My Scars

Onward to Isotretinoin (Accutane).

I’ve avoided using isotretinoin for my acne problem, mostly because of its side effects; primarily the photosensitivity. I already have photodermatitis and have to avoid the sun, so I didn’t want to add to the whole ordeal. Little did I know it was only a minor side effect, one out of many little others.

Two weeks in now and the joint pain is real. The dry, itchy skin is no fun, neither are the dry lips. Reading the list of side effects, and add the long conversation with my dermatologist, it’s no wonder I have to go in monthly for blood work to check my liver. This also means goodbye to drinking alcohol, waxing, and tattoos. The skin is ultra sensitive and prone to bad scarring during this phase.

The last one really sucks. I wanted to finish my arm tattoo. I was particularly excited about adding the rainbow beam abducting someone. Plus adding Mt Rainier in the background.

I never thought I’d get a tattoo, particularly with the whole idea of “wearing something forever.” I didn’t feel strongly about anything to warrant it permanently tattooed on my skin. But, as I contemplated my acne dilemma, the many scars left, the many new scars even after microdermabrasion and new rounds of topical prescription treatments… I thought… of all the scars–both mentally and physically–that life ails me with, why always be the one afflicted? Another scar, another story written on my body. Why not ‘write’ a story of my own?

The story of my arm tattoo is pretty obvious; I love the Pacific Northwest. It symbolizes home, the top of the space needle stylized as a UFO (which is a UFO according to one of the architects) represents both my love of Seattle and SciFi. Once done, the little guy being abducted by a rainbow beam? The fact that I’m home. The only way I’m leaving here is in death or abducted (rescued?) by aliens, I figure my odds are 50/50.

Alas, I can’t wait until I’m done with isotretinoin, and with it my acne problem. Hopefully. There’s a 30%  possibility it may return.

For now, the tattoo waits. The rest of my “story” paused. For now, a lot of drinking water and moisturizing. For now, some joint and back pain, though I should be careful with OTC pain medication because of the whole liver thing. (Don’t want to stress it on top of isotretinoin). For now, no drinking alcohol–which is fine since I don’t really drink all that much these days. And lastly, no waxing.

Let the forest reclaim the land.

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The Importance of Self-Care

I think my anxiety is getting worse.

As a self-described introvert, I avoid crowds, the parties, large gatherings, and most people. I’ve made some strides with my FOMO (fear of missing out) experience, pushing myself to go out more, date more, try new things, do the whole gym thing. And for the most part, I’ve really enjoyed it.

However, lately, something else has manifested. At first, I dismissed it as the post-workout high, adrenaline. Maybe it’s just the rush after a good workout. Maybe it’s that pesky testosterone. Maybe… it’s something else.

The FOMO experience, as I’ve written before, has certainly pushed me to try new things. I’ve learned about the importance of self-care. As someone with a family history of diabetes and renal failure, I advocate yearly health checks and exercise. Man-up, men, and suck it up. I often tease, “This is the only body you get. No warranties. No refunds. No manuals. It’s the only thing you’ll ever truly own.”

My roommate introduced me to massages when he purchased a gift card for me. It’s something I’m truly grateful for as I never thought I’d find myself enjoying one. The experience was eye-opening, sort of like a mechanic pointing out all the things broken with your car. In my case, I was the broken car and the masseur was the mechanic. By the end of my first experience I wanted to marry my masseur. Massages are now part of my self-care, not only alleviate the fatigue of an aging body, but helping ease tired muscles from intense workouts.

A year ago I did some exfoliating and microderm treatments for my back. Youth left me with terrible acne scars. The results left me awe-struck, in a way that made me realize I didn’t have to be a slave to my past… in a way.

And here’s where we get a bit more personal and detailed.

Earlier this year I got circumcised.

It wasn’t a cosmetic decision, though I’ve always been somewhat self-conscience about it. Taboo and cultural differences aside, it was a medical reason, not vanity. Performance issues made some encounters physically uncomfortable or painful. Things were too tight.

“I’m glad you got the treatment you needed.. […]… I’m glad you’re taking care of yourself.”

It was this comment by a friend that really allowed me to self-analyze and see the importance of self-care. It’s in that comment that the creeping anxiety is taking center stage.

I discovered two things recently. When my dad visited a few months ago, in some of the photos (rare I know), I noticed terrible sweat stains. Sure, it was summer, but this seemed excessive. I’ve always been one to sweat excessively, even during workouts it was bad but heck everyone was sweating so it wasn’t a big deal. But, I was also sweating during other odd moments like driving, presentations/meetings, or really anything else with anxiety.

On morning drives to work I’d build up a terrible sweat stain. During the first hour of work–catching up on emails and reviewing the agenda for the day–I noticed a considerable amount of sweating. It didn’t help that most mornings there is a barrage of people messaging me or approaching my desk for help/bad news. “Fix this! Fix that!” At first, I dismissed it as that post-workout high. However, something wasn’t adding up. Visiting a dermatologist, I got diagnosed with hypohidrosis. A couple prescriptions later and what a world of difference. This entire time I had dismissed this excessive sweating as normal. Holy shit!

But then… enter the other side of this… the extreme.

The excessive sweating made way for the anxiety. Sort of how clearing the flood in your basement exposes the leak in your plumbing. You see, the blushing would occur, the hot flashes sans sweat. Given enough time though, even the medication had its limits and the sweat came like a deluge.

There’s something else going on.

I’m not sure what the triggers are. I don’t know how this manifested, or if it’s always been there. Sure, I’m a self-described introvert. I’m terribly shy around men I find attractive. Yet, this is all sort of new.

“This is the only body we get…” I remind myself. It may not come with a manual, but I have to make an effort to figure this out. There can’t be any shame in self-help, and in this case, I may have to talk to someone to figure this out. It’s beginning to impact my confidence at work, and my ability to focus to get things done.

This body is the only thing I’ll truly ever own. Here’s to self-care.

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