Wendy: My Mental Health Journey with Acne.

“By the time I was a freshman in high school, I had developed painful, cystic acne. I had it all along my cheeks, my jawline, and my temples. Because I would try to pop my acne, my cheeks are where I have the most scarring. There wasn’t a whole lot of readily available education for me on acne at the time, and my dermatologist never talked to me about skin picking, so I kept doing it. Sometimes I would even take needles to my skin. Even though I had a lot of deep nodules that were impossible to pop, I would still sit in front of the mirror and squeeze my skin as hard as I could. So now, in addition to acne scars, I have a lot of white pinch scars around my jawline.”

“I had three siblings, but I was the only one who had acne. On top of that, I was dealing with chronic migraines so my family focused on that more because of the physical pain they saw me going through. I felt very isolated. My migraines were one thing, but as for my acne, people often disregarded it as nothing more than teenage hormones, and it wasn’t really discussed.”

“During those years, high school was not the happiest of times for me. Acne can be totally life-altering, and I had awful social anxiety. Sometimes I would just break down in my dad’s car as he would pull up to my school. I would cry and tell him, “I can’t do this.” He would drive me home, and I would hole up in my room all day. I just felt like - why me? When you’re at an impressionable age, going through all these changes, it’s very depressing when you don’t understand what’s happening to you.”

“In the years that I was actively treating my acne, not a single dermatologist ever brought up my mental health. They would just prescribe me various medications that did not work for me. After years of this, I felt defeated, and in my 20s, I stopped seeing dermatologists to treat my acne. Instead, I started focusing more on what my body could do for me as opposed to what it looked like. I became more neutral about it. By the time I was 28, my skin cleared up on its own.”

“But then, I was left with scars all over my face, and this became a new stress for me. In 2019, I went through a series of microneedling treatments and chemical peels because I wanted to lessen the appearance of my acne scars. At the time, I didn’t mind verbally telling my story, I just didn’t necessarily want my face to tell that story anymore. The treatments helped a little, but I would have needed a lot more to achieve smoother-looking skin. Today, however, my acne scars no longer have the same effect on me as they once did. I recognize my reflection with my scars now, and it’s so important to recognize yourself. The biggest change between myself as a teenager and now is my willingness to step out of my comfort zone and tell my story. I used to fear people looking at me, but now I want people to see who I am, and I want to help others who are also on this journey. I never thought that I would be on social media showing my bare skin and scars, but I actually feel more comfortable in my skin now that I’m not so focused on it.”

“My mission is to advocate for acne and scar representation and to encourage people with chronic skin conditions to prioritize their mental health. I believe therapy should be recommended in tandem with dermatological treatment for acne. Because having the opportunity to work out the emotional challenges which arise from having acne is so impactful, I also want to fight for people to have better access to mental health services.”