Monday, January 18, 2016

The Red Face Blues

This post is somewhat martial arts related, I promise.

So, for the past few months, I've struggled with a bit of adult acne - or what I thought was adult acne.  This is often one of the signs of pre-menopause, and given I'm my late 40's, it's not out of the question that is what it could be.  I'm pretty busy, so I've blown off seeking medical attention over it.

But then it got really bad last weekend.  It was more like a rash versus acne.  So I went to the doctor.

Lucky me, I've been diagnosed with rosacea.

Rosacea is a poorly understood skin disease affecting something like 16 million Americans to varying degrees, typically affecting people of northern European descent.  It is incurable, but can be managed somewhat with medical treatment.  It's not life threatening, it's just incredibly annoying and cosmetically a disaster.

As luck would have it, just as the "acne" was clearing up over the week, I then had what is called a "flare" - and it's bad.  My face is bright red - my forehead, cheeks, nose and chin - and there are little bumps.  I have Type 2 (Papulopustular Rosacea) - it kinda looks like I tripped and fell face-first into a vat of poison ivy.

Honestly I'd love to be a ninja right now so I can wear the full mask.

The ONE Ninja advantage! You can buy it here. I'm considering it.
It's been incredibly difficult to get up the courage to go to work and go about my business during this "flare", as it looks really, really bad - people who know me have been saying, upon first seeing it,  "Oh my god, what happened to you?!?"  There was a work lunch and I decided not to go, mainly because it's so raw, physically and emotionally for me right now, it's hard to face the idea of a restaurant full of people staring at me and wondering what's wrong with me and if it's contagious (my youngest daughter was worried about that - great news, it isn't).

It's also very uncomfortable with a lovely combination of burning sensation and itching which I'm enjoying oh, so very much at the moment.  So not only does it look bad, but it feels bad too.  Hooray!  Wonderful Combo!

Thanks a bunch, universe!
The thing is, I still have to go to work, to teach martial arts class and to attend martial arts classes - life does and must go on.  Of course, what I really want to do is hide in my room with a bag on my head.  It's a huge blow to my self esteem, lemme tell you, and being an overweight middle aged dumpy short woman did me no favors on that score to begin with.


This is where the martial arts part comes in.

See, I told you there'd be a connection.

All the values we talk about in the martial arts, the ones we teach the kids in particular, are coming to play in my regular life as I deal with this challenge.  This is a time where I need to live the values that I teach in my school.  After all, it's not just about mastering punching and kicking and footwork and edge awareness and self defense and all that stuff - it can't be.
  • I have to focus on what I have to do to cope with this disease and not allow it to derail me from what's important in my life
  • I have to have the courage to do what I need to do, knowing I will get reactions and stares when I'm in a flare, no matter where I have to be or what my commitments are
  • I have to have the perseverance to find a treatment plan for me that works and to implement it when it's found
  • I have to be honest about what my triggers are so that I can tackle them
  • I have to have the confidence that I will find a way to live with this 
  • I have to trust my doctors that they know what they are doing and will help me
As much as I want to hide my face away, I just can't.  I have responsibilities, after all - to my job, to my teacher, to my students, to my family...

If I gave in to the fear and shame and depression of it all, I'd set a very bad example for my own children and for the students I teach.  It also gives this stupid disease way more power over me than it deserves to have.  And honestly, this is mostly a cosmetic problem, versus something more serious like cancer or arthritis or the other conditions so many of my martial arts friends cope with on a daily basis. So I feel kind of shallow giving it THAT much importance in my life.

So, instead of crying by myself in a dark room, I'm going to stand up, look this right in the eye, and then punch its lights out.

So, in the spirit of this, instead of hiding, I've decided to show the world what it looks like. Here's what I look like in the middle of a flare:

Rosacea - if only I'd had the fun of alcohol to compensate looking like a rummy.
I'll eventually - hopefully - figure out what treatment plan works for me, so I can keep flares to a minimum.  But it's something I will have to cope with for the rest of my life, so I'll constantly be managing it from here on out.

I have to accept the reality of that, and deal with it.  Because hiding isn't an option for me.

I'm a martial artist.  I'm going to kick its ass.