Diabetes + Acne = Me
August 28, 2016
This month’s Diabetes Sisters theme, Menstruation, Menopause and Everything in Between is huge. It covers the majority of a woman’s life. For me, however, when dealing with diabetes, it’s the “everything in between” piece that is most challenging and confounding. Can I be honest? What’s “in between” in my life is more acne than a junior high school class picture. If there is anyone reading this who has never had a pimple, you might want to move on, this blog is not for you. For the rest of us – can we please join together in one giant “WHY ME???” I’m 48 years old and I feel like a teenager. And not in a carefree, naïve sort of way. I mean, I feel like a teenager in the drugstore, debating between salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide products. Piling on makeup in the hopes that no one will notice (or at least, not be so grossed out they have to pin their eyes on my necklace instead of my face while talking to me).
Before I was diagnosed, nearly five years ago, I had a whole host of symptoms, including excessive acne. It was so bad, I actually contemplated calling in sick once or twice. I didn't recognize myself in the mirror. I was completely puzzled by the situation. You don’t often see acne listed under symptoms, or see it mentioned much in any diabetes literature. But dig enough, and you will find it. Excessive blood sugar can lead to acne. So before I was diagnosed and my blood sugar was running wild, every month my face broke out like a world map full of big red pins. And it was acne like I had never had before. When I was a teenager, I had the occasional pimple, but I generally had good skin. People used to compliment me, saying my skin was, amongst other things, transparent. I never understood what they meant, and still don’t. But I know I haven’t had a compliment on my skin in the past five years. With good reason – it’s in a constant state of breakout, recovery, breakout, recovery, breakout…. There is no down time between the recovery and the breakouts. The red spots from the last breakout are still present when the next breakout begins. I have old and new red spots and bumps overlapping each other constantly. And they don’t just look bad, they hurt, too. I started wearing bangs just to cover my forehead.
If this sounds awfully negative, it’s because there is no upside to having acne. I’ve searched, there's none. It’s pretty much just a bummer. Full stop. But my age brings a little relief to the situation. Fortunately, I’ve reached the stage of life in which being true to myself is more important than looking good on the outside. That said, I do like to look good. I enjoy getting dressed every morning, washing and styling my hair, and putting on make-up. Doing all of that is being true to myself. Only now, with diabetes, no matter what, those darned red spots and bumps are ever present. Another fortunate aspect of getting diabetes and acne at my age is that my eye sight is not what it used to be. So throughout the day, when I wash my hands in the ladies’ room at the office, and I look at myself in the mirror over the sink, I can’t see the spots. It’s only when I get home at the end of the day, and I can lean in really close, or use my magnifying mirror, that I realize how awful my skin has looked all day. But by then, most of the day has passed. I take off my make-up, wash my face, carefully apply my adult acne remedy, turn off the light, and forget about it. I guess the ability to quickly forget is another advantage of getting diabetes at my age :)