Skin ailment? No, it’s a fashion emergency!

Allison writes…

I started to gain weight when I was about nine years old. By the time I was eleven, I was wearing an adult size twelve, and by the time I was fifteen, I was a size twenty. I hated myself from age ten onwards. I had dreams –- literally, dreams -– about magically losing all that weight over the summer so I could finally be pretty again. It didn’t help that I had bad skin either. And I’m not just talking the regular, teenage acne. Psoriasis runs in my family and I had it bad on my legs and arms, mostly around my knees and elbows. Eventually, my mum took me to see a dermatologist.

Now, at this point, I was about thirteen and track pants and pajama pants were just the coolest thing ever. Everyone wore them everywhere, and I liked them because they fit and they didn’t pinch in any odd places. The dermatologist told me to take off my shirt so she could look at my back. I did, and she immediately started scolding me because I had red marks on my skin from sitting in elastic waist pants. She told me that I was fat and I couldn’t wear clothing that size. Then she sent me away and told me my bad skin was all my fault. Because my clothes were too tight and I was dirty and didn’t wash my face often enough. When I was thirteen.

My mother was appalled. We marched out of that dermatologist’s office and never went back. But we never filed a complaint either. Instead, it took two years before my mother asked our family doctor to recommend a different dermatologist, and he did, kindly, and she was much better, because surprise! Neither of my skin conditions were my fault.

Now, as anyone who has worn pants with an elastic waist will know, they need a certain amount of tightness to stay up. They were not too small at all, but at thirteen I internalised all that and was ashamed of myself for wearing clothing that was “too small” for me. To this day, I buy all my clothing baggy. If something hugs my body then I’m ashamed of it, or else I feel extremely uncomfortable and imagine that everyone is staring at me and thinking about what a sloppy cow I am. It’s not limited to my clothing either. My skin is my obsession. If I get even one blemish than I can’t stop doing things to it until it’s gone. Because it’s my fault that it’s there in the first place and everyone is staring at my horrible skin. It’s borderline neurotic, but I can’t help it. I can’t tell you the abuse I’ve put my skin through over the years to keep it from scarring or from having a pimple, like that was the end of the world.

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6 Comments

  1. sprinklemouse

     /  November 26, 2007

    That’s so horrible. I’m sorry for what you went through, and it’s continued impact on your adult life. I never had a health “professional” criticize my wardrobe, but it was drilled into me at a young age, that fat should not be seen. I just can’t… conceptualize ever wearing something that actually reveals my shape. I don’t wear jeans, under the woe that they “don’t fit me”. Truthfully, I can find jeans that fit me. But they conform to my hips, thighs, calves and make me feel horrible. I’m a multi-outfit gal… I try on many many different ensembles before I step out of my bedroom, never mind my house. My clothes are judged by how they hang- smooth, no bumps, swells, bulges. Nothing. My mother, a petite lady, is the same way. She won’t wear a sweater if there’s a hint of a fat roll visible over her jeans. It’s getting ridiculous, though. As she gets older, the fat roll is pretty much always there. She should embrace it.

    I’m one to talk, though. Sigh.

    Reply
  2. Debbie Beukema

     /  November 26, 2007

    Oh man, I am so sorry. I wish I could just go back to that 13 year old girl and look her in the eyes and tell her she is good, pretty, it’s not her fault. You really needed someone to stick up for you and that doctor just hurt you when you were so vulnerable. I am so sorry.

    Reply
  3. I’m sorry you had to go through that. I know a bit of what you were feeling – I went to my doctor’s office one day for a checkup, and they found I was nearly 200 lbs. The nurse suggested I should try to lose weight, and when I told her I had been, but it wasn’t working. She replied “well, I suppose there are some guys who’d want to go out with a 190 lb woman, but no many. You really should try harder.” I was maybe 15 or 16 at the time, and had yet to be asked out on a date. Yeah, that helped a whole lot. :/

    Reply
  4. lilacsigil

     /  December 13, 2007

    Yes, my 55kg, 6’1″ brother (a seriously underweight BMI of 16 at the time) who has severe psoriasis definitely got it from being fat, dirty and wearing tight clothes! He has psoriasis around all his joints, on his back, face, hands and feet. But he’s thin, so he was taken seriously.

    That’s an appalling way to treat a vulnerable teenage girl, and a dermatologist, particularly, should know better.

    Reply
  5. I’m really late to the party here, but I’d just like to point out I’ve been told by many a dermatologist that washing your face too much can exacerbate acne, by overstimulating the oil glands or something. Lots of kids compulsively wash their face to make it go away and end up making it worse.

    I was once accused of never washing my face on the basis of zits, too. By a MEAN 12-YEAR-OLD GIRL I was stuck at a lunch table with, not a doctor. Unbelievable.

    Reply
  6. Jackie

     /  April 21, 2008

    Allison, I know how you feel. It seems for some reason, people in a position of authority, be it a doctor, teacher, or whatever, feel they’re right in putting blame on the person who comes to help them.

    I had skin problems too, when I was younger. I never really learned how to wash my face when I was a teen. Basically, my mom put a tape in the VCR (remember those?), that was your basic sex ed tape. About the monthly cycle and all that. I don’t know really if it was I had breakouts, or I kept cutting myself. Since before I was put on antidepressants, I cut myself alot.

    When you cut yourself, you’re basically told it’s your fault. As in you’re being an inconvenience to everyone, by making them have to face the pain they’re inflicting on you. You see, like telling someone Anorexic just to eat, telling someone they should stop cutting is counterproductive. It makes them feel more anxious/self-blaming and want to cut more.

    Or even worse, humilating and or attacking someone about it. Seriously, I’ve literally had people run up to me and scream “What are you doing to yourself!”, because you know how terrifying someone helps them cope. I mean, it’s beyond me. You know, I watch horror films alot. You see that behaviour in horror films, people running up to someone and screaming at them. You would think someone would figure out, that’s not how you treat people already. Furthermore I have Hyperacusis, a sensitivity to sudden loud noises, which of course made things all that much worse.

    Blaming someone for something that is out of their control leads them down two paths:

    1. Hating themselves

    2. Hating others, because they hate themselves.

    Both which are obviously not desirable. I don’t think you even need a course in psychology from Wikipedia, to understand that blaming someone, making them cry. Making them feel powerless, like they’re a burden. Causing them to feel hopeless, solves anything. All it does is make that authority figure get off on someone else’s pain. It’s beyond sick if you ask me. It’s no different than what Freddy Kruger, or any other horror villan does to people. At least Freddy Kruger can come up with some rather funny sarcastic statements.

    You don’t tell someone going through puberty that their problems are their fault period. You might as well be blaming someone who was born as wheelchair bound for not being able to walk. I’m sorry if this is getting ranty, but seriously it’s beyond me. Maybe people are that ignorant, not to see that they’re inflicting life-long truama on someone, or maybe they just don’t care. I’m sorry, I cannot say for anyone who intentionally goes out of their way to harm others, is a human being. They’re less than human, like subhuman.

    I don’t know if you remember, or if that dermatologist is even in practice anymore. You should report them though, it might bring closure. Like this psycho dentist I once had, that drilled into a cavity just to hear me scream. I mean, seriously like the dentist Corbin Burnsen played in the film The Dentist. I had him reported to 1-800-Dentist. It’s like, what is wrong with those people. I also ended up getting a root canal on that tooth, which clearly says he was a total nutjob who was drilling cause he liked it. I don’t want to go any further, cause seriously..you don’t want to know. He worked on kids..special kids..kids who couldn’t say the dentist is hurting me. How these people manage to live in society I’ll never know. It’s like American Psycho, nobody suspected the guy was actually sick and murderous.

    I’m done. I think that was 3 horror film references in one rant, that’s pretty good. LoL

    Reply

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