembling a burn scar. Lucky me right? How did all this come about? Well it started with the acne naturally and then just turned ugly and permanently left me with little reminders all over my shoulders and back. Thankfully though, my face was left wonderfully clear! I have a story to tell, and it won’t be pretty, so here is my warning now, if you get squeamish like I do, leave now please to save your stomach the pain of having to endure this puberty-rich story, and I plan on using my most gruesome terms in my vocabulary of course.
So you know, around the age of 10 or 11 it started. The tell-tale little nasty pustules began appearing. I would scrub my face and put makeup over the things, but their was no stopping them. No matter what I tried to rid myself of them, nothing helped. And then…my mom caught me trying to hide something one day as I was walking wrapped in a towel from the bathroom to my bedroom.
“Sarah! What is that?” she said.
“Uh what?” said my stupid teen self back, acting as though I had no clue what the hell she was talking about.
She pulled my in by finally getting a good look at my face and shoulders and what I had been hiding was something that I never should have hidden in the first place from my own mother. I had acne not only on my face, but on my back and shoulders as well. It was bad to say the very least. My towel had splotches of blood on it from where I had the worst ones. I had to explain to her that they would bleed every time I would shower and wash myself because the skin was so very thin and would break open each time I’d wash. Each time I would dry my body off with my towel, I would rub them and irritate them further and the blood would get all over. Also, I ended up having to show her that my bras and t-shirts would get blood on them and would sometimes get stuck to my skin because during class at school, I’d be still for so long that the blood would dry and fuse the fabric to my skin. Each time this would happen I’d have to rip it apart from me. In high school it was a common thing to hug your friends, and yet for me this was not possible. I would always tell people to not touch me when they would lean in for a hug, or touch me in any way. Sometimes I became very angry because of this and would wear large baggy clothing to try and ease my pain and feel at least a little more comfortable with what was going on in my mind as well as with my body. I was in pain so often and told no one.
Upon my mom finding me out, she began by taking me straight to the doctor to see if their was something to be done about this bad acne that was causing so much harm, both physically and mentally. The doctor started trying different creams and ointments on me like “Retin-A Micro” and other antibiotic ointments. I felt like every doctor visit was something new to try out. Month after month, I went to my primary care doctor until I was finally referred to a dermatologist nearby. Same thing, I was to try out the external medicines and keep my skin clean with whatever was the latest cleanser for my face and back and yet nothing seemed to help. My mom was also trying her own little things on my skin like witch hazel and other natural remedies at home. Not a difference at all. This went on from maybe 7th grade into freshman year in high school.
When I reached about 15 years of age the dermatologist I was seeing decided to start me on an oral medication which was the strongest drug at the time in the world of medicine for acne and it was called Accutane. Isotretinoin (trade name: Accutane) is a powerful drug used in the treatment of acne. Four to five months of Accutane treatment usually leads to clearing of acne so they said, but in rare cases it could take up to a year and a half. The most damaging side effect of Accutane is serious birth defects if taken during pregnancy. It is critically important for women not to take Accutane while pregnant, and not to become pregnant while taking it. My dermatologist was to start my treatment as soon as I began taking birth control. AT THE AGE OF 15. I was then sent to a gynecologist for the first time in my life.
My Gynecologist was very nice and talked to me about sex a little and about the pill before she could allow me to begin taking it. I was also to undergo a Pap Smear for the first time and blood test beforehand to test my hormone levels and to make sure I was healthy and had no infections of any sort. Turns out my hormone levels were way off and this was cause for a majority of my acne problems aside from it running in my family of course. I was cleared about a week later and returned to my dermatologist with a clean bill of health along with my prescription for birth control, and each time I was to start a round of the drug Accutane, they would also have me take a pregnancy test to make sure that I wouldn’t be causing my child any defects should I get pregnant. I understood why everything was happening and I was ready to be free of all this pain and blood and ugly festering skin blemishes on my body.
All this and by my side was my mother, quiet and making sure I had all things taken care of and I made it to all my appointments and that I took all the right steps along the way. I began at last to take the drug called Accutane.
On the website of the Food and Drug Administration is a PDF Medication Guide for Accutane which states that: Serious mental health problems may occur. Accutane may cause: depression, psychosis (seeing or hearing things that are not real), and suicide. Some patients taking Accutane have had thoughts about hurting themselves or putting an end to their own lives (suicidal thoughts). Some people tried to end their own lives. And some people have ended their own lives.
Little did I know that I would be one of the ones who would be so affected by these side effects. And I was. I became very depressed and had many thoughts about suicide. I did not ever once self harm or drive myself to actually consider ending my own life, however, the thoughts were always there. I was on Accutane for a year and a half. My acne cleared. Eventually my depression did as well as I was helped out by my friends with this and because my pain was finally gone. I was able to interact with my friends normally once again and could allow them to touch me and hug me should they wish to. Senior year I was left with practically no acne and a smile on my face. But at what cost? Was it worth all the jumping through hoops to get there? Could I have outgrown the severe acne by myself?
My dermatologist finally decided it was time to discuss the keloid scars that had developed on my skin. The only treatments that were available at that time were injecting of the scars with corticosteroid injections one at a time to try and treat them, or send me to an alternate specialist to see what they could do. I did not want to go through the injections because they’d be painful as well as expensive. My mom took me to the alternate physician and he informed me that he could do nothing for me as he gasped in shock when I showed him my shoulders covered in the scars. He told me that their was an experimental study running in Los Angeles to do laser treatments to remove scarring such as this.
I looked him square in the eye and asked him “Would the laser treatment be painful?”
He told me that indeed it would. I immediately said no, and my mom and I left that doctor and never returned. As we drove from the office my mother began to silently cry next to me in the car. She pulled over and began sobbing uncontrollably and screaming at me that she wished their was something she could do to take the scars away from me and that she hated that I had to go through all that I had to come out with these hideous marks on my body in the end.
I looked my mother in the eyes and told her that I loved my body and that I loved her for trying so very hard to do all she could for me, but that if I was going to go to college in less than a year, I did not was to be sitting in class or at home and trying to be comfortable and be going through even more pain. I was done trying to rid myself of something that happened naturally when my body healed. I accept my body for what it is and I love my scars. I wear them proudly and she knows this now. I wear tank tops like anyone else, or dresses, or anything in which my scars are exposed and I feel perfectly alright. Thought I can understand why she is so low about such things, I think she has come to accept my decision regardless because I am very happy now. I am so happy with them that whenever someone asks me about them, I have a story to tell about my tough ride with my acne and what I went through to get them. They are my battle scars and I would not be myself without them.