I Really Have to Start Taking My Emotional Health Seriously

So, I’ve noticed that I get into this little pattern with my acne.

Every once in a while, I will go through a streak where I won’t eat up to my usual standards, and, frankly, I’ll like it. Usually this happens at some point when it’s inconvenient to eat properly – Christmas, on vacation, etc.

Again, it’s not that I dislike healthy food and love eating it when I’m at home, but the feeling of just eating like a “normal” person for a while and not caring so much about food when it’s not easy to do so is a bit addicting.

And because I usually don’t break out right away during these little streaks, I start getting attached to the idea that maybe I don’t have to try as hard to keep my skin clear. That maybe I really can just eat whatever I want, if needed, and it won’t have consequences.

So I allow myself to go off and be “free” for a bit.

Except I’m not really free at all. Because I’m sitting there waiting for the acne to show up.

And then inevitably it does show up, and then I cry, my boyfriend hugs me and says ‘there there’ and then I come back to reality. It was just too good to be true, wasn’t it? 

I Thought I Was Free – But I Wasn’t

Last week, me, Luke, and a couple of our friends went camping for about 7 days. It was really wonderful. We had the most gorgeous (and free!) campsite overlooking the ocean, the islands, and the mountains. We hiked, rode our bikes, and played board games every night.

I really did have a great time.

The view from our campsite

My friends playing a rousing game of Blokus

And what about the food, you say?

Well, luckily, my friends all agreed we wanted to eat good food, and not just hot dogs. All three of them are kayak guides and wanted to practice making fancy meals for a group, as they are supposed to do when out on tour. So we decided that each one of us would choose two dinners for the week that you were in charge of planning, buying for, and cooking for everyone.

Of course, recently being inspired by all this talk about “intuitive eating“, I was perfectly okay with all this. I was really pleased that we were going to be sharing some nice meals instead of mystery meat in white buns, but I knew it still meant lots of deviations from my regular, healthy menu since it meant letting other people be in charge.

I knew it also meant buying and eating more processed foods, even on my part, because it’s just so much more convenient when you’re away from your own kitchen.

And it also probably might mean some sweet desserts too, just because.

But hey – it’s cool! I can handle this!

In fact, I was excited. Here was a chance to put my “lowered food fears” to the test. See if I can really get away with eating this way for a week, not stress about it, and not have it result in a big ugly stress zit.

Did It Work?

Nope.

It seems as though that I can successfully not worry about my skin for about the length of one weekend away, but anything longer than that, and it becomes a major struggle not to worry.

As I said, I really did have a good time, and it was really nice not to stress about the minute details and just enjoy the food. But I still had my skin on my mind, as much as I tried to push the thought away. I really didn’t want to think about it, but I still did. I enjoyed myself, but at the back of my mind, the message “You can enjoy yourself, but there will be a price. When will it show itself?” pounded.

And of course, the day after I got back, I started getting a big painful, swelly type of pimple. I rarely, if ever, get pimples like that anymore. And that makes it so much worse – if the zit is worse than normal, it’s extra fear inducing and an “obvious” sign that it was my frivolous week away that was the cause of this.

So I cried.

I cried because I feel trapped by my own head.

I feel like I bring it on myself. That I manifest my own acne. What you resist persists – so why would I not expect acne to show up when I’m sitting there waiting for it… expecting it?

The stupid thing in my logical brain, a bit of acne isn’t even so bad anymore!

I have gotten to the point where I completely accept that no one cares, they like me for who I am, you can still be beautiful with acne, my boyfriend doesn’t give a shit, and I can even now (almost) see past any acne when I look in the mirror and see the beautiful person underneath, and not just the flaws and random red marks here and there (you know, the ones that only we see when we look at our own faces, but no one else does).

If I want to, I can now not wear makeup in front of people confidently, or, if I am particularly bothered by a spot, I can put a dab of makeup on and make it go away and literally no one would ever know (so really, there’s absolutely no need to stress over a pimple or two). I even stopped wearing mascara recently and actually feel beautiful without it – which is pretty surprising to me.

But the problem is that, emotionally, I’ve turned acne into something bigger than it is.

I’ve made it my mission to end acne. I’ve waged this mega war on it. I’ve made it such a big part of my daily life via this blog, that it’s practically impossible to just forget about it and let go.

So when I get acne, even if I am (mostly) no longer bothered about what other people think about it as per the paragraph above, it still feels like a big punch in the stomach. Before my severe acne and this blog, I was perfectly comforted by being able to cover up my mild to moderate acne with a bit of makeup. I knew that if I got a pimple, I could just cover it up and be on my way. No need to think about it incessantly since most of the time, other people couldn’t see it.

But now, just the presence of it at all drives me up the wall. Covering it up isn’t nearly as much comfort as it had been because it’s so much more personal now.

So it’s that – the frustration of still having acne at all after all the effort I put in – and also knowing that it’s likely just a paradox. The more I think about it, the more stress that causes, and the more it shows up. Yet I can’t stop thinking about it. AAHHHHH

And then of course there’s still the emotional pain to combine with this mega-acne-fighting-mission… the haunting memory of my broken heart when my skin was so bad. I don’t know how to get down deep and get rid of that so that I am not always shrouded in fear. I notice that if I get a particularly bothersome spot now, it revs up the exact same feelings as that broken little girl who feels like she is drowning in acne as it only gets worse and worse.

When I think back to my severe acne episode, the one memory that always pops up is this:

My severe acne started on my forehead. After two or three weeks of this horrendous breakout not clearing, and the serious stress that it induced, to my absolute horror, it began to spread down my face. My chin and smile lines began breaking out severely too and it was more than I could handle.

One night, as things with my skin were just beginning to really escalate, my then-boyfriend slept over. Because I had never ever discussed or mentioned my acne to him due to embarrassment, and I already had self esteem issues when it came to him, it was SO, so, sooo stressful to have him be there at all, what with the state I was in. All I could think about was how it was possible that he wasn’t absolutely disgusted by my skin. It shot my stress levels through the roof.

As we lied there that night listening to my roommates have a very annoying punk rock party in the living room, I couldn’t sleep a wink. It wasn’t even the punk music, although it didn’t help – all that was on my mind was the huge pimples forming on my chin as the acne began to get even worse than it was. I couldn’t believe this was happening – how was it getting worse??!? How could this be happening to me? I really did feel like I was drowning.

When I woke up in the morning to go to work and tried to apply makeup to cover my erupting skin, I couldn’t take it anymore and I broke down weeping in front of the mirror and confessed it all to him.

Even now when I think about that episode, I get a little teary eyed. It was definitely the lowest point in my acne saga, as it’s the one that stands out in my head so vibrantly. And it’s clearly a memory that continues to colour my world – the fear that a little bit of acne will inevitably turn to more acne is what gets me every time I get a few zits, even if I logically know that they are meaningless. Even if I logically know it’s highly unlikely that my skin will break out in severe acne again.

I know this memory and emotional pain needs to be taken care of.

Even if I had to live with mild acne for the rest of my life, all I really want at this point is just to not care about it. For it not to send me into fits of fear every single time. After all, happiness is what I truly want, and I know that happiness is completely possible even with acne.

But how do I do this? What is the best course of action to get there?

Obviously just connecting the dots and identifying the problem logically does not seem to actually remove the emotional pain. Sure, it’s definitely helpful to know what the problem is – but we could psychoanalyze forever. Is simply being aware of the problem really going to fix anything??

So far my evidence points to no. If you’ve got deep rooted “stuff” going on, you actually have to do something in order to heal, otherwise you’ll just keep doing the same things over and over again (just like I do!)

And to be honest, I have lots of tricks up my sleeve for all this. I’ve dabbled in many self administered things – meditation, emotional freedom technique, the emotion code, breathing techniques, yoga etc.

I’ll confess that my problem is almost definitely just consistency though – I know that healing emotionally takes commitment, much like improving your diet – and I admit to being WAY less than consistent with emotional healing techniques.

As you may know, I simply find it a lot easier to funnel my emotional issues into controlling my food, instead of making the point to stay consistent and persistent and actually TRYING to get to the bottom of the problems in my head instead of making excuses, and therefore, making my life harder than it needs to be.

What I would really like to do (when I can afford it) is go to see someone that could help me, if nothing more than just to get me motivated. A professional. But I’m not even sure where to start with that as funds are limited and I don’t want to waste my money. What is the best type of therapy for what I need (ie. remove a fear that’s dug itself deep in my psyche)? Hypnosis? Energy Healing? Reiki? What else?

In the meantime, I’d like to delve in as much as I can into simple emotional healing techniques that I can do at home, and over the next while, I would like to share with you what I find.

Do you have any suggestions? Do you have experience with emotional healing modalities and techniques – whether ones you can do at home, or seeing professional healers – and what did you find? What have you found is the most effective for you?

photo by kalexanderson

Comments

  1. Shantess says

    Hi Tracy! Thanks for sharing. Yes, it’s frustrating and scary, isn’t it? When things seem to be a ok on the skin front and then suddenly it gets a bit worse (if if it’s “just” one), we don’t see it as just “one” pimple. Maybe that’s all it ever was going to be but then we start obsessing, and worrying, and stressing, and maybe even picking or attacking it, and then next thing you know, the “one” probably innocent-enough pimple becomes 2, 3, etc (or like 7, 8, or 9 if your skin is anything like me).

    In terms of getting some “professional” help with this, I think the most important thing to consider is whether or not it’s something that you think you can buy into and see some value in. For example, accupuncture has been well-researched and has been shown to be helpful for many thing. However, if someone finds it silly and doesn’t think it will help, it probably won’t. Also, I work in the mental health profession and it’s very “medical model”. I would generally dissaude anyone from seeing a psychologist or traditional therapist for something like this because frankly, I don’t think they’ll get it. I could be wrong though so I don’t want to generalize. Have you considered or heard of mindfulness?? Maybe do some research on it. It’s main premise is basically “that which you focus on become bigger” so it tries to help people refocus and see things as they are (instead of how big our minds amke them out to be). Jon Kabat-Zinn’s books are probably a good resource.

    Good luck!

    • Tracy says

      Thanks Shantess!

      I definitely agree with what you say about finding something that you believe in. I realize that many people think all this “energy healing” stuff is a bit woo woo and not legit, and if you do think that, then there is really no point in going to see someone from that realm of work. I do think it’s legit.

      I also agree regular ol therapists or psychologists probably aren’t going to get it – I actually wasn’t referring to this type of medical professional when I said professional….. now that you’ve said that I realize I should have been more clear about that! haha… I just meant “professional’ as in… someone who does energy healing as a career, I guess.

      Anyway.. hopefully I can find someone to help, because I do believe in these forms of energy work, buuut, I think I may be skeptical that everyone who practices them is actually skilled in them (I don’t know why I think that, but I do).

      I’m leaning towards trying either hypnosis (because I have a hypnosis friend, although I’m not sure he’s in canada now. Also, I think this might be the best thing to target the haunting memories in the subconscious), or reiki, because there’s a woman who does it in my town who is a friend of a friend, personally recommended sort of thing. Hopefully at some point I’ll get to try both.

  2. Kamran says

    I really feel for you with being stuck in your head.

    I feel like worrying about your health can be one of the most unhealthy things to do, ironically.

    My favorite thing to do for mental health is meditation with Lifeflow. Lifeflow is a bunch of audio tracks designed to physiologically relax your brain which enhances meditation. It’s a fun tool to use, but definitely not necessary.

    Ultimately though, no matter how many tricks or techniques you do, if you are TRYING to escape your emotions, if you are TRYING to not feel bad, if you are TRYING not to feel stress…well…the feeling is always going to exist in the background at some level. Realize, it’s not the feeling itself, but it’s the wanting to escape a feeling that makes things feel so stressful.

    You cannot do anything to control your emotions. Does this frighten you? Good! That means you’ve hit a major root of your issues. When an emotion comes up, you can’t ever MAKE it go away. Whatever you try to do seems to just add to the stress. You’ve never made an emotion go away, you’ve become numb to its presence over time.

    This makes things seem hopeless, but there will be a point where you realize that this is actually great. Controlling your emotions is so exhausting. Letting your emotions just take their course lessens the pain, and stops you from holding on to it and letting it fester.

    Facing your fears head on is simple, but amazing advice, in my opinion. Just totally letting the raw energy be felt out. It hurts so good :)

    I suppose I can finish with an anecdote.

    Yesterday, my cousin said something to me that made me realize how much I could become a nervous wreck around women. It really annoyed me, and I knew that him pressuring me doesn’t help my case at all. I’ve resolved a lot of issues emotionally in the past, but this was one of those lingering issues. I didn’t want to hold on to this issue any longer and realized that I’m going to deal with all of the fear and uncertainty NOW for AS LONG AS IT TAKES.

    I went to go volunteer at the hospital, and forced myself to say Hi to every woman that walked by, each time arousing a dormant fear within me. I let that fire burn. I let it burn hot. It was nerve-wracking, but that was the point! It was the point to let that all out. It felt awful. I didn’t know if I was doing it right sometimes, and sometimes I felt as if the fear didn’t have control over me. It was a bunch of ups and downs. But I rolled with it as best as I could. I felt awful the entire day.

    I woke up this morning and felt like… women were no problem to talk to. Like they were normal people, just like me. Logically, I knew this, absolutely. That didn’t help emotionally, however. It took me just taking a beating from my fear and pushing through and doing things I was scared of anyway for it to eventually pass and for me to realize what I’d known logically.

    I get really wordy when it comes to this stuff, but it can be summed up fairly easily. Just feel it. Feel it full on. Do your best to not deny things or feed them. Just… be afraid! Lol :)

    I’ll just leave this here too:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9yG2INLOgdA

  3. Caitlin Grace says

    Hi, Its amazing that we can take a small thing and blow it into a huge personal crisis and as you mentioned others probably don’t even notice it.
    I am an EFT therapist and I know you mentioned that you have used it yourself, sometimes the guidance of a therapist can help you to delve deeper into what is really going on. From reading your blog I would say that it comes down to an issue of self confidence and believing that people only value you for your looks therefore if your looks are marred then you are not worthy. Thats just an educated assessment and not meant as a judgement of who you are btw! I hope this helps.

    • Tracy says

      Hi Caitlin – I agree, I have thought about that – I have found EFT to be pretty effective in actually taking the curb off strong emotions, but I have yet to figure out yet how to get to the root of the problem with it. I was thinking an EFT therapist would probably be of value. It’s high on my list of people to go see, anyway.

      Also, I agree with you about self confidence/only having value in looks thing. I’ve always had a bit of a perfectionist problem, so it’s hard to not be “perfect”.

    • Tracy says

      Also, do you have a website for your business/EFT therapy? Can you do consultations over skype or is it more effective in person?

  4. Lila says

    Sad when we feel “abnormal” when we are at the mercy of others dietary habits. I find that I have viral outbreaks when I eat foods that cause my body to become acidic.
    Have you ever tried EFT? I like the fact that it is all about getting the unwanted emotions out of you…this was initially a hard concept to grasp because most of us are so used to just covering up those feelings, once I realized how therapeutic it was to get them out of my system, it became easy to replace them with the emotions I actually want to have in my life.
    I appreciate all that L vitamin you share, thanx :)

    • Tracy says

      Thanks Lila!

      Yes, I’ve tried it… I tried it a long time ago, and I’m revisiting it now. I do find that it really does work to immediately get rid of a strong emotion. I have yet to figure out how to use it to remove the deep seated “emotional programming” or “repressed memories” or whatever you want to call it

  5. Sampson says

    I don’t think it’s exactly unnatural to feel like you need to get rid of the acne (or any health problem for that matter) or that it represents something negative.

    In essence, at its most fundamental level it DOES represent something “negative” because it indicates that our body is out of balance.

    Tracy, do you know who Terrence McKenna is? I’ll send you an email with some stuff that I found extremely enlightening and useful, but some of it is a bit Rated R so I won’t post it on your blog publicly.

    • Tracy says

      Lol – yes I know Terrence McKenna – send me the R rated stuff! :D

      Also, yes, that is generally how I feel – acne is there because there’s a health issue. Something isn’t right. So that frustrates me and I desire it to be gone. But if stressing and thinking about it makes it worse and sends you MORE off balance….. agh. What to do.

  6. Lily says

    I think that when we dwell on something negative (or positive), when we constantly fear or anticipate it happening, to a certain extent, we tend to make it reality. I know it sounds like magical thinking at a first glance, but it’s not just one of the premises of magic. When we imagine something over and over, we tend to create a blueprint for our brain to act upon. Our bodies respond accordingly with behaviour, and even good or poor health. It’s easy to think all that talk about positive thinking is a gimmick, and that it makes no difference whether we’re optimistic or pessimistic, because things in life aren’t affected by it. But many times they are self-fulfilling prophecies. So how on earth do we stop negative thoughts?

    Usually our thoughts are accompanied by feelings, and we habitually respond with them when faced with a negative life event. Yes, feelings are habits too! If we repeatedly felt afraid or sad or guilty when something bad happened in the past, then we’ve established a response pattern. Neurons that fire together wire together, and if we associate a specific event with an emotion many times, a new neural pathway is born. I believe it’s this habitual nature of negative emotion and thinking that makes it so hard to break. It’s almost as hard to break as a smoking habit.

    That being said, I strongly believe that true love, including self-love, can heal any emotional wounds. But yet it’s easy to say that we love ourselves, that we deserve to be loved, that we are worthy of love, that we don’t have to be perfect or ‘good enough’ to deserve it. Yet how is it that no matter how many people love us, we still don’t feel the same way about ourselves deep, deep down? We burden ourselves with expectations, and become harshly critical when we don’t meet our inner image of what is ideal. We set unreachable standards and then feel guilty for ‘having failed’ to meet them. We then take on even more stuff to try to prove ourselves.

    Why do we never give ourselves a break? Maybe we had perfectionist family members who only praised us when we did something good and looked uninterested when we didn’t. Maybe it’s the media which shapes our culture’s beauty standards always with the sole purpose of making money. Maybe it’s fairy tales like Cinderella and Snow White that tell us that what is beautiful is good and what is ‘ugly’ is bad. Maybe it’s all the people who brought us down throughout the years in order to bring up their own fragile egos. Maybe it’s everything, but we can’t possibly be blamed for internalising it all. And if we don’t have love from other people, we fool ourselves that this is simply what we deserve for not being good enough. We hear a voice in our head saying Ovid’s ancient words ‘To be loved, be lovable’. And we ask ourselves, are we lovable? What do we even have to do to become lovable? Is love something that has to be earned then? So we try and try and try to be lovable, worthy, deserving. After all, isn’t love the most important thing we want?

    But in the process we deprive ourselves of self-love. No, we don’t have to earn love. It’s so hard to believe that being human is enough to make us worthy of love. Almost impossible to accept. And yet, without accepting this with our whole being, and giving ourselves the self-love we so much deserve, it’s hard for any of us to be fully happy.

    This is my anthem when I feel down http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l6p0LNkITQo. Would like to send lots of love to everyone reading this blog! :) You all deserve it 100%.

  7. Josee says

    Hi Tracy,
    I’m 34 years old. My skin was completely clear until I broke up with my boyfriend, a 7 years relationship. It was a very hard for me and I got a HUGE breakout. I know the cause of my acne was only emotional. It’s been a year now and I still get a few pimples here and there. However, my skin is soooo much better than it was. I’m doing yoga nidra. It’s a kind of guided meditation. You should give a try. It helped me a lot. Like they say “yoga nidra is the art of getting out of your own way”.

  8. Erin says

    Hey Tracy! Thanks for some more excellent insight!Before I go into detail about my question(s), I’ll just start from the beginning. First may I say that I’m only 17 years old, and although I don’t really qualify as an adult (and your website is more for help in treating adult acne), I love your understanding and open attitude and the comfort I gain from knowing that if my acne does continue into adulthood, I will know how to handle it. Anyway, back to the beginning. So when I was about 12 or so, I started getting some mild acne on my forehead. I felt really self conscious about it, as none of my friends had ever had more than a pimple or two, and I had all of these little skin colored bumps all over my forehead. So we went to the dermitologist, who wrote me a perscription for a clindamycin/tretinoin gel that he guarenteed would clear everything up in just two weeks. I had no such luck, but still managed to convince myself, when those skin-colored bumps turned not-so-skin-colored, that without this gel, my acne would be ten times worse than it was. A few years passed and my acne continued to progress, and somewhere along the way my parents went through a very drawn out, emotionally complicated period of conflict that is yet to be settled, which probably exacerbated the problem. When I was 15, I found out about, yep, benzoyl peroxide through my best friend, who had had enormous success with it. So I went out and got me some 10% (maximum strength, which I think was a mistake) bp gel, and in about two weeks, my skin was positively glowing. I found a pimple now and then during my numerous trips to the bathroom mirror after school, and popped it (Before bp, I had never actually popped any of my pimples, probably because there were just so many. Sorry to get so graphic on you :p). It continued to work well for about nine months, until I started noticing some hyperpigmentation on my forehead, and a few months later, the skin colored bumps slowly started to appear. My acne began to become more noticeable, significantly so before my period, which is probably normal, and I started to feel like I was slipping back into That scared little hole that I had dug.
    Now, about a year and a half later, I continue to stress about it. I would love to hear your thoughts on how emotional stress could affect adolescent acne =)
    Thanks for everything!

    • Erin says

      P.S. I am also a 2nd degree Reiki practitioner. It definately helps in calming myself down when I get insomnia and other times when I get worked up. I have found that, at least for me, reiki does not spontaniously cure emotional problems, or even fix them over time, but rather it helps me come to terms with what is causing them and lets me confront them fully. But it sounds like your emotional problems are of a different nature; they soung soully rooted within yourself, whereas mine are rooted in my environment.

      You have three aspects of wellness, all intwined and deeply interconnected; physical wellbeing (how healthy your material body is), emotional wellbeing (your ability to understand the value of your emotions and use them to move your life forward in a positive direction. It involves identifying, building upon, and operating from your strengths rather than trying to fix problems or weaknesses, something that is waaaay harder than it sounds :P), and spiritual wellbeing (harmony with yourself and others, while working to balance your inner needs with the rest of the world. Spiritual wellness, despite the numerous misconceptions, does not have to have anything to do with religion. Some people choose to mesh them together, others don’t. It’s a very individual thing.). Spiritual and emotional wellness are more closely linked than the former and physical wellness, but through emotional wellness spiritual wellness is able to directly impact physical wellness. Am I being really confusing here? Let me put it this way; if you are at peace with your relationship with yourself and the world, you will be happy (and less stressed out :D), and if you are happy, it will show up in your body; you won’t succumb to as many physical ailments. Example A: Acne.

      But finding complete spiritual wellness isn’t all unicorns and rainbows and glitter, alot of people go their whole lives searching for it and never find it. Some people don’t even realize anything is missing, but if it is, it impacts them on a unconcious level, which carries over in a surprisingly intense way. This is where reiki, and other forms of energy work, come in. It heals on a spiritual level. This is not to say that it will cure all of your problems. I guess you could say it’s like medicines that treat AIDS, they can treat the illness but not cure it. Fortunatlely, spiritual problems are not incurable, but we do have to do some of the work in fixing them. Reiki simply helps us realize that they are there, come to terms with them, and find a way to work them out.

      Hope that helped! Here is one of many helpful websites about reiki:
      http://www.reiki.org/FAQ/FAQHomepage.html

    • Tracy says

      Hi Erin – I think that the same factors that affect adult acne can affect teenage acne. You might have a slight disadvantage since teenagers normally have raging hormones, but hormones are influenced by the health of the body in general. They can definitely be moderated by improving your lifestyle – and if for you emotional and self esteem and stress issues are a big problem, then I do think working on them would help, along with diet changes!

      Also, thank you for the explanation about reiki – I have never known a lot about it or for what it’s specific purpose is best for. I appreciate that.

  9. says

    Hi Tracy! Acne sucks, doesn’t it :)

    I can definitely understand the pressure of needing to have perfect skin because you run a public acne blog or website. Otherwise you feel like cheating. Over time I’ve grown a bit out of that. Simply because I realized that there’s so much about acne we just can’t do anything about.

    It’s become quite clear to me that the alt-med crowd are just blindingly wrong when it comes to acne. Many of them generally see it as toxins escaping the body or some other flaw to be fixed. Like all good fallacies this one also has a grain of truth to it. But the big omission is genes. Because of genes the acne-prone skin is far more sensitive to hormones that then cause excess sebum production, skin cell growth and boost inflammation in response to bacteria on the skin.

    Now, there’s a lot we can do about this. With smart diet and lifestyle changed we can reduce inflammation and stabilize those hormones. And with good topical treatments we can mitigate the genetic sensitivities on the skin. And figuring out the foods you are allergic and sensitive can help a lot. But are these enough to completely eradicate acne, to cure it? I seriously doubt it. At least for a large number of people. There are always individual outliers and when we look at these success stories we tend to feel like failures.

    I’m by no means saying we shouldn’t do anything about acne or that there’s nothing we can do about it. Quite the contrary. When you know what you are doing you can really cut down on the severity of your acne, maybe even get rid of it completely. What I’m saying is what we should stop worrying about the occasional small pimple that shows up.

    Perhaps, by sticking to an ultra strict diet, we can stop even those. But is it really worth it? That’s for each of us to ponder and answer in our own heads. But for me the answer is no. My girlfriend is pretty much addicted to ice cream and Thailand has way too many yummy foods to give away just to avoid the occasional pimple. I really don’t want to let some crazy diet create problems in my relationship.

    Moving on to diet and emotions. Perhaps you already figured this out, but I’m going to say it just in case you didn’t. When you try to sort through your emotions it’s helpful to figure out what you are really afraid. I know you aren’t really afraid of a pimple popping up but what it means to you and your life. People are generally afraid of the consequences – rather than a simple pimple. If you try to work on your fears of those consequences you might get better results.

    One final thing. When I was doing research on my gut-skin axis post and reading about probiotics, I came across some studies about topical probiotics. At least one study showed that topical probiotics inhibited substance P expression on the skin. Substance P is the neurotransmitter that mediates the damage stress and anxiety causes on the skin. It causes sebum production and inflammation on the skin. This is where yogurt mask could help, especially if you use home made yogurt. Though I have to say these are just preliminary studies, so we can’t say for sure. I think it’s worth a shot anyway :)

    • Shantess says

      I just wanted to say that I think this is an excellent post. I especially agree with the “fear” aspect. This was bang on – it’s not a stupid, innocent pimple we’re afraid of, it’s what (we think) it represents.

  10. Hannah says

    Hey Tracey,

    It looks like you’ve been bombarded with comments, and no wonder – acne is something so many people can relate to!

    This last comment by Seppo caught my eye though, and I have to say, I totally agree about the genes thing.

    I’ve had acne since I was about 11 or 12 (I am now 23), and so did my Mum, until she was well into her thirties, which sucks.

    When my acne made me so depressed that I couldn’t get out of bed to go to school in the morning, my Mum finally did something drastic and put me on Roaccatane. I was on it for almost two years, and my skin was the clearest it’s ever been, but at a price – I was definitely not stable.

    I’ve literally tried everything, and, sadly, the only thing that has seemed to make a big difference so far is medication.

    Anyway, it’s been worse than ever lately, so I’ve just started looking into probiotics, like Seppo:

    “When I was doing research on my gut-skin axis post and reading about probiotics, I came across some studies about topical probiotics. At least one study showed that topical probiotics inhibited substance P expression on the skin. Substance P is the neurotransmitter that mediates the damage stress and anxiety causes on the skin. It causes sebum production and inflammation on the skin. This is where yogurt mask could help, especially if you use home made yogurt.”

    I heard about all this stuff from a guy I know who’s helping to produce a new film called Have You Got the Guts to be Really Healthy, based on a book under the same name, which then led me research by All Disease Begin in the Gut, and now I’m hooked on the idea this will help my (or anyone’s) acne problems, and I’m excited to get into it… I’ve been down this road before though, so I’m trying not to go in with too much expectation, in case I’m let down again!

    But like you said, thinking about it and consuming yourself with it isn’t helping the problem.. So whenever I try something new I try not to think “I have acne I want to get rid of”, and try and just think “clear skin clear skin clear skin.” Or is that still thinking about acne? Argh!

    Well, that’s my ramble on my own personal struggle with this annoying skin disorder.

    All the best!

    Hannah K

    • Tracy says

      Thanks for sharing Hannah – I guess I’m lucky because I get a soapbox to share all my rambles! Lol – everyone should feel free to share theirs here.

      Anyway – I totally agree that anything that can improve digestion is likely to help with acne, but yeah…. its also never a good idea to get too emotionally attached to the outcome I suppose… I like your idea of focusing on clear skin instead of acne :) haha not sure if it’s the same thing or not, but I do hear people say that you should focus on what you want and not on what you don’t want, so I think that qualifies!

  11. LJ says

    This is such a moving post, I connect so much with how you feel.

    Personally, I found seeing a counsellor very unhelpful. She didn’t connect the person who was in front of her with the emotions I was expressing – I want to iterate strongly that I’ve never had severe acne, but I’ve had it moderate to mild and I haven’t left the house without full makeup on for 6 years now. I look like I’m confident – I have long blonde hair and wear full makeup and expensive jewellery and clothes – but it’s all a complete cover for how I feel inside, which is deeply insecure and ugly. A large part of this is my skin, with it’s nasty texture and blotchiness. As I explained to the counsellor that I had no friends, no confidence, that I isolate myself so that nobody can see my face, she just had no response. I left feeling worse than before, because it made me feel like I was beyond help.
    I then tried art therapy – this is one thing I think could interest you, because you seem to be a very creative person. There was no pressure to verbally express anything, you can just create. At first I felt even worse, because I wasn’t confident at all with my art ability – I can’t draw, but I realised a pattern – always saying to myself I’m not good enough, all of it linking back to my appearance – its not good enough, so I’m just a total failure. Following through the art therapy though I really learned a lot about myself and I liked how much more relaxed it was than paying for the timed slot of a professional.
    I’m not saying that seeing a counsellor or a psychiatrist won’t work for anyone – I know a lot of people who have really worked through their issues in that way.

    I really wish you all the best, as I said, I really feel similar to you when you link breakouts to that ‘trigger’ moment. I think, even without realising it, I do this too – I link all the blemishes I get to the worst moments for me, the traumatic memories. You aren’t alone and you’ve come so far with your confidence, it’s really inspirational and I personally look forward to being able to feel the way you do about yourself, recognising your inner and outer beauty, so don’t get too down about the journey you’re on because you really and truly have achieved so much.

    • Tracy says

      Thanks for sharing your experiences LJ! Interesting stuff.

      ALso thanks for the encouragement. I really do think I have come a long way, and it’s only a matter of time before I fully go all the way to acceptance or wherever it is that I need to go.

  12. Annie says

    I really appreciate this piece, Tracy. That shame and constant ruminating about acne is definitely by far the worst part of having it. I know the whole point is to become more at peace and confident, but I also want to remind you that you’ve helped SO many people to take control of what we are putting into our bodies AND our hearts, and I, for one, feel incredibly grateful that you have made this your personal mission/war. I hear you on the emotional thing though; if even after beating the real problem, little tiny problems (spots) “own you”… That spoils all of it in those moments. But it’s all a process, a growth, still changing, and I have a feeling this post represents a significant shift, if not for you, then for me! :) Thanks, Tracy, as always, for your beautiful thoughts: I’m still always finding that beauty is finding us all on the outside exactly in proportion to our ability to find it on the inside.

    • Tracy says

      Thank you Annie for this beautiful comment :) I know that I will make it to where I need to go in good time… I really have come a long way already, and it helps so much being able to share the journey with all of you – it makes me so happy that others find my thoughts therapeutic as well!

  13. Mrs. Cote says

    Hi Tracy, I’m a regular reader and almost never commenter, sorry! But the first thing that popped into my head reading this was Bach flower remedies. They are homeopathic remedies for emotional symptoms such as worry or stress. I have used them before, not recently, but during an acutely stressful time in my life when my mom was dying. I found them to be surprisingly helpful. There are books about them but there is probably also info online. They are not overly expensive, non-toxic, and, I think, ideal for someone who is emotionally sensitive.

    Thank you for your openness and honesty concerning your struggle with acne! Best wishes to you!

    • Tracy says

      Thanks Mrs Cote… someone else mentioned those recently, I had never heard of them! They also said they were very effective… will have to look into it. Thanks!

  14. Amanda says

    Have you considered discontinuing the blog? a whole new life away from the internet! I’d miss you, but your health and well-being are more important.

    • Tracy says

      Hi Amanda – Yes, I have considered it. I often wonder if having it is a help or a hindrance to me – it’s great because I get to journal out all my acne frustrations and get lots of excellent feedback (and helping other people makes me feel pretty awesome as well).

      On the other hand, I do think I put a lot of pressure on myself to have perfect skin because I’m the ‘guru’, and of course, having the blog constantly forces me to think about acne, and how to get rid of acne, and makes it really hard to get my thoughts away from it, as I said in this article. I also, at times, really dislike being so tied to the computer and the internet. I often wish I could just get rid of the internet altogether.

      However, it’s definitely an added complication that the blog is also my business now and if I decided to stop it, I’d have to come up with a new way to make a living. So far I don’t have any ideas for alternatives, so that’s kind of scary :/

      Sometimes… well actually, often, I think that one of the emotional reasons I can’t get seem to rid of acne is because it benefits me, in a way. If I had perfect skin and didn’t have any more emotional issues in regards to acne, then I am afraid that it’s highly unlikely I would have much interest in this blog. What would I write about?

      Every time I write a blog post, I try to write about something that comes from my sincere heart – whether it’s a food concept I’m currently excited about, or an emotional issue I’m having… I hate writing about things just because I have to write ‘something’. I want them to come from a place of inspiration. It’s hard to envision that if I didn’t have a problem with acne anymore that my endless enthusiasm for the blog would continue – and there goes my business.

      Yeah, it’s sort of a weird concept. It’s like… I hate acne…. but somehow I do know that I may have to stop the blog in order to really be free of it because otherwise it just serves me too much…. … so who knows. I have always assumed the blog couldn’t go forever and it would only be a matter of time before it all just played itself out. In the end it’ll either be: I cure my acne for real and lose interest, or, I don’t, and just completely run out of things to talk about.

      I don’t feel ready to move on from the blog, but I know the time will come. Who knows when that will happen, or what will happen after it. I need to just open myself to the universe and allow things to flow on the path they are meant to take, I suppose.

  15. Tony says

    Hi Tracy,
    This post couldn’t have came at a better time for me, I’ve been trying to treat my acne for the last few months now and have seen dramatic results. I’ve followed your steps in the ebook but lately I have realised that I ONLY get pimples when I’m stressed out or when I feel pressured.
    Eg. Say if I know I have an important event coming up I would start thinking “omg what if I get a pimple on that day” and guess what? I do get pimples on those days.. All of these stupid emotions and thoughts come to me and it drives me crazy! It’s like I’m creating all of these problems MYSELF!

    I’m not sure if you have heard of the Movie/book “The Secret” it talks about Law of attraction, If you think of positive thoughts, positive things will come and if you think of negative thoughts then negative things will happen. I think this applies to acne so much, I just ordered the book last night and waiting for it to arrive. There’s clips of it on youtube and it was on Oprah too. You might want to have a look at it.

    Hopefully this would help change my mind and they way I think. I know its so hard for you because you feel like you have the responsibility to stay “clear” because of this blog but just remember we’re all humans and there’s always gonna be good days and bad days! One of my friend said something to me that I would never forget.. “If you want to be happy only YOU can make yourself happy”.

    Stay strong Tracy! Much love

  16. Mary says

    Dang, girl. It sounds like you were traumatized. I have gone through PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) myself and it is not pretty. Your symptoms remind me of PTSD symptoms (the details you remember of that climatic moment, lapsing back into the same panic whenever there’s a trigger (a small pimple)). The only thing, I think, that will really work, is time. As time passes and you get repeated small pimples with no horrendous breakout, you will eventually begin to accept that you will have mild acne only, not severe acne like before. =)

  17. Annie says

    I wholly agree with the PTSD-like symptoms of what is basically acne dysmorphia. As a psychologist in training, I find parallels of post-traumatic stress in many domains of life, such as in relationships (“baggage”) and in our own internal worlds (negative self-talk stemming from old ‘failures’)… This is a very real struggle, but it sure helps to remember that thoughts aren’t facts and emotions always pass in time.

  18. says

    Hello Tracy! I’ve been enjoying your blog for a while now, and so appreciate the love and caring that you share with others, and the many amazing and knowledgeable readers that share such helpful comments. This is a wonderful discussion and I thank you and all those who have commented for your courage and generous sharing of your exploration and learning process.

    I read once a quote “You Teach Best What You Most Need to Learn” and have observed in my own life how at different times I have been intuitively drawn to different arenas of learning, that also influenced my work and/or business. Your blog has an amazing and fantastic name which encompasses so much possibility, and perhaps it can grow with you as you explore and follow your intuitive creative spirit.

    Sometimes when things look their bleakest, or our emotions are at their lowest point, something new can come from this that moves us into a whole new arena. I’ve found this is my own process that if I can trust the Unknown and let myself be led by my heart, that new and amazing things can happen.

    I have been on the giving and receiving end of emotional healing and energy healing work for a number of years. At the right time, healing sessions can open up new possibilities that we would otherwise not be able to see on our own. There are so many amazing and gifted healers, and so many different methods of healing and it can be a bit overwhelming to figure out where to go when you want to find some support.

    My recommendation is to follow your heart, your intuition and inspiration when looking for someone to work with. The best healers are humble and good listeners. When you are with them, you feel listened to, heard and respected. They are focused on you, and there is a feeling of peace and light when you are with them. They will help facilitate your own inner knowing, rather than imposing their own ideas or value structure on you. They are self aware, and understand that the healing process is mutual, and that the learning process in your session is for the both of you.

    There are an almost infinite number of healing modalities and any one of them can be helpful, depending on your unique body, mind and spirit. A lot will depend on the practitioner too. For example, Reiki, energy work, or acupuncture from one practitioner may give you totally different results than another, depending on their training, experience and also the clarity of the practitioner. Also, some modalities like acupuncture, chiropractic have many different styles and schools of training.

    I have tried a lot of different types of healing modalities, with a lot of different practitioners. Here are the ones that have worked well for my body and being, although these may or may not work for you. Each of us is so unique! Also, what works for you at one time in your life may not work so much at another.

    – Rolfing – I know, this has a reputation for being incredibly painful, and it is definitely not for everyone. I find that the new Rolfers that I have worked with (trained in the last 15 years) are very connected spiritually and their work does not hurt at all. Again, this totally depends on the practitioner. For me, this has been life changing. When I first had Rolfing I felt as though I had been let out of a cage. It was profoundly liberating on all levels. Even though their work focusing on freeing up your body to align in gravity, my experience is of feeling more balanced and connected emotionally and spiritually. They don’t explore the emotions with you like a body oriented therapist would do, but good Rolfers create a compassionate space that allows all kinds of healing to happen naturally.

    – BodyMind Centering, Authentic Movement and Continuum – these are amazing ways to connect with your inner being and heal emotionally and on all levels. I’ve only done classes although there are many practitioners that will work with you individually. I don’t know if there are practitioners in your area. These have been profoundly healing for me.

    – Intuitive or Energy Healing Work – this totally depends on the practitioner and the best way to find someone is from personal recommendation. There are people who can work in person or remotely with you or over the phone or Skype and you will feel the rightness in your heart when you find someone that is a good fit. I have found this to be life changing with the right practitioner.

    – Network Chiropractic – a very unique form of Chiropractic, they hardly touch you at all but it produces some very powerful changes and emotional releases, and a new level of integration in your body, mind and spirit. I’ve had amazing experiences with this. Many work in a group setting, although some will provide you with a private room. There aren’t a lot of practitioners around.

    I wish you much blessing on your healing journey!

    With much love,
    Mashubi

      • says

        You’re so welcome Tracy! Healing work has always been so helpful for me in so many ways. I am amazed at the flow of this conversation, as my first direct experience of God’s reality happened during a healing session when a lot of pain was releasing from by emotions and body. It was a profound experience of connection and love which totally changed my life. It’s really amazing that our bodies have the capacity to connect us with our deeper spiritual selves.

        • juiceboxe says

          Me too I met God when I got tired of being depressed, when I got tired of my crazy emotions (fear, sadness,etcc.), got tired of destroying myself, tired of having a disease that doctors don’t know about…I remember that one night I prayed and I told Him: If you are God, if you are truly there then heal me! Heal me ’cause I am tired. I am willing to try you now. Show me how to understand myself. And I got convinced within myself that I was healed that night. And I was healed ! ;)No more depression, no more spasmophilia. I woke up and it was the first time in a long timmmeeee that I was happy to face a new day and I was happy just like that.

          The story of a woman in the Bible that was sick for twelve years:
          “Now a certain woman had a flow of blood for twelve years, and had suffered many things from many physicians. She had spent all that she had and was no better, but rather grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came behind Him in the crowd and touched His garment. For she said, “If only I may touch His clothes, I shall be made well.” Immediately the fountain of her blood was dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of the affliction. And Jesus, immediately knowing in Himself that power had gone out of Him, turned around in the crowd and said, “Who touched My clothes?”
          But His disciples said to Him, “You see the multitude thronging You, and You say, ‘Who touched Me?’”
          And He looked around to see her who had done this thing. But the woman, fearing and trembling, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell down before Him and told Him the whole truth. And He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace, and be healed of your affliction.”

          “But from there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul.” Deuteronomy 4:29

  19. says

    Heye there,

    Why don’t you try God ?
    Free and easy. If God exists He is THE one person who knows you perfectly in this world. He knows you better than you do and He has all the answers for you. One prayer away.

    • Tracy says

      Thanks :) It sort of depends on what you mean as to whether that is something I would follow… I kind of feel like all religions and spiritual people are going after the same thing: God. They just commune with him in different ways. Personally, organized religion doesn’t really appeal to me, but I do resonate with the idea that God IS me and is you and is everything. God is the energy that flows through everything in the world connects us all as one. I would like to learn to connect with that energy better.

    • Tracy says

      Interesting. I guess much like food, no one can agree what is healthy and what isn’t! So I really don’t know what I think about that article.

      • juiceboxe says

        I think that whatever is claiming to heal you by deactivating a part pf your brain (your frontal lobal) is kind of fishy for me. The frontal lobe is a critical center and it controls the “essence” of you.
        Why do we need to numb a part of our brain to deal with our issues ? Plus I think that the “good” effects of hypnose are temporary (pls somebody tell me if it is wrong). You need to go to therapy on an on again to keep the “good” effects alive. There have to be a permanent solution to deal with issues and not go into slavery of therapy.

  20. juiceboxe says

    God is not a religion. God is a spirit (not an energy) and our creator and our saviour.He is perfect. He cannot be me because I am unperfect just like we all are. If He was me and you, He would not be able to save you nor me. If He was me He would not be able to tell you exactly what is your issue and heal you because I do not know you. If He was me, you would be lost. If He were you, you would not have any emotional issues. Why on earth would God have emotional issues ? Isn’t He God? I have emotional issues too at times and trust me, I am no God.
    If God was everything,you and me, why do we have so much problems? Everything would be perfect and me too ;) and this is not the case. But let’s admit, He is everything and everything is unperfect (as we know it), why searching for Him? Why searching for a God who is everything and made himself unperfect? God is not all things. He created all things (Genese 1:1). He created things and human kind perfect with liberty of choice. They chose the wrong way and things are like we know it now.

    Sorry for being so passionate but God is my everything and He has proven to me to be more than an energy. He waited for me to connect to Him like He says in John 10:10:” Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.”
    He is not a mere energy that is just there and does not really care if we connect to it or not.
    “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

  21. Mikayla says

    I’d like to suggest a book called ” The woman in the mirror – stop confusing what you look like with who you are” by Cynthia M. Bulik.

    I am currently reading this book myself, and she offers step by step ways of addressing negative self talk and offers some very interesting points of view on society, women, and how this is a “man’s world”.

    I know exactly what you are talking about in this blog post. I’v struggled with my acne for 2 years (had it for at least 10, but it never bothered me before that).

    And I’v cried so many tears, spent so much money, and thought SO many negative thoughts about myself that it almost nearly ruined me. It’s only the last few weeks of major life changes that I have worked on all of these issues, and I have done a complete 180 compaired to BEFORE. BUT, the last few days my skin has been breaking out alot more then it has over the last few months, and it’s super depressing. I make major progress and my skin decides NOW is the time to go nutso.

    • Tracy says

      Thanks for the recommendation Mikayla, I’ll have to check that book out! And lots of love to you on your journey to a new you… set backs are so tough :(

  22. says

    Juicebox, stop raping people with your stupid God bullshit from the book of lies that was 1000 times overwritten by some psyco opportunists…

    Let’s enjoy life…

  23. Jeff says

    Great post, and I really appreciate the honesty in it! We enforce our fears, obsessions and anxieties by trying to rid ourselves of them. I was recently overtaken by an anxiety disorder that has totally encompassed every aspect of my life. It’s under control now, but what I’ve learned though my experience really transcends to anyone with worries or fears in life, both simple and complex. The way to get rid of our worries and fears is to embrace and accept them. When you do this, paradoxically, they go away. I have seen first hand evidence of this. It’s not easy, but when you practice and get a greater understanding of what it is to truly accept, everything changes.

    I HIGHLY recommend checking this guy’s youtube channel out:

    http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL1176CD5CFC4432A0

    While this page is mainly for people with anxiety disorders, it has tremendous implications for EVERYONE. Everybody has varying levels of improvable mental health.

    Also check out his website. Lots of great articles and tips for anyone.

    http://www.markfreeman.ca/

    Hope this is helpful and informative, it was for me. :)

    -Jeff

    • Tracy says

      Hi Jeff – thanks for this. I checked out a couple of his videos, he sounds like a smart guy. I have actually heard and read many, many times that the real way to get rid of anxiety is to accept it. Do you have a link to something, or one of his videos that specifically talks about accepting the fear or how to accept the fear?

  24. Jeff says

    He wrote an ebook called the Acceptance Field Guide, which does a really good job of explaining acceptance in an easy to understand way. It costs 2.99 but is well worth it in my opinion.

    http://www.amazon.com/The-Acceptance-Field-Guide-ebook/dp/B006W950CG/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1341530574&sr=8-1&keywords=the+acceptance+field+guide

    Also, I would look into something called ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy). There’s a really good article by the psychologist who developed it who’s name is Steven Hayes. http://www.betterthinking-betterlife.com/gallery/hayes%20networker%20article.html

    The approach of acceptance is not just something for people with evident emotional problems to engage in. How you react to an event, situation, or thought, determines what kind of emotional response you will have. I believe anyone can benefit with this type of mindset. I’ve already witnessed it in myself and life has become so much clearer now. Hope this helps!

    • Tracy says

      Thanks! I watched a couple of his videos and I really liked him :) He’s charasmatic. Then I bought his web rehab book to quit internet addiction (because I have troubles with that) and it was AWESOME! So I’m totally going to buy this other one too. Thanks so much Jeff!

  25. Jeff says

    Yeah charismatic is a perfect word! haha I haven’t checked out the internet addiction book yet, but I’m sure it’s pretty good. I’m glad I could help out Tracy! :)

    -Jeff

  26. says

    Wow, Tracy, I am always so impressed by the honesty and sincerity you put forth on the blog. Thank you so much for sharing.

    I was feeling the exact same sentiment after going out of town this weekend with my boyfriend’s family. Not only was I terrified that all his relatives would see my acne, but participating in the weekend’s activities (going out each night, eating at an Italian wedding) would totally jeopardize my skin. I experienced a ton of anxiety and stress in the very unsafe and rushed trips both there and back, and I think that all of this combined to give me quite the breakout this Monday. But after reading this post I do wonder how much of this I personally manifested in my mind, aside from what is directly a result of what I’ve put in my body. Hmm.

    Thank you so much again for sharing Tracy. I always feel better after reading your blog.

  27. Adel-Alexander says

    Hi Tracy! I’m not sure if you have ever done it but have you ever talked to a psychologist? From what I’ve been reading on your blogs, it seems like you need to tell a few people (be it Luke, your parents or some of your good friends) on how you feel whenever you’re gonna eat like an average person and what you’re expecting after that.

    But also how acne is affecting you even after you cleared up. :) That’s what you’re doing with this blog but maybe it would be more effective if some other people know it irl. ;P (unless you already told some of your friends about that then just go for the psychologist. :) ) Hope you figure it out!

    • Tracy says

      Hi there :) Well, I did recently go to see a reiki practitioner, which I kind of felt like it was almost like seeing a psychologist – except she was more spiritually minded, which I really appreciated. Speaking with her was incredibly therapeutic

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