I’m very used to having red cheeks. I’ve had them for more than fifteen years. It started off as a bit of extra pink – almost a sun-kissed look – but this rosiness darkened from month to month and from year to year until my face was closer to the shade of a beet than a flower. Some makeup helped to cover that up, but it became more challenging when the little whitehead pimple-like bumps decided to join the mix.
Those are the visible symptoms of rosacea that affect me. They’re the reason I’m continually greeted by sales clerks in stores with well-intended comments such as “whoops, someone spent too much time in the sun” or, “oh, look at those rosy cheeks. It must be cold out!”
Inside, the feeling of rosacea is far worse than a bit of redness or a pimple or two. It can be a constant physical discomfort such as burning, stinging or even pain. Emotionally, it can be scarring.
A study conducted by the National Rosacea Society described the “damage to quality of life and emotional well-being” from having rosacea (http://rosacea.org/press/archive/20070608.php). The research involved the participation of 603 patients with the skin disorder, among whom 73 percent said the impact on their personal appearance had “diminished their outlook on life.”
• 69 percent of the participants had been embarrassed by their rosacea symptoms;
• 65 had suffered from feelings of frustration;
• 41 percent were battling with anxiety stemming from their symptoms;
• 35 percent felt like they were helpless;
• 25 percent had gone through – or were currently going through – depression;
• 18 percent were combating feelings of isolation.
I can believe it because I can relate. I was diagnosed with social anxiety disorder when I was in my early twenties. The last thing I need is to know that I have flaming-red cheeks and acne-like bumps when I’m trying to keep up my self-confidence in public. Disorder aside, knowing that people all around you are judging you by your appearance and knowing that you’ve unsuccessfully done everything you can to try to overcome the symptoms can certainly bring about feelings of embarrassment, frustration, anxiety, helplessness, depression and isolation.
The fact that stress makes this condition worse makes sure those feelings will continue to turn the wheel of that vicious cycle.
It took me fifteen years to finally control my rosacea. It hasn’t gone away. I still have flare-ups now and again, but it’s under control. It took a long time but despite an initial misdiagnosis and despite my anxiety disorder, I am managing my rosacea. If I can do it, anyone can. It may take time but through education about the skin disorder and through persistence, I believe there is a strategy for everyone’s triggers and symptoms.
There is a treatment for each of us, my Rosy Friends. The key is to keep trying, keep testing, keep talking, never give up and stick together. You’re allowed a sulk or a tantrum now and again – especially when another 12 weeks of testing something new and promising ends up being just another fail – but once you’re done, get a good sleep and start fresh in the morning. After all, tomorrow might be the day when you finally find what works for you.