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Living With My Misunderstood Friend, Rosacea

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Like most people with chronic illnesses, mine wasn’t easily diagnosable at first. In fact, I’ve probably been unknowingly living with mine for about 20 years (since puberty). It would’ve been impossible to diagnose my condition back then, based on the only outward signs being sensitive skin and a tendency to easily blush. In my 20s, I began seeking help as an adult for my sensitive skin. I’ve been diagnosed since then with allergies (environmental and dietary), dermatitis (acute and chronic), eczema, psoriasis, acne, etc., etc. I’ve seen my fair share of doctors and endured a crap ton of screenings and prescriptions. But, no matter what treatments I was given for whatever malady the professionals happened to guess at, or how completely I would seem to go into a remission from these things, my sensitive skin always came roaring back with a vengeance… sooner or later.

Fast forward to me now, at 35 years old and still seeking answers. This month it would seem that I’ve finally found the riddle to my dermal sphinx. Rosacea. The pattern fits. And, actually, it fits so perfectly with what other “rosaceans” tend to experience that I am awash with a mixture of feelings at this revelation – relief, sadness, uncertainty, fear, a glimmer of understanding, and the early stages of acceptance. Rosacea is not my fault. Nothing I could’ve done would’ve changed this outcome. And, it’s no one’s fault that all the previous treatments for the other conditions failed… of course, they failed. They weren’t suited to rosacea.

In the grand scheme of things, nothing much has changed since my most current diagnosis. “Rosie” (as I like to call her) has been with me for decades. The only difference now is that I have a basis for understanding her better and more knowledge about what needs to be done to keep us both healthy, and by extension happy.

Living with Rosie isn’t always easy. She’s a bit nervous and reactive (and she can make me feel the same way right along with her). Her moods and needs can change from day to day depending on environments, weather patterns, sun exposure, stress, dietary balance, and many more lifestyle factors. My skin can go from being completely serene in the morning to itchy and red and bumpy in the afternoon (which is a blow to my self-confidence when it happens), to near perfect again by bedtime. It’s a roller coaster. Needless to say, Rosie has mood swings. But what I’m discovering along my journey with her is that she has her reasons for them.

Deep down, I suspect Rosie is trying her best to protect me, warning me away from aspects of life that would otherwise do me a great deal of harm: UV damage (my own mother had skin cancer), harsh chemicals, synthetics, poor dietary choices for my body chemistry, toxic relationships, and ill-suited work environments, as well as choices that aren’t authentic to who I truly am and what I really want for myself. Rosie keeps me real. If I’m on track, so is she… generally…

Rosie has also opened up a wealth of compassion within me, for others and also for me. I’m not as brash or judgmental as I used to be. I see and even sense suffering in others where I would’ve missed it before. And, I understand in a very visceral way what it is to hurt, to tolerate, to endure, to be frustrated, to feel less than, to be afraid, to be tired, and to be the one not in control of what I experience moment to moment. I also know what it means to release and to let go. To mourn and to move on. To make lemonade out of those damned proverbial lemons. Because, in the end, Rosie is mine for life. She’s not my enemy unless I make her so. She’s a long misunderstood friend, a sister, a guiding beacon with a uniquely rosy glow.

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Originally published: March 28, 2017
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