Category Archives: Anxiety

My Acne Story

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Acne is a sensitive subject for me. It has been a significant source of my insecurity for a very long time. Even now that I am older and my acne is [usually] under control, I still become very self-conscious about my “bad skin days.” For the past couple of years or so, I have been able to find great comfort in hearing about other people’s experiences and struggles with dealing with acne. I thought I’d share my acne story too. πŸ™‚

Yay, Puberty…
I started getting my first pimples in the fifth grade. It didn’t even start to bother me until some of my classmates asked me about it — “What’s that on your forehead?” Ah, the catalyst for years of self-consciousness. My skin started becoming oily, and I developed blackheads on my nose. I started washing my face every day, but when that didn’t seem to be enough, I turned to makeup. I used my mother’s foundation almost every morning to conceal every blemish as best I could.

Middle School & High School
The severity of my acne peaked through middle school and high school. I would describe it as moderate acne. It seemed like when one pimple healed, a few more popped up the next day. And I was a such a “picker.” I remember crying about it sometimes. Before bed, I’d go into the bathroom to brush my teeth, but I wouldn’t turn on the lights because I couldn’t stand seeing my own reflection in the mirror. My doctor prescribed a topical antibiotic. I didn’t notice much of a difference in my skin (except increased irritation) so I was finally referred to my first dermatologist. I was on an oral antibiotic for a little while, but a prescription topical retinoid seemed to provide the most improvement, at least for a few years.

College
Once my skin seemed to be under control for the most part, I eventually stopped the prescription retinoid and just used over-the-counter products for a while. At this point, I was better about cleansing and treating my skin consistently. I was on the ProActiv system for a year or two, but found drugstore brands to be just as good and cost-effective. When I was diagnosed with depression a couple of years into college, all of the emotional stress began manifesting itself physically, and my acne seemed to come back in full force again (which didn’t make dealing with depression any easier of course…). Eventually, I was back at the dermatologist’s office, this time for a combination of topical antibiotics and benzoyl peroxide. My skin got a little bit worse before I started noticing an improvement again.

Post-College & Present
I sort of came across the most effective remedy [for me] by accident when I was prescribed birth control pills for the first time. The unexpected side effect of clear skin seemed to indicate that most of my acne was actually hormonal. For the first time since I hit puberty, my skin was actually pimple-free.

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Of course, this is not to say that what has worked for me will work for everybody. There is no one-size-fits-all remedy for acne-sufferers. Many people have even been able to find great improvements with a more natural, drug-free approach. It took me many years to figure out how to control my acne. I’ve stuck with a consistent skin care regimen, making sure to cleanse and moisturize daily, as well as apply adequate sun protection. Over time, you start to learn what your skin needs to look and feel its best. I only wish that during that period of trial-and-error, I was better equipped to deal with the emotional issues that came with having acne.

My skin is far from perfect, and I still get breakouts (especially during that time of the month), but instead of longing for “perfection,” I’ve learned to make more of an effort to just take better care of my body and become more comfortable in my own bare skin. My skin is much healthier now than it was years ago, but I’m still working on building my self-esteem back up.

I’ve had people make rude and judgmental comments about my pimples before, and that always fueled the fire of insecurity in me. I’ve never had anyone sit down and tell me that my acne didn’t make me hideous or unattractive. I think having acne held me back from being more comfortable in social situations. If I was having a conversation with someone, I’d always assume that they were looking at my zits, and not at me.

So I’m here to tell you now that acne doesn’t make you ugly, or unclean, or stupid, or unworthy. It may take some time to find what works best for you, but in the mean time, understand that your acne doesn’t define you or lower your value as a person. I know that sometimes it can feel like people are looking at you with a magnifying glass when you’ve got angry blemishes on your face, but nobody’s going to bed at night wondering why you had those big zits on your chin.

How have you dealt with the physical and emotional issues of acne? I’d love to know your story too. πŸ™‚

Mindful Monday | On Saying No

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I try hard to be a people-pleaser most of the time, and in doing so, I automatically think that I should always say ‘yes.’ I don’t want to seem rude, disrespectful, lazy, disagreeable, etc., etc., etc.; it goes back to caring so much about what others think, and not wanting to be on bad terms with anyone. When saying ‘no’ I usually feel guilty, and an urgent need to apologize. But I’m learning to understand that being able to say ‘no’ without thinking I’m doing something wrong is an essential self-care skill.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to help someone by completing a task or doing them a favor every now and then, but when you’re constantly putting the needs and wants of others before your own, it can feel incredibly draining. You can start to feel bitter and resentful, and being in that mindset can limit your helpfulness anyway. I want to become more honest and up-front with myself about these things. Someone asking something of you doesn’t magically turn into an obligation to say ‘yes.’

Sometimes I will feel the need to have a thorough explanation at hand, but I find that it’s not usually the case. If you’re set on ‘no,’ most people will just take it at that, so don’t be afraid to be concise and deliberate. “No, I can’t today.” It may take some getting used to. Practicing saying it out loud can help lessen your perceived abrasiveness of the phrase.

If leaving them with a hard ‘no’ just stings too much, then offering an alternative solution to their dilemma can be a gentler approach — you’re still being helpful. Decline, but steer them in another possible direction. “I can’t make it to the concert. But maybe So-And-So would like to go? She really likes punk rock.”

Your time is as valuable as theirs. It can help to simply state that you have other priorities. “I can’t do that right now. I have other things I still need to take care of.”

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Do you ever have a hard time saying ‘no?’ What’s most difficult about it for you? How are you learning to say ‘no’ without creating internal negativity?

Mindful Monday | Fitting In

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The sense of belonging is an important basic human need. I’ve often thought that the issue of “not fitting in” was a concern reserved mostly for children and young adults. Yet sometimes, I find myself worrying about it, far beyond those high school years.

I worry about fitting in with friends, co-workers, acquaintances, even family (both my own and my in-laws). Even when surrounded by friends and loved ones, it can be very easy for me to feel like the odd one, and a little bit out of place. I remember those first feelings of “not fitting in” when I began recognizing the cultural divide between my “American side” and my “Filipino side;” it was hard to fit in with other Filipinos because I only spoke English, and sometimes it was hard to fit in with other Americans because I don’t look like most Americans. It was uncomfortable straddling that fence. At times, I felt like I didn’t really belong anywhere. I didn’t “fit in.”

It’s only recently that I’ve started to feel okay with myself. I’m still coming to terms with my differences and shortcomings, but I’m trying not to let my flaws or unique qualities become barriers that prevent me from establishing a sense of belonging with the people in my life that matter. I know it can be hard to feel like you’re part of the group, when you sense that might be the most insecure, strange, or flawed person in the room. I think my husband, Jon, has been helping me a lot with overcoming that. I love that I can totally be myself with him, and I want more people like that in my life. I think that if you ever feel pressured to change or to become something or someone else for the sake of feeling like you really “belong” with those around you, then it might be time to find other people to associate with.

Mindful Monday | Comparison

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I compare myself to others more often than I’d care to admit, whether it’s in appearance, intelligence level, socioeconomic status, etc. I think that being in this day in age of social media, it’s much easier to compare ourselves to others. We don’t even have to regularly (or ever!) physically encounter the people we compare ourselves to. Facebook, especially, is a treasure trove of idealized versions of people all over the world. It becomes easy to lose sight of the goodness we have in our own lives when we are constantly bombarded with carefully-manicured status updates and photographs.

I think it’s important to take some time once in a while to step back from the rose-colored lenses of social media. If we keep comparing ourselves to others and believing that we aren’t as attractive, or as happy, or as smart, or as accomplished, or as popular, we start to forget our own good, unique qualities; becoming “what I think the world wants” starts to overshadow “what I want.” I want to worry less about being “as good as” or “just like” other people, and focus more on trying to be the best version of myself instead.

Do you ever compare yourself to others? How do you pull yourself out of that negative mindset?

Mindful Monday | Little Acts

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I feel like I am still quite far from where I want to be, in terms of emotional well-being, but I always have to remember: Any progress — no matter how small — is still progress.

I know, it can feel incredibly frustrating and disheartening when the journey seems never-ending — even more so when you end up having to take a few steps back, but I think it’s important to keep context in mind. When you’re feeling anxious or depressed about how far you still have to go, stop for a moment and think about how far you’ve already come.

Where I want to be can feel like eons away, but looking back, I am certainly nowhere near where I used to be a year or two ago, and I’ve learned so much about myself and what I want and who I want to become. Emphasize your strong points. It may seem a bit self-indulgent or embarrassing to think about what makes you an incredible person — but do it. If you’re constantly beating yourself up in your head, chances are you probably aren’t giving yourself enough credit. Take pride in your accomplishments and abilities. Take pride in what you learn along the way, and whatever steps you take forward, no matter how small or inconsequential they might seem at first. It’ll make the journey far less intimidating.

Mindful Monday | Shame

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I know that nobody is perfect. I know that everybody makes mistakes. But when I’m overwhelmed by anxiety or fear, sometimes I will entangle my mistakes with my sense of self-worth. I feel like I have to constantly remind myself that my mistakes do not define me. My shortcomings and flaws do not define me. What should be momentary guilt is quite often replaced by deep, prolonged shame.

But mistakes are nothing to be ashamed of. For some reason, it is so much easier to amplify the negative than it is to focus on the positive. I think the first step in overcoming this is to recognize triggers; be mindful of when the feeling of shame sets in. Be mindful of recognizing mistakes and identifying them as just that — They are not testaments to weakness or stupidity. They are not measurements of personal intelligence or value. They are simply attributes of being human.

Mindful Monday | Gratitude

In an effort to make this new blog not only more consistent in content but to also include the my thoughts on coping with anxiety and depression, I have decided to start a [what will hopefully be a weekly] series called “Mindful Monday.” I love finding a great quote, mantra, lyric or affirmation that can easily sum up positive feelings in just a few words, so I thought I would share my favorite finds. For many of us, me included, the start of a new week can often create a lot of anticipatory anxiety, stress and worry. So what better way to kick off the week than with some positive words to get us going? πŸ™‚

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I think gratitude is such an important part of cultivating self-compassion and self-love. I am definitely guilty of not being as grateful for what I have as I should be. There are people in this world who would give anything to have some of the things and opportunities we take for granted on a daily basis, and there are also people in this world who feel content and fulfilled with their lives with so much less than what we have.

I want to try to make it a habit of thinking of at least a few things that I am grateful for every day so I can try break up my negative thought patterns. They don’t even have to be “big” things… it could be something as simple as being grateful for a sunny day when you expected it to rain, or being grateful for a sincere compliment you received from a kind stranger.

What are you grateful for today?