My name is Edmund. and I have, like many others, bad acne. I’m nineteen years old, and I live in England. I remember getting my first spots in Year 7 – that’s age twelve or so, I think.
It first started with the odd spot, mainly in that well-known breakout region the chin. I remember the experience of an early, if not my first, spot. I remember accidentally squeezing it in school and that was most probably the beginning of my emotional scarring from acne, not to mention physically. I remember that horrible feeling that is now far too common to most sufferers – the self-consciousness, the anxiety, the depression – welling up inside of me, and me not having the resources to explain and understand or even comfort myself.
Over the next few years, my acne got worse, probably reaching its peak when I was around fourteen or fifteen, then gracefully plateuing for a few years. I remember one of my most memorable encounters with the gargantuan mammoths that lurk under the skin. I was fourteen and had just broken up with my very first girlfriend, a confusing and all-together fruitless relationship that lasted the gauntlet of a fortnight. Of course, I was devastasted and life had no meaning except for that found in obscure Joy Division lyrics. Anyway, as I slowly clambered out of my first brush with the black dog, fate saw fit to throw that most horrible of fates my way: a triumvirate of giant papules on the end of my nose. Red, swollen and with no determinable weakspots (or “heads”) to speak of. I distinctly remember the name “Rudolf” being bandied around, and I distinctly remember being unimpressed at the lack of creativity amongst my classmates. However, it is probably worth noting that I like the name Rudolf, and hold no particular ill will against those many illustrious and noble Bavarians who have held that grand name. Except Hess. In fact, I later named my treasured gerbil “Rudolf”. Freud, eat your heart out.
This unwelcome trio proceeded to make my life more miserable than it had been before, particularly as no one else really had acne at this point and children are especially cruel to those who stand out and are a bit different. I attempted dozens of different strategies in vain attempts to fit in, none of which are worth mentioning. Except the one of “being a dick because people will think you’re funny and overlook your faults”. I remember lightly making fun of a girl in school, an occasional friend of mine, who on one particular occasion took my jests the wrong way and snapped at me, yelling “well at least I don’t have a giant fucking spot on my face, you spotty dick!” I didn’t in fact have a “giant fucking spot” on my face; it was three. However, this acerbic comeback only graces me with the benefit of hindsight. I remember being immediately taken aback and mumbling something about it being a boil, not a spot, as if this venerated me of my enforced title of “spotty dick”. Why I thought a boil would be preferable to acne, I don’t know. Needless to say, the flame of friendship never really fanned in the same way again.
Other choice moments over the years include someone seeing my shoulder acne in the changing rooms and eliciting a loud “eurgh, what is that?” and thus drawing much unwanted attention (if you have ever been in secondary school changing rooms, you’ll be aware this inevitably leads to some form of assault) and an eloquent group of youths walking past me in the hallowed lanes of my fair town and proclaiming the sight of a “spotty cunt!” to much merriment. Try as might, I could not see a blemished womb in my field of vision, though I must grant that this event happened before I wore glasses.
Like many other sufferers of acne, I have at times allowed acne to get the best of me; allowed it to determine what I can and cannot do. At times, I wouldn’t go out because I felt I looked horrible. I wouldn’t pursue rare and brilliant opportunities with girls because I felt uncomfortable (if there were any, my memory now ominously draws a blank). I ended up judging myself and assessing my worth against the attractiveness of other people, in short. A really super philosophy, if your aim is to feel hollow, depressed and lonely.
In conjunction with all the other stresses that blight a teenage existence, acne, severe or moderate, is a horrible fate I wouldn’t want to wish on anyone. That said, it’s taught me a lot about life. It forced me to develop a set of social skills in order to compete with my unblemished bretheren. A strong sense of humour and a certain sense of self have propelled me out of the vast abyss numerous times (the worry is that one day gravity will win, however). I guess what I’m saying now is I don’t regret my acne – all the unneccessary suffering, the absolute pain it was to me when I was younger. It’s made me into a stronger person. It is only recently I realised how little other people care about your looks – much like you, they are far too preoccupied with their own.
I sit here now, eyes heavy, gazing upon my Prom photograph from three or four years ago. My skin looks peculiarly good, and I wonder if my acne has slowly gotten worse since then, without my noticing. I force myself back to reality with the fact that it is very good lighting (my teeth look exceptionally white) and I was probably wearing make-up. I regret wearing make-up, or doing anything to hide my acne. These spots and scars are as an essential part of my external tapestry as anything else. Embrace yourself. Inner balance creates that outer balance we all crave in our lives – the wealth, the lover, the friends. Having clear skin is not an ends in itself – it is a means. Do not let your journey end there.