By Shreena Bhakta

Alright, I’m just going to get this off my chest: I have acne. I’ve had it for the past 5 years.

Many would assume that people in high school understand that acne is a normal part of the experience, but from my 2 years in high school, I find that that’s not the case.

For the most part, I’ve never been ashamed of my acne. When I first started getting it in sixth grade, I would try to cover it up with some concealer, but back then, I didn’t know a thing about makeup. I look back on photos and you can see the shade difference between my skin and the makeup, how it settled into the dry parts of my skin, and the red inflammation underneath all that caked on concealer. I also remember trying to cover it with my hands whenever somebody, who I thought was cool, was near me so that they wouldn’t notice (or I at least thought they wouldn’t notice.)

In 7th grade, I started to ditch the face makeup, letting it all show, but I stopped being ashamed or worried about it. It spread like a wildfire, I remember, towards the end of that school year. I’d have big cystic pimples spreading all over my cheeks, but I didn’t care what anyone thought. This is how it stayed until the end of 9th grade.

The summer before 10th grade started, I was finally able to see a dermatologist. She put me on medication, and it dried out my skin so badly, my skin was visibly flaking off. Once I got used to it, I started to notice the acne going away. But, it came back in full force a little later. I went back to the dermatologist and she prescribed me even heavier medication, repeating the cycle of visibly flaky skin. And, I had to go back once more… but it never went away.

I was doing really good, made some progress, and was only left with a few acne scars on my cheeks. Then, this week started. The week when all of my progress went away as if it were never there. My forehead is covered in giant red mountains, not to mention the ones near my nose and on my left cheek. I’ve never been embarrassed to show my acne, because I’ve realized that it’s apart of me, until now.

I was worried about what my classmates would think of me and how they would react to the newly sprouted eruptions on my face. I remember this boy telling me last year, “I don’t want to end up with cheeks like yours.” It hurt at the time, but I brushed it off. This person was incredibly mean to me, so I thought it was just part of his act. But because of this outbreak, I got scared that other people would be thinking the same thing as him.

But what if this is just all in my head? What if the people around me, who care for me deeply and support me endlessly, don’t care or notice? What if they do care?

Somehow, I let my insecurities control my thoughts. As teenagers, I think we overthink too much. We overanalyze and worry about things that other people don’t even notice or care about. One thing said to us can ruin our perspectives of ourselves and it’s hard to break away from that shell.

Breaking away from that shell is apart of growing up, I realized, and I learned that I have to shake things off that other people say and focus on how I feel about me. It’s going to take time and patience to do this and get my skin back to where it used to be, but I’ll learn the ins and outs along the way, and eventually look back on this as a worthy experience. It sucks now, but I might end up learning a valuable lesson when I reach the end of this journey.