"So I was just over here minding my business and…"
I finally summoned up the courage to do this. First, because I believe the information will help others and secondly, because it is a testimony of sorts.
On my last Orobo chronicles post, I referred to a skin issue that forced me to stay out of the pool for a long time. Truth is, apparently there was an underlying self-inflicted problem that I was totally oblivious to. It has taken a long time to get to where I am now but I am thankful. So here goes:
About a week after I started swimming, I noticed a rash along my jawline. As this is the only part of my face that was exposed to the chlorinated water (I swim with my head out. I don’t like water up my nose and in my ears, thank you very much), I just thought I was reacting to the pool.
When it hadn’t cleared after a few weeks, I started to worry. This rash was in every pore so it definitely seemed like some kind of irritation. I also noticed that my face had some rather interesting red blotches. I ignored all of this, continued my facial regime and assumed it would clear after a while.
Well, I was wrong. It got worse. The bumps turned into acne pustules. Unfortunately, and against my better judgement, I kept touching my face so it started scarring. Before I knew what was happening, my cheeks and jawline were covered with the some pretty bad acne . My entire jawline was covered with bumps of different sizes. Plus, my face hurt. I stopped swimming and exercising altogether because of the swimming pool water and my fear of sweat aggravating an already bad situation.
As I was ashamed of the bumps and was terribly self-conscious, I kept using make-up to try to hide it. Even foundation was painful to apply. Then, people started asking, “What happened to your face?” “What’s going on? (while gesturing at my face)” Some of them were genuinely concerned; some people were just plain rude about it. So I started to withdraw. I stopped going out as much. I found myself drinking more. I definitely ate my feelings.
Everyone had some kind of solution. ” You should try using this product” ” You should stop eating oily foods” “Have you checked with your Ob-Gyn?”
I tried all kinds of products and remedies – harsh ones, crazy ones, natural ones. ALL kinds. Nothing seemed to be helping. I had stopped even looking at myself in the mirror.
In July, I scheduled a trip to Abuja for work and a friend’s wedding. My host and friend of twenty years, Fatima, saw my face and was shocked. Me, of flawless skin once upon a time had now become the acne poster girl. She scheduled an appointment with her dermatologist, Dr Bashir, and promised that he worked wonders. Having tried every product possible, I was sceptical. Fatima wasn’t even budging. She literally dragged me there – she drove and stayed for the whole appointment.
Dr Bashir took one cursory glance at my face – he didn’t have to look closely – and said, “Funbact-A.” Then he began to tell me what had happened/I had done. It was the weirdest thing ever. Basically, I’d gotten a weird rash with a few acne-like spots, he said. I didn’t know what to do. Someone recommended Funcbact- A. So I went to a pharmacy, bought it, and used it. My skin cleared in like two days. Thing is, the rash and spots came back again. So I kept using it. Plus my skin looked fabulous, didn’t it? I was glowing, my skin was clear, he said. I even recommended it to people (at this point, I was staring at the floor in shame)But the problem is, the spots kept coming back, and they came back harsher and in larger volumes, right? “Young lady, you have steroid acne”.
He asked me what I had tried. I told him about every product, every pill, every method. He recommended stopping it all. He wrote out a prescription of soap and water, a mild cleanser and lotion and sent me on my not so merry way. He however warned that recovery would take some time, and that I may need a peel eventually, but I should not be discouraged.
So I took his advice. I stopped make-up completely (except eye liner and lipstick). I cut down on oil as well. All with the hope of speeding up my recovery. Meeeeeeeeeeeeen!!! If I thought I had painful acne before, what now came out was straight from the pits of hell. My face felt like I had a million boils on it. A spot would appear, clear and a bigger, more painful one would appear in its place.
When I couldn’t take it any longer (and my dear Auntie M had harassed me tirelessly), I sought a second opinion from Dr. Osinubi at Bidson Skin Centre, Yaba. I was just being stubborn really as he had been my dermatologist since I was little and was a magician in my books. Not surprisingly, I got similar feedback. He, however, felt I needed more aggressive treatment based on how my skin was responding. He put me on some expensive antibiotics and DUAC, as a topical gel that is a drug combination of benzoyl peroxide/clindamycin. He also made me read a medical journal entry on my condition which reminded me that, based on the severity – I had moderate to severe acne – it would take at least four weeks before I saw any marked improvement.
So I waited and tried to let it go. Unfortunately, I still drank and ate my feelings. But I also prayed. After you have tried everything, what can you really do? I prayed for forgiveness. I prayed to be cured from vanity. I prayed that if someone’s wife had attacked/cursed/sworn for me because she felt I was after her husband that God should vindicate me and well, just in case I was at fault somehow somehow, He should forgive me too. I prayed by myself and brought it up at our daily family prayer time . I prayed specially at Communion service at church. I took pictures often to check on the progress. I almost drove myself mad.
By early September, I noticed a slight improvement. People were still asking, but I had started not to care as much any more. I had other health concerns that took the front burner around that time so I found myself focusing on that. I also focused on my baking and looking for a new job. By mid-September, I had to travel to attend to the other health concerns and was away for about three weeks.
My first day back, I touched my face. Not a single bump. I took some pictures to be sure. The dark scars were there but no bumps.
Today, six months later, the marks are fading, my skin is healthier (still oily but we are working on that situation too), and I don’t wear make up everyday because I can afford not to.
I have attached pictures of my journey so you know how bad it really was. I deleted quite a few because they were depressing. I cried more than I am willing to admit over the period. My self-esteem took a slight hit. My weight and health suffered.
This may all sound very vain and somewhat shallow but consider this: I did not have teenage acne. I’d had episodes of hormonal acne that cleared up really quickly with medication. I really had never had anything as bad as this. I cannot explain the distress I felt. I was waking up every single day with pain on my face and people staring and making snide comments.
I have recovered. I have learned valuable lessons too. Do NOT self-medicate. Always read product labels and do some research before purchasing. Tell your doctors everything, no matter how shameful or embarrassing.
Healing takes time.