By Jenn Adele K., a patient who only recently discovered that she’s been living with rosacea for most of her life.
Like most people with chronic illnesses, mine wasn’t easily diagnosable at first. In fact, I lived unknowingly with mine for about 20 years. It would’ve been impossible to diagnose my condition back then; my only outward signs were sensitive skin and a tendency to easily blush. In my twenties, I began seeking help. Since then, I’ve been diagnosed with allergies (environmental and dietary), dermatitis (acute and chronic), eczema, psoriasis, acne, etc. I’ve seen my fair share of doctors and endured a ton of screenings and prescriptions. But no matter what treatments I was given for whatever malady the professionals guessed I had, or how complete my remission seemed, my sensitive skin always came roaring back with a vengeance.
In 2017, and I’m still seeking answers. Months ago, I finally found the answer to the riddle: rosacea. The pattern fits. It fits so perfectly with what others tend to experience that I am awash with a mixture of feelings – 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 though I now have effective medication, 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 this way too!) 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, red and bumpy in the afternoon (delivering a blow to my self-confidence), to near perfect again by bedtime. But what I’m discovering along my journey with her is that she has her reasons for her mood swings.
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 suffered with 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 myself. I’m not as brash or judgmental as I used to be. I see and 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 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.