Deep down inside, I am a pimply fat girl.
Although this revelation makes many (The Mr. included) roll their eyes with a deep sigh and “…um, whatever,” the pimply part is not without warrant. From the ages of 15 through 17, and then again from 18 to 20, my skin was terrible.
Terrible, awful, no good, very bad, horrible.
I think that someone else looking at my face back then could have said “disgusting.” I wouldn’t blame them. It was kind of disgusting, especially if they weren’t a fan of pus or scabs.
[Ew and oh no, as I write that I cringe and shake my head. Truth is hard sometimes.]
As life would have it, other people looking at my face back then DID say “disgusting.”
From the ages of 15 through 20 (ish), I struggled with severe, cystic acne. All over my face, down my neck, behind my ears, along my hairline.
It was painful.
Both emotionally and physically it was painful. My heart hurt. My face HURT.
At the start, I received treatment from my family doctor. We tried quite literally every treatment, medication, topical ointment, and procedure available at the time. Mom kept an excel spreadsheet with all the treatments and dates and dosages so we’d have a good idea of what worked and what didn’t. When I switched to an actual dermatologist and took him a copy of the documented information, he said “…WOAH.”
(“Woah,” both because “holy OCD documenting things, Batman,” and “holy shit that’s a lot of stuff that doesn’t work.”)
Without any hesitation, my new dermatologist put me on Accutane.
You know, that one skin drug that was originally marketed for chemotherapy treatment. The skin med that causes Crohn’s Disease, and grows alien head flipper babies if you get pregnant while you take it.
SCARY, I guess, but I honestly didn’t care about those things.
I just wanted a pretty face.
The Accutane worked. Eventually. It took three months for it to clear everything up the first time, and then a second regiment was needed after the acne came back.
After three years and two rounds of treatment, the acne did go away.
The scars remain.
I’m 38 years old now, and it’s been …oh. I can’t even remember the last time I had a pimple on my face. It’s been a looooooooong time.
I still FEEL them, though.
Deep down inside, I still feel like that pimply girl. The one that grew long, straight hair to hide behind. The one that did not ever-never-oh-no pose for any pictures between the age of 15 and 33, because “ew and oh no, everyone will see.” The girl that DID NOT EVER let anyone touch her face, not until she had babies and those tiny, chunky, curious fingers taught her what “touch without judgment” felt like.
The girl that wore pancake-thick makeup to convince herself that “no one can see,” to feed the delusion that “my shame is mine, no one else will notice.”
Now I realize a very harsh, very freeing truth: The only person we fool when we hide is our self.
Nowadays, when life carries me out into the world and I see girls with painful skin that hide behind thick makeup, otherwise wholesome, pretty girls with normal skin that hide behind false eyelashes and fingernails and lipstick and low cut shirts and high cut hemlines, men with comb-overs to hide bald spots, women that hide inside of clothing that accentuates their waning sexuality, I see myself when I was 15 and afraid and ashamed.
I see fear.
Because really, that’s what it’s all about.
We hide, because we are afraid.
We are afraid that the worst things we think about ourselves are true. We are afraid that we ARE disgusting. We’re afraid that we ARE old. Worthless. Ugly. Past our prime, weak, and frail.
We are afraid that we are unwanted, and we’re afraid that we will die without anyone ever seeing who we really are.
Or that everyone will see EXACTLY who we are.
I’m not sure which is more terrifying.
The truth is, when we hide, all we hide from is our self, and the only thing we actually hide is our reality.
The reality was, I had bad skin.
The reality ALSO was that I was kind. And generous. Intelligent. (Kind of bossy.) Pretty. Giving. Fun. Funny. Loving. Kind of sexy, now that I think about it.
We take the ugliest, harshest, most-failure-feeling parts of ourselves, and while we are in that moment we define ourselves by those things. Why do we do that? Why do we find the one or three or eight things that we perceive to make us faulty, and use those to decide for ourselves who we are?
That’s just so ridiculous.
I have come a long way in confidence since my acne years. I now smile for the camera. I allow The Mr. and my kids to touch my face when they feel like it, without cringing or pulling away. I do not hide behind my hair, it is up and away from my face most of the time. I barely wear makeup anymore, and when I do it’s confined to my eyes and sometimes my mouth.
I still feel scars. I am currently saving up for an erbium laser resurfacing procedure to remove pits and dimples, craters and creases. I do not feel like I need to do that in order to be pretty, I just want to. For closure. To put my past completely behind me. To flex a muscle of control, and effect change over something that I felt completely powerless to for a very long time.
Because I’ll be honest, MAN it feels good to know I can make things better.
Feeling like a powerless victim sucks ass.
And that is the one thing I want you to understand, and the whole point of The Body Image Project.
WE ARE NOT POWERLESS.
We are not victim of our own reality. We are STRONG. We are capable. And oh my goodness, we are so much more than the sum of our fading, fleshy, aesthetic parts.
We are creatures of spirit and light, a bright spark of life carried around in this silly, weird, meat-machine that we’ve put way, way, way too much stock in for way too long.
Our meat-machine really does not matter. Not in the least.
What’s inside of it is all that counts.
Much love to you today, my friend. Keep seeking your truth. Own your reality, and just. keep. going. Share pictures of your skin, all the places you feel like hiding. OWN THEM, so they can no longer own you. No more hiding!
(I’m here in the get-it-out-in-the-open trench with you, and I’ve got cookies!)
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Live every day like it’s your last one. Find yourself, own your truth, and change your whole freaking world. Forge Depth, and never stop digging!