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