New Motherhood, Internet Thievery, and Other Panics

The Baby is now 12 weeks old and three days away from his three month birthday. (Yes, I am now a person who discusses her child’s age in both weeks and month-anniversaries. Deal with it.) This means that I’ve been a mother forrreeeeevvvveeeeer, and therefore have some feelings about it.

The most pressing of these feelings is the overwhelming need to tell all new moms and mothers-to-be in my life that is okay to feel bad. People revel in telling pregnant women to dread stretch marks and sagging boobs and to expect the worst during delivery. Other women delight in this, bizarrely. I wish I had had fewer moms tell me that my body would be ruined and more moms tell me that I’d have to reconstruct my self. That my life as I knew it was over. Because it was, and it is. I will never again be the person I was before I had The Baby, and as much as I love him, I had to grieve the end of my old life. I wish I’d known that would happen. Maybe it doesn’t happen to everyone, but it has happened to 100% of the mothers I’ve asked.

I love my son more than anything I could ever imagine, but it is a love that consumes me, in every sense of that word. It isn’t romantic love. It isn’t familial love. It’s a love that forces you awake at 2am, even while your newborn sleeps, so that you can stare into the face of the person you created with your own body and cry about how much responsibility it is, how innocent he is, how much you miss life before, and how you would rip someone apart with your bare hands if they dared to take him from you.

Most of the time, I’ve got this handled. I’ve got time off to be solely with The Baby, and I am grateful for that. I can follow his lead, feed him on demand, hold him every second he needs me. However, some of the time, I find myself furiously rocking The Baby in the glider after trying to get him to sleep for three hours, wondering when I’ll ever be able to use my own arms again to make food, fold laundry, or use my laptop. (I’ve spent so much time in the glider that my new non-existent mom ass has bored a hole in the foam of the seat, and now it looks like Homer Simpson’s couch).

In the last few weeks, it’s gotten markedly easier to be a mom, because The Baby interacts with toys now and loves sitting in his bouncer or laying on his playmat and punching things. For the first many, many weeks of his life, he wouldn’t tolerate being put down at all, and I am not exaggerating when I say that I carried this boy in my arms constantly for more than two full months. As I type this now, however, he’s happily attacking a dangling hippopotamus, which I am actively encouraging. You slap that hippo, Baby. GET HIM.

Being The Baby’s mom amazes me every day. It’s true what they say: seeing the world through the eyes of your child is incredible. I’ve watched The Baby discover that he loves warm baths, jingly noises, black and white illustrations, attempting to stand up, and Billy Joel. I know that he hates sleeping alone, being on his tummy, and pooping his pants, and that sudden changes in temperature confuse him. He is my favorite little person in the entire world.

I just wish that instead of smiling and gleefully telling me, “You’ll never sleep again,” people had told me, “You’ll never sleep again and you will feel crazy and everything will seem impossible and when it does, call me.”

In other news, I, like most new parents, think my child is the cutest, smartest, funniest, most interesting creature. I would love to document all his craziness here, but I recently made a discovery that has made me wary of posting any more photos of him to this blog. When he was one month and one day old, he broke out in what everyone assured me was baby acne, the product of swirling newborn hormones that would eventually resolve itself. It eventually got so bad that literally (I’m prone to hyperbole, but this was literally) every pore on his face was raised or red or covered in a fluid-filled bump. I became convinced it was a dairy intolerance, and within a week of cutting out all dairy, it started to improve and ultimately went away. (I snuck some dairy a few times in the last couple weeks and now his skin is reacting again, so take that, people who thought I was nuts!)

Annnnnyway, while investigating his mystery rash, imagine my surprise when I stumbled upon a Pinterest pin of a very familiar picture. The pin led to this website:
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That’s a photo of ME, taken in a South Carolina hotel bathroom ten years ago, and posted on this, my personal blog, as an attempt to help other people who may be struggling with acne. I was immediately pissed to see that it had been lifted from here and used somewhere else not just because that’s a gross thing to do, but also because the reason I posted it was to offer potential help and support to other acne suffers and the way it’s being used by the person who stole it is disingenuous. It’s posted under the heading “How to get rid of cystic acne on chest during pregnancy,” which is shitty because: I wasn’t pregnant for the five years I had this problem, it wasn’t cystic acne, and I didn’t “get rid of it” in any of the ways listed below the photo. I haven’t pursued trying to get the photo removed because 1) I’ve been busy (see above) and 2) it’s being used by one of those aggregate content websites written in language that is just different enough from how actual people speak that it must be computer-generated (i.e. the site is called “Let’s Rid Of”), so I assume no one is really running it and no one is really reading it. However, it still upsets me.

And it’s also a clear example of how what I post on this blog I don’t think anyone actually reads can end up in places I not only didn’t expect, but also didn’t allow. I don’t want personal photos of my tiny little person to end up on some rando website that promises to “Cure Babies of Nighttime Farts” (although I would really like to know how to do that).

If you’re interested in seeing photos of the gremlin, you can request to follow me on Instagram (which has gone from a feed of various photos of travel and food to just photos of The Baby). Try not to look too much like a robot or someone trying to sell me baby weight loss products, because it’ll be a waste of everyone’s time.

The Love Vitamin.

Hello there! Look whose stupid mug is on the home page of the new TheLoveVitamin.com webpage!

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CAN YOU SEE ME UP THERE? If you are suffering from hormonal acne, I highly recommend The Love Vitamin. (I said so right there on the website!) I stumbled across it one day when frantically looking for natural ways to clear my cystic acne, and it literally changed the way I’d thought about acne for my entire adult life. I’m getting zero kick backs from promoting the site, other than the joy of being super impressed with having my dumb face featured on it. And because I am the opposite of a paid Love Vitamin employee, I can tell you with sincerity that I got all the information I used to change my skin through the free blog posts on the site. I didn’t pay for any e-books or enroll in any online classes or groups. The free resources on the website are fabulous, so if you’re dealing with aggravating, persistent acne, go to there immediately!

Small Miracles.

About 100% of the time, I am convinced that I write this blog for myself and no one else, which is obviously enough for me, because I keep on keeping on.

However, occasionally, I receive emails/comments that make me feel, even if just for a brief moment, that I’m not just blindly throwing this stuff out into the universe. People are reading and sometimes, it helps them feel better or laugh at my idiocy or see me in a different, more understanding light. These things make me very happy, because I am the type of narcissistic jerk who writes a personal blog and I therefore love attention, especially the positive kind.

Recently, I got an email that asked me what I would trade to get rid of my acne, once and for all. If presented with the opportunity to banish this thing that has haunted me for my entire adult life, what would I give up to have clear skin?

I thought it was a fascinating question, considering the answer has changed dramatically over the years.

I’ve had acne on and off for about 14 years – I was 14 when I got my first pimple. I’ve spent an obscene amount of time thinking that I would give anything to rid of it. To finally feel good about myself. To get the kinds of attention my high school friends got. I would have given up any accomplishment, any personality quirk, anything to feel pretty, normal, young. I just wanted to be normal, dammit.

But strangely, right this minute, I can say that I wouldn’t give up anything (except most sugar, dairy, and coffee, of course). Despite all of the skin issues, I have lived a very fortunate life and have friends and loves all over the world and I’m funny and interesting and have okay feet. I am happy. I don’t think I’d want to sacrifice anything I have to earn better skin.

My aunt once told me that everyone has a cross to bear, and at the time, I thought it was a really insensitive thing to say to me, as I cried about my red, bleeding acne. No one else I knew had to carry their cross on their face. Now, though, I agree with her. Everyone has their crippling issues – and in comparison, I am okay with mine. They are more visible maybe, but they are manageable. I am safe, I am loved, I am not in pain (most of the time).

I’d love to be finished with this once and for all, but I couldn’t risk anything else in my life.

Maybe that means I’m not a total mental case about it anymore.

Thank God for small miracles.

Healing Acne Naturally.

So, as promised, here are a few makeup-free photos of my face’s progress since the beginning of this journey into the hippie rabbit hole almost six weeks ago. I’ve taken all these photos either with cell phones or with Photo Booth on my computer, so the quality leaves something to be desired.

March 11, active, gross, unrelenting – pretty much what my face looked like from late January to March. These photos don’t do it justice, really, but suffice to say it was Not Good:

IMG_4055IMG_4054March 29, no active acne (just prior to The Great Red Wine Binge of 2014, which ended in total skin madness):

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Today, April 21, no active acne, just tons of hyperpigmentation:

Photo on 4-21-14 at 12.09 PM #2I apologize for the intensity in the above photo. I was struggling with the lighting. I can go from zero to ghost pretty quickly in Photo Booth in direct sunlight.

Guys. I think there’s something to this DIM/agnus castus/burdock root/zinc/vitamin A/omega-3 stuff. By being (mostly) mindful about what I put into my body, taking supplements to help regulate my hormones, and drinking tons of water to flush out my liver/remove toxins, I am keeping my acne at bay. Since getting home from Prague and clearing the latest major break out, I’ve gotten a few new pimples, but I’ve managed to treat them with small dabs of baking soda and water paste and they have been nothing near the caliber I’d been dealing with before. I went from waking up to new, deeply rooted pimples every morning to being able to pinpoint the causes of the one or two new spots I get occasionally. I’m even sort of grateful for being able to identify “break outs,” as for a while there, the acne was so constant, there were no waves, no breaks, no discernible changes. It may be difficult to tell from the above photos, but there has been major change in both the quality and the topography of my skin. All I’ve got at the moment is scarring.

I feel like this is handling several birds with one stone – I’m addressing the root of my lifelong skin problems, while also taking better care of my body and feeling better about myself. And all I’ve really had to do is eat more veggies, take extra vitamins, and get used to having to pee every hour. I am convinced that hydration is the key. Water, water, water – always. It has helped so much.

I’m not going to eschew all Western medicine, because I will be the first to admit I love Excedrin Migraine. However, it’s pretty remarkable that the answer to my acne, which has plagued me for my entire adult life, appears to be in making small changes to my lifestyle, and not in harsh chemical prescriptions or topical medications.

I will eat tons of broccoli and proudly fill my old lady pill divider with handfuls of supplements for the rest of time if it means I can have this control over what I look like and how I feel about myself. And I will recommend it highly to anyone else who is having similar issues.

New Balance.

There’s a lot happening in these parts, which is becoming the norm, I guess.

1) First and foremost: my face is getting much, much, much better. My skin was completely clear after about 10-12 days eating “clean” on the supplements, but then I spent an entire weekend drinking wine and dehydrating my body, which meant I had a massive break out just before Prague (which was delightful, as it lasted throughout the whole of the trip). In Prague, I relaxed some of the food restrictions (sugar and white flour mostly) because I wanted to be on vacation and didn’t want to spend time worrying about what I was eating. (Also, my face was already a mess, so I figured why not?) Even though I allowed pasta and bread and occasional sugar, I continued to drink massive amounts of green tea and water. As it turns out, my skin healed while I was away and by the time I was home, it was completely clear of active acne (there is still plenty of scarring). I’m still taking supplements and making sure to eat mostly whole foods, but I’ve also chilled out about white flour and have been eating teeny bits of sugary goodness when I feel like it. Most importantly, I think, I’m drinking water or tea all day long. I always have a mug or water bottle at hand and I really think it is the hydration, in addition to the supplements, that is making the difference. I’ve also successfully completed over a month without dairy, and now only miss ice cream for about 16 hours a day. Improvements all around!

I’ll post photos of my face sans makeup tomorrow. I just don’t feel like washing my face and reapplying at the moment. I have important Skype dates to attend to. (And yes, I dress up from the waist up to Skype with my Californian loves. Shut up about it.)

2) Since reuniting with my lifelong friend White Flour, I’ve gotten back into baking. In the last week, I’ve made soft pretzels, pizza dough, and Irish scones (much to the delight of an Irish houseguest we had over for this long weekend). I’m successfully changing recipes to suit my tastes, which in baking is like the equivalent of magic as far as I’m concerned. I’m starting to understand what this all means! I’m cooking and baking for other people and they actually enjoy it – apparently I had to leave my entire life behind in order to get domestic.

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I cannot even articulate how excited I am that I am now able to hand make my most favorite culinary delight in all the land. These were SO GOOD.

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My Irish scones, which look a little more done than they should be. In real life, they were delicious. These were a second batch I kinda forgot about because I was too busy inhaling scones from the first batch, which were snapped up and eaten before I could take a decent photo.

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You know you’re hosting an Irish person when they suggest you top your pizza with thinly sliced potato.

3) I’m running a half marathon. Six weeks from now. It just might be the most idiotic thing I’ve ever agreed to do, but I’m doing it. To be fair, it was totally my idea, but I pitched it as a bit of a joke to a friend who is too committed and honest and wonderful. There is no way I can flake on this. Last week, I bought my first pair of running shoes in several years, and this morning, I went on my first run in nearly half a decade. I did about two and a half miles and didn’t feel like falling into pieces or throwing up on everything, so I’m counting that as a win. The plan as of now is to follow a slightly modified six-week half marathon training guide I found online, using my forty-five minute round trip walk to work as my “cross training” on days when I don’t go out for a run. I’m hoping that by next weekend, I can comfortably run five to six miles, and then slowly gain mileage from there. (YES, I am aware that that is the whole purpose of training. I just have to write it out and publish it because then I will be shamed into following through.)

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My beautiful new shoes.

As much as I am not looking forward to running for two hours and covering 13.1 miles, I am so excited to face down and handle another challenge. It is so liberating to know you can do anything you set your mind to.

Hello, Confidence. Where were you my whole life?

Getting Better All The Time.

This is another post that would be better filed under a “Who Cares?” folder. I’m in such a great mood right now, though, that I’m going to subject you all to this and not feel guilty about it. Deal.

So, it’s been two weeks since I began my attempt clean up my life (and, if I’m honest, by “life,” I mean “face”). I wasn’t going to post, as I am extremely superstitious and a notorious downer. However, I’m on this new zen kick, in which I’m trying to be positive and invite good things, so it only makes sense that I would let some good news out of the bag.

The good news: there is absolutely improvement. I haven’t stopped breaking out (and have, in fact, gotten a few different kinds pimples in places I usually never have any, like on my cheeks near the center of my face and small, flesh-toned painful bumps on my forehead), but in the hotspots, on my chin near the corners of my mouth, where things were getting pretty horrible, there is definite healing happening. I have one active “normal” pimple on my chin, and one, small, barely-there-to-anyone-who-does-not-have-my-nerve-endings growth on my forehead. Other than that, it’s just scarring. (The hyperpigmentation will be another beast entirely. For now, though, I’m just happy that my skin is discolored and FLAT.)

I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately, and apparently when you “detox” your body, like say by completely changing your eating habits and starting a course of crazy supplements and altering the way your wash/make up your face, your body expels these extra toxins in overdrive. In these so-called detox breakouts, you get forms of acne you’ve never had in places you’ve never had it. I panicked about this at first, because I was doing everything right and things were actually getting worse, but it’s levelled out now and I can see where this is heading. And it’s to a place where I get my face back, which is fabulous.

I made it through approximately one week without wearing makeup, which was great as a challenge, I suppose, but not so great for my self-esteem. I started slipping into the acne rabbit hole, a place I hadn’t been since I was 19 years old. Looking at my exposed volcanic face in the mirror at my job made me feel desperate and out of control and even made me call into question how the people in my life who care about me could love such a terrible monster. (This actually happened. Like, ten days ago. Acne, for me, stirs up a lot of uncomfortable feelings.)  It made it difficult for me to focus at work and I was a bit of a depressive terror to be around. I wasn’t myself, because I was so singularly focused on how hideous I felt I looked.

This constant anxiety and stress about acne can actually make acne worse, which is a total double-edged sword. In order to stop the obsessive thoughts about how gross and unprofessional I looked, I decided that while I’m healing my face, I should allow myself the dignity of makeup. I just had to find the right kind. Following the advice of several natural living/beauty websites, I bought some Bella Pierre mineral powder foundation on Amazon and am absolutely in love with it. It has only four mineral ingredients (mica, iron oxides, titanium dioxide, and zinc oxide), and the inclusion of zinc, which helps promote healing and quell inflammation, means that it actually aids in the reduction and prevention of acne. In addition, the “Ultra” shade – the lightest one available – matches my vampire skin tone perfectly, which means I don’t have to wear makeup anywhere but on the spots. (I despise subjecting the majority of my healthy, freckly face to makeup.)

In sum, things are looking up. I’ve started doing yoga at night to help calm me down and have stopped touching my face. I look in the mirror only when I get ready in the morning and when I can’t escape it (like, say, in a bathroom), and when I do, I focus on how much healing is happening and how much better I feel, not on how far I may still have to go. I am in an entirely different place emotionally than I was even just last week, and that change has been 100% mental.

I had avoided thinking about how huge this move was and how isolating this experience has been sometimes, and all the internalized stress made its way out through my poor face. Now, I’m trying to focus on how lucky I am to be here and to have the opportunities I have. Obviously, I still miss home, but now I’m making real efforts to meet new people and make friends and, alternatively, really enjoy the time I have to myself, as opposed to spending it feeling crazy and alone and desperate. I am feeling more myself right now than I have in the nearly three months since I moved to England, which is so, so, so wonderful.

I’m looking forward to being a (relatively) normal human again.

Supplemental Information.

Let me begin by saying that the experience of acne is different for everyone. My grandfather had acne, my mother had acne, and my two brothers and I had acne, and every one of us had it differently. After years of having people tell me that my skin was “not that bad” when it was crushing my self-esteem and making me quit things I’d previously loved to do (like going to the beach or running track), I’ve learned that if you have persistent, stubborn acne, it will make you feel like you are out of control, even if it’s not “as bad” as someone else’s. I realize that my skin now is nowhere near where it was when I was a teenager pre-Accutane, but that doesn’t mean it’s not taking it’s toll.

I have SO MANY FEELINGS about this, but let’s move on, shall we?

Less about my feelings and more about how I’m becoming a total herbal weirdo in an attempt to clear up my face.

Disclaimer: 100% of this is either documentation for myself at the beginning of this experiment or hopefully helpful information for other super creeps furiously googling things like “angus castus acne” while panicking about their break outs. So, if you’re not into “before” photos and aren’t curious how to regulate your hormones with herbal supplements, you can probably skip this one. It’s okay. I’ll forgive you.

In my last post, I promised I’d talk all about my fancy new vitamins – and the day is upon us! I’ve just lived my first full 24 hours taking all the supplements I’d planned on, and I haven’t gotten sick or had any headaches, which were things I’d read were side effects. I’m entirely off of sugar, dairy, caffeine (except what’s in green tea, as I’m drinking a ton of that these days), and am phasing out gluten, at least for the time being.

I’m also not wearing face makeup anymore, as of this morning. Everything is drying up anyway and putting makeup on a scab is pretty much exactly as effective as it sounds. Still, though, despite the fact that this actually means progress, today was pretty humiliating. There’s nothing quite like having the one thing you are hugely self-conscious about being on display for all to see.

Before we get to the vitamins, here’s some hard-hitting photojournalism I call “The Records of My Face”:

19, pre-Accutane, miserable:

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Just looking at these photos pains me. Seeing how much that girl hates herself is still traumatic, and I’ve been staring at these photos for years.

26, post-Accutane, on birth control:

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Accutane left me with that horrible squint line down the center of my forehead, probably because it did irreparable damage to my skin’s ability to heal and then made my eyes so sensitive to light that I squinted all the time, so I have a massive wrinkle now. Still and all, though, it’s a win, I’d say.

December 2013, 27, taking supplements and not eating sugar:

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Today, a day I went to work at my professional job:

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Lovely. That’s what my adult face looks like right now. Today was a horrifying day of meeting up with bosses and other esteemed professionals (as well as students I am teaching) without wearing any makeup on that chin.

These five gems are the healing pimples. Everything else is scarring. Again, post-Accutane, my skins heals so slowly.

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In addition to discontinuing the use of makeup, I’ve also stopped putting any acne treatments on my face. I gave up on salicyclic acid and benzoyl peroxide long, long ago – long before Accutane, actually – so what I mean is that I’ve stopped using a homemade goo made of nutmeg, cinnamon, and honey, and have ended my brief love affair with tea tree oil. I’m washing my face with warm water only.

I figure, at this point, I’ve done everything but just let my skin heal up on its own. Therefore, have at it, Skin! Get well soon, pretty please!

So, I’m cleaning up my diet, I’m not spreading pale-ghost-tone shellac on my face in the morning, and I’ve stopped spot-treating with goo. On to the supplements!

For the last week, I’ve been taking the same course of supplements I took at home in LA: a multivitamin, cod liver oil, flaxseed oil, and beta carotene. The multivitamin is mostly because, prior to cutting out sugar and only buying whole foods at the grocery store as of last Monday, I am a terrible eater and felt bad for my bones. Cod liver oil, flaxseed oil, and beta carotene (which converts to vitamin A in the body) are good for the skins.

On Saturday, I added agnus castus and burdock root to the mix. The last time I tried agnus castus (a hormonal regulating herbal supplement also known as Vitex or chaste berry), I got splitting headaches for two days and stopped taking it. After doing some research, I learned that ol’ Agnus can cause hormonal headaches if not taken with a liver detoxifier like burdock root or milk thistle, also (you guessed it!) herbal supplements. Burdock is said to “cleanse the blood” and ease inflammation. I’ve taken agnus castus and burdock at the same time for four days now and have had no headaches, so despite the fact that writing about blood cleansing herbs makes me feel a bit like a maniac, I’m inclined to say it works?

Just last night, I started DIM, or diindolylmethane, which is a natural plant extract taken from cruciferous veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage. It has an incredible reputation for restoring hormonal balance in people who are total messes, like yours truly. In fact, I was a bit intimidated by DIM – I’ve read such amazing stories about it’s success that I thought 1) this shit is powerful and 2) this shit could be really disappointing. (Any product with 270 ratings and four stars on Amazon is something to be loved and feared.) According to all the literature I read (and there was a lot), DIM works by detoxifying the liver and promoting the production of “good” estrogen, which aids in the balance of estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone.

It is entirely too soon to report on any possible benefits (or terrible problems), but I’ve been taking all of these together (with food), and thus far, I have not had headaches or nausea or other crazy side effects. This is huge, because my body is pretty prone to sensitivity freak outs (as evidenced by the fact that I’ve had acne for the majority of my adult life). In addition, there appear to be the trappings of healing happening on my face.

Despite not wanting to put the cart before the horse, because the only pills that work within 24 hours are pain relievers and narcotics, I am extremely optimistic about the improvements all this will make. I am being extremely careful about what I’m ingesting now and regardless of how obnoxious and granola all of this sounds, I really believe that there’s no arguing that what you put in your body impacts what you get out of it. I’m making a conscious effort to change the way I treat myself, and I’m hoping I can see improvement in how I feel and (obviously) in how I look.

I’m doing literally every single thing differently than I have in the past – cleaning up my diet, taking aim at the root of the hormonal issues, not touching my face or painting it with chemicals, letting my skin heal on it’s own, despite how embarrassing and unsettling it is for me to do so – and I’m hoping it makes a difference.

Fingers and toes crossed.

Skin Is In.

A lifetime ago, I dedicated lots of blog space to the condition my skin was in, because I’m generally a vain and horrible person who thinks strangers on the internet care about my acne. I’ve heard tell that the Youngs these days (you know, the spry, energetic college undergrads who use SnapChat and listen to Miley Cyrus ironically) call this day of the week “Throwback Thursday,” so I figure today I will post again about my face skin and what it’s been up to, just for old times’ sake.

When I was 19, after living for five years with persistent, permanent, and absolutely unfortunate acne on my face, chest, and back, I was prescribed Accutane. The prescription came after much begging and pleading with my dermatologist, who eventually referred me to a physician’s assistant who specialized in Accutane paperwork. (Yes, the drug is such a tremendous pain that, at least at that time nearly a decade ago, people needed to be Accutane specialists in order to feel comfortable enough to hand it over.) I left the appointment with the PA with a prescription for this acne wonder drug, a huge smile, and an enormous three-inch binder full of warnings and precautions.

I spent the next six months having routine blood tests to check that I wasn’t pregnant or dying of liver failure and watching my face dry, peel, and crack into a bleeding mess. I stopped smiling, because a genuine grin was enough to split the corners of my mouth. I stopped wearing contacts and battled sties and pink eye on the regular. And yet, I was thrilled. I’d spent years cycling through antibiotics and prescription acid creams and various face washes tens of dermatologists promised me would work. I’d been on hugely high doses of hormonal birth control, which made me feel dizzy and spacey and ballooned out every part of my body so quickly that my college dorm floor thought I’d gotten breast implants. I’d subjected my body to so much nonsense, and none of it had worked. Despite how miserable I was on Accutane, I felt I was finally doing something that would help me. I was finally miserable for a reason. (And yes, I am aware of how pathetic that sounds.) I would be done with acne forever and I could put all the pain and crushing self-hate behind me.

And I was right. I got off the big orange pill, and my skin was gorgeous. Very shortly afterwards, I fell in love and got on hormonal birth control for the second time, albeit at a much, much lower dose. I was on birth control very happily for about five years, with glowing skin. It was the first time I felt worthy of attention, and if I’m honest, of love.

I stopped taking hormonal birth control in May 2012, 1) because I was having strange chest pains and headaches and I was concerned I may throw a clot to my brain and 2) because I was planning on having a baby. Luckily, I did not die of an embolism (there’s still time!). I also did not get pregnant.

In addition to failing to die or get pregnant, I also experienced acne for the first time since I tortured myself on Accutane for the privilege of never having to see it again. For a long time, I was in full panic mode, expecting every morning to wake up with an upper body (face, back, and chest) covered in angry cystic pimples that would force me back into high-necked t-shirts and constant makeup application. I’d wake up from dreams about break outs with my hands on my face, reassuring myself that it wasn’t real the same way most normal people do when they wake up from nightmares about normal people things, like zombies or home invasions.

While things never got that bad, they also didn’t improve. For the first year post-hormonal birth control, I was also trying to regulate and get pregnant, so I was taking things like Clomid and progesterone replacements, which I figured were not doing wonders for my skin. And then, at the end of June 2013, I left home for an archaeological field school in Ireland, where despite having my face in giant dirt holes all day, my skin was perfection. Thank you, manual labor outside in the lovely UV radiation of the summer sun.

By the time I came home, however, my life had completely fallen apart. I was getting divorced, I was finishing a Masters thesis, I was leading a classroom, I was living with my parents. In a desperate attempt to gain some control over my life, I started looking into natural ways of regulating my hormonal acne, which by this time was back in full force. Having spent all my teenage years sitting in dermatologists’ offices, I had been of the mind that what you eat doesn’t influence your skin. Doctor after doctor had told me that my diet had no impact on my face, and that the only thing to do was slather on some more benzoyl peroxide and hope for the best.

However, as a person who has put every synthetic acne treatment in existence both on my face and in my body only to be physically hurt or deeply disappointed, I started to think that maybe pharmaceuticals weren’t the answer. I cut out sugar and started taking supplements like agnus castus (an herbal progesterone regulator), beta-carotene (which is converted to vitamin A in the body and is essentially nature’s Accutane), and cod liver and flaxseed oils. I saw lots of improvement in my skin, but I was also buried by stress and anxiety, and losing terrifying amounts of weight. I wasn’t at my healthiest in any sense.

Then, I moved across the world to England. I was tired and crazed and yet finally, mercifully, eating again. I started drinking double-shot lattes and eating delicious English cookies. I stopped taking the supplements, because my skin was better. I adjusted to a new routine, and vitamins weren’t a part of it.

Until my face starting boiling. That is the best, most evocative description I can manage. Huge, cystic pimples on my chin, that flared up, became enormous, and then healed just in time for another one or two to take their place. For a while, I thought it might have been the weather here, which is decidedly less sunny than Los Angeles, or the stress of the move. I kept waiting for improvement. Instead, it kept getting worse, until my acne was the worst it had been since I was 19 and carrying that three-ring binder.

So, I started tracking the flare ups. I’ve never done anything like that before. I am usually content to just float through my life in my body, not really taking much stock of what is causing various reactions. For my entire adult life, I have been amazed by women who can tell when they are getting their periods or if they are pregnant, just simply based on how they feel.

Now, though, I am normal human woman (physically – not mentally, obviously), so I could finally make some assessments. And the results? My skin gets worse after I have dairy, sugar, and caffeine – all things that are known to aggravate hormonal imbalances. All those days drinking at least one double-shot latte? Wreaking havoc my face.

I am currently conducting an experiment. I have not had sugar, dairy, coffee, or black tea since Monday morning (when someone very kindly bought me a latte and I drank a few sips, to be polite, okay?). I am drinking tons of green tea and eating more whole foods. I have had not one new pimple. (And that there is saying something. We were on a day-by-day basis just last week.) Those I did have are healing up and going away.

COULD THIS BE WORKING? After all this time, is it possible that what you put in your body does matter?

That remains to be seen. I think most scientific journals will require progress that lasts more than three days.

On Saturday, my package of herbal supplements and teas is finally arriving. When I get it, I will lay out all my hippie granola freakshow purchases and take photos and then tell you all about them.

Get excited.

Alone Time.

I have always been social. Even as a teenager, when my terrible skin destroyed my self-confidence, I had huge, deep, transformative friendships. In fact, when my skin got bad, I just got louder – in an effort to direct the attention from my face – and my friendships became more important to me.

I have never had a time in my life when I had no one. I suppose that makes me very lucky. I have always had people I loved around me. Until now.

Now, I have no one. Or rather, I have them – they are just eight hours behind me and more than 5,000 miles away.

In the panic and singular focus I experienced in the months leading up to this move, this loneliness and isolation is something I didn’t consider. I was so excited and had so much to look forward to and so much left to finish before I left that it never occurred to me that once I got here, I’d be without a support system for the first time in my life.

Having never left home in any real sense – college for me was 40 miles from my parents’ house – I have never had to rebuild a life from the ground up. And unfortunately, I’m not in school and I have a particularly solitary job, so I’m not meeting people the way most people do when they move across the world.

So, what’s the hardest part of moving to a new place, after having the hardest six months of my life?

Not having anyone to call on for last minute dinner plans or coffee on Saturday or moral support when something annoying or hilarious or wonderful happens.

I miss having people.

Professional Beautiful Person.

About two weeks ago, the photographer who took our wedding pictures asked for models for a styled photo shoot and, on a whim, I threw my hat into the ring.  (I have been known to be really spontaneous on Facebook.)  I am, perhaps, the least photogenic person in the universe, so I figured I would never be chosen.  As it turns out, I was selected as one of three “models” in the European/Bohemian wedding shoot and I immediately freaked out.

I was terrified.  Terrified.  The number of times I have been in front of a professional photographer: twice – for engagement and wedding photos.  The number of times I have modeled anything: zero.  The amount of confidence I had that I would not totally eff this up: also zero.

I have agonized about this for the past week.  I have a very real desire to push myself out of my comfort zone as an adult, because as (an eventually) pimply child, I spent a lot of time setting limits for myself and refusing to participate in activities that put me front and center.  Things I quit because I lacked the confidence necessary to do them: dance classes, swimming, sprinting, hurtling, going to the beach, etc.  Of all the things I refused to do, being in photos was perhaps hardest line I drew.  I was never in them, and if I was, I was making a face.  Like this:

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Or this:

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Or this:

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Or this:

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If I was making a face in a photo, it was a “bad” photo because I’d done it on purpose.  (This just in: I’ve had a lot of issues.  Acne is kinda a bitch.)

Therefore, the idea of being the center of attention at a professional photo shoot made me SO ANXIOUS.  Especially because I knew other girls were going to be there and we’d have to take the photos in front of other people.

The shoot was today and I am proud to say I had the absolute best time.  (Aren’t you all just so glad that I bested my fears of being totally pampered and made to feel gorgeous for an entire day?  It was really difficult, but I overcame.)  It was so fun.  I met a bunch of remarkably awesome people and laughed the whole time.

Not to mention that I got to feel like a superstar, which is nice occasionally, especially because my job involves having five-year-olds cough directly into my eyes on the regular.

In my younger days, I would never have even expressed interest in doing something like this.  In my slightly  older days, I would have said I would do it and then I would have totally bailed.  Now, I am so happy I went for it because it will be an incredible experience to bank in my “Awesome Life Experiences” memory file.  If I’ve done anything right in adulthood thus far, it’s that I’ve stopped being so goddamn proud of all the things I haven’t done or previously wouldn’t do.

I am going to continue to do things that make me uncomfortable, regardless of whether or not I feel scared or inadequate, because ultimately, when those experiences are successful, I feel amazing.  And I have a lot of catching up to do.

Lastly, please don’t treat me any differently just because I am now a professional beautiful person.  I’m still the same girl I always was.

I’ll post actual photos from the shoot as soon as we have access to them.  For now, here are some embarrassing selfies I took today:

photo 1

Hair!
photo 2

Makeup!