If acne has taken over your life and you find yourself ruled by anxiety and depression — keep reading.
The following is an incredibly powerful, soul baring story from reader Suzy. Don’t miss it!
Hello, my name is Suzy and I love The Love Vitamin!
When I visit this site, I see a strong, caring community.
I see women coming together to help each other through having, living with and healing acne and I want to play an active part in being a support to you too.
Today, I’m writing an article about mental health and acne.
As time goes on, medical science is rediscovering the wisdom of ancient healing and Eastern medicine.
Among the herbs, foods and practises rediscovered, the health of the mind is emerging to be a major factor in your overall physiological wellbeing.
The stigma over mental health is slowly lifting. Nowadays it’s much easier to speak out, talk to others who are also suffering, and to find help in many different places.
Taking Care of the Body is Important in Healing Acne… but the Mind is Key
I strongly believe that eating well, using certain vitamins, exercising, using gentle and natural products on your skin and getting plenty of sleep is so, so crucial to healing your skin.
It’s a brilliant place to start, but taking care of your mind and heart is key.
For myself, this is not a success story that I’m writing. I do not have permanently clear skin and I don’t have the answer for you.
As you’ve heard before, there is no quick fix, magic pill, diet, exercise regime or special cream that will ‘fix’ you – because you’re not broken.
If you’re about to start a pantomime ‘oh yes I am’ back and forth with me… I’ll have to take your hand and have a sit down over a cup of tea, because this is exactly what I want to talk to you about.
When You’ve Tried it All and Nothing Works
My acne story is probably very familiar to many of you.
I first got acne aged 12, which started off as a few blemishes here and there and then a year later I was suffering from an awful range of spots.
I never showed my bare face to anyone. Not even my mother. I actually wore a thick veil over my face if I ever left my room.
I suffered an almost constant barrage of huge cysts, infected puss filled spots, blemishes appearing all over from the tip of my nose to slap bang in the middle of my chin.
Scars were left after every spot, whether I’d left it alone or not.
I also had numerous bad reactions to products, or reactions due to the misuse of products…
Twice my entire face was covered in infected puss filled itchy little spots. I once had a huge crusty red rash across the whole bottom half of my face. I also had freeze burns that turned into large blisters and then huge black and red scabs.
I tried a few lotions prescribed by doctors, one of which was so drying, so harsh and so addictive that I called it ‘toxic acid’.
I tried birth control pills which didn’t do much for me. I altered my diet, trying the Paleo diet, a vegan diet, a totally sugar free diet, a raw foods diet.
I experimented cutting every ‘bad’ food group out of my diet. In turn, and eventually all together, I wouldn’t touch alcohol, coffee, sugar, wheat, gluten and dairy (I’m a vegetarian since birth, so meat, fish or poultry is not on this list).
I started every day with a green shake.
I worked out 2 hours every day; cardio, resistance training, pilates, yoga, weight training, basically anything I could do shut up in one room in my home.
I bought every ‘problem skin’ product that was out there- scrubs, lotions, washes, face masks all for blemished skin and blackheads and promising to make your skin clear after a week or so.
It Didn’t Stop There…
I tried using toothpaste and perfume and alcohol and mouthwash to shrink the spots.
I used precious money from my savings to buy a fancy skin care set that was around £150.00
I used nothing but a soft mitt to take my makeup off and left off using skin care products. I used honey to wash my hair and left off using shower gels and shampoos with ‘harmful ingredients’.
I left the excess sebum oil on my face, I religiously soaked it up or wiped it away. I washed the sweat off my face after excerising, I left it on.
I switched to using natural skin care products like yogurt, raspberry juice, yogurt, aloe vera, argan oil, egg whites and the list goes on.
I was in bed by 10pm every night and always had 8+ hours sleep without exception. I bought makeup that was full of witch hazel, I bought makeup that was organic and breathable.
I experimented taking burdock root and evening primrose and vegetarian omega 3 pills, multi-vitamins, vitamins B6 and B12, apple cidar vinegar, lemon water, hot water with honey every morning.
I spent much time and money completing several liver flushes and colonic hydrotherpy sessions.
I bought toothpaste without fluorides, I bought silk pillow cases, I shaved my face.
I learned all that I could about what acne actually is, how the blemishes are formed, what’s happening beneath the skin, how diet, exercise and sleep and skin care affects it – all the facts and theories and tips I could get my hands on.
Anxiety and Depression Diagnosis
Throughout this desperate search for the right products, diet, pill and exercise programmes over a period of about 9 years, I was diagnosed with social anxiety disorder and depression and given a 6 week course of CBT for the anxiety and anti-depressents for the depression.
I stopped spending time with friends or cultivating new friendships or my relationship with my family, I avoided the opposite sex as much as possible, I stopped enjoying life, stopped going out, stopped talking.
I would cry alone in my room.
The days would drag, there was nothing to distract me from feeling isolated, hideous and burdened with an affliction I couldn’t bear.
I contemplated suicide over and over but couldn’t bring myself to hurt the people who claimed to love me so dearly.
I know the shame and humiliation of those sidelong looks from a stranger or a friend, or when you can see a person’s eyes wandering to the blemishes on your face constantly.
Or when a huge spot comes up out of nowhere on an inconvenient day and in an obvious place.
Or when you stand under a certain light and it highlights every imperfection, or feeling hot and horribly embarrassed when the topic of skin, or skin care or spots come up.
Wherever You Go, There You Are
My inner strength took me far enough to follow a path of my own design and I moved out, found a job, joined a social club, joined a volunteering group or two and became a fully fledged adult.
But the old troubles continued to follow and affect me deeply.
Somewhere along the line, after binge eating whole boxes of chocolates once a week, spending most evenings locked up in my tiny flat attacking my skin when any new blemish came to the surface, and feeling myself plunging into a dark depression… I was so low I couldn’t face going outside or going to work.
I took a sick day. When it grew dark I went and visited the Samaritans.
The Samaratins are a group of wonderful and life saving volunteers in my city who listen to you without judgement and are there 24/7 on email, phone or for long periods every day for a face to face session.
As I talked, so many things kept coming to the surface.
A current problem lead to my talking of a past one. Tonight’s tears reminded me of a hurt that happened when I was 10.
I had just not talked about these things to anyone. Whether it was because I had no one sympathetic enough in my life, or whether it was because I was simply in too much in pain to talk, I didn’t know.
Either way, I decided to find myself a counsellor on a permanent basis and did so.
She’s a lovely, wise and caring lady I’ve been visiting each week for about 2 years now and it’s bliss to remove any mask you may be wearing, throw off expectations pushed upon you and talk as you think without editing it to sound like a better person.
The Mind Was the Missing Link
While I started private counselling sessions with this lady, I found a door standing ajar I’d had my back to this whole time.
My emotions and my thoughts affected my skin. As obvious as that sounds, I think it is a point that is largely overlooked most of the time and specifically in most professional medicinal practises.
During a difficult time with a new colleague at work I did not like at first, I was so angry at her but didn’t acknowledge the emotion or deal with it constructively.
Instead, I bottled it and a large cyst appeared on my cheek.
After a stressful time dealing with a flaming argument I had with my sister, again, my emotions were not realized or given any relief and appeared as a huge blemish at the side of my mouth.
When depression hit me hardest, when I felt forced into doing something I didn’t want to, when I was furious with no vent, my skin got worse.
When I was relaxed, on holiday, happy, had a crush, my skin got better.
Being the Thought Police was Just as Exhausting
At first this frightened and exasperated me.
How could I stop my thoughts? How could I channel my emotions to make my skin better?
Having emotions thrown into the mix just brought about another factor I needed to be vigilant in controlling.
I spent any second that my mind wasn’t engaged on something else, repeating mantras mentally such as ‘spot and scar fee, spot and scar free, spot and scar free’, and then ‘my skin is clear, my skin is clear, my skin is clear’.
I would close my ears to negative thoughts if I felt down and forced myself to buck up and be happy and positive.
It was exhausting.
At one point, completely disheartened, I cried down the phone to my mother and asked ‘honestly, what’s wrong with me?’
When I came home, she’d placed a book entitled ‘There Is Nothing Wrong With You‘ on my door step.
There is Nothing Wrong With You
It set me on a path of changing my perspective about myself, my view of the world and learning true self love and acceptance.
Don’t dismiss that last sentence as cheesy, pathetic, overly sentimental, ridiculous or très cliché.
If nothing else, pause and think on it.
Try it at least.
It’s arrogant and ridiculous to get rid of the swing set and erect a ten foot tall marble and gold statue of yourself in it’s place at your local park, because you think you’re God’s gift to the world.
But it’s not arrogant and ridiculous to love yourself and care for yourself.
(At the risk of sounding like a well placed book saleswoman) Cheri Huber’s books are non-preachy, easy to read and certainly opened the flood gates of becoming my own much needed best friend and healer.
It’s More than Skin Deep
Continuing on in my studies and being very much interested in the psychology of psychosymatic diseases and how the mind affects our physical health, I also found an absolutely fascinating book called ‘Skin Deep‘ by Ted A. Grossbart, PhD and Carl Sherman, ph.D.
Again, this is a book I strongly recommend to anyone suffering from a skin condition (acne, eczema, psoriasis, herpes).
It’s a comfort to know how much Grossbart and Sherman really understand what it’s like to suffer a skin condition.
They give you countless, extremely helpful tools to help you understand yourself, come to terms with what has passed and what is and to help you become your greatest aid.
The Progress is Astounding
Coming back to the here and now, I’m in a much better place than I was.
I still struggle and suffer from depression and ‘not so good skin days’ but they’re becoming less and less frequent and I can deal with it.
A lapse in diet or skin care is not a collapse to me any more.
So, my little conclusion or my 2p worth of advice is – continue to care for yourself by eating well, taking relevant, high quality supplements, exercising, using natural skin care products and getting lots of sleep.
It’s great to look after your body by giving it the right fuel and being gentle to your skin. It will help you to be as fit and healthy as possible.
These factors do play a big part in your mood too, but remember your heart and mind and take care of these.
Practise self love and kindness and praise, put things into perspective, and talk about your thoughts and feelings and problems to a trusted friend, family member or counsellor.
Find Your Best Tools and Use Them
Now, since I don’t intend to tell you what to do and since we’re all unique and have different needs, I would say to start off, it’s best to find your own tools to help.
Whether it be the books I’ve recommended or a practise, or another book, or online site or group, look for something that speaks to you the most.
There are so many wonderful, eye-opening places for self help now that you will find something that feels like it was specifically made for you, or you can even begin with your own idea of what self love and absolute kindness is in your mind.
Whichever you choose, I believe these are invaluable ways to heal yourself from the inside out.
Keep at it until it doesn’t even become a matter of clearing up your skin any more, it becomes a matter of being at peace, being contented and actually living.
Suzy is instantly cheered by watching the swagger of a crow.
Contemplative at the sight of a gently flowing river.
Currently addicted to snacking on dried figs.
And constantly curious about the people around her.
She is a believer in compassion and acceptance and generally tries to be a kind person.