Anxiety, Acne & Roaccutane!

I have had acne for the better part of 7 years now. Started off as just a few spots, then the pores on my face started to widen, giving me black heads, and as if that wasn’t bad enough, I started to get cystic acne. I am honestly not sure why this started. Stress? Hormonal imbalance? Genetics? Who actually knows?

I have been to the doctor on and off now for the last 5 years. I have been put on the pill, antibiotics, and topical creams. I found the pill worked a bit, but they had to take me off it as it increases your chances of a stroke (quite significantly) and there is history of it in my family (Mum is on stroke 3 and my Gran died from a stroke). The antibiotics I took did help a bit, but being on antibiotics is just not good long term. As soon as I stopped them, my acne would flare up again with a passion. Topical creams are good at stopping a spot in its tracks, but you are then left with red, flaking, sore patches, so I am not really sure what is worse to look at!

For about a year I had been making my own facial soaps, cleansers, masks, face oils etc all in a bit to kill it naturally. Every time I found something that worked, my face would hit back at me tenfold. It was like the acne found a way to fight back.

Last year I was just totally fed up. I was sick to death of standing in front of the mirror every day, trying to conceal and paint my face to feel like I could leave the house with confidence. I tried my G.P once again, and this time, because of the scarring I have, I was referred to dermatology. It was a 6 month wait, that felt like it took forever. In my initial appointment, I was checked over, medical history discussed, and it was decided the best way forward was Roaccutane aka Isotronin. Due to my history of mental health, I was told to take a couple of weeks to think about it, and to read the 6 page, A4 booklet of possible side effects and warnings.

I was shaking as I left the office, just at the thought of this medication. When I got to the car, I phoned my husband sobbing. I was a mess. Just at the thought of it. By the time I got to work, I was completely spaced out. Hello depersonalisation. I found it so hard to concentrate that day, I just had the side effects whirling around in my head. Thinking things like “It would be just my luck to take this and drop down dead”, “Depression, anxiety & suicidal thoughts. Yes, because I need help there”, or “Potential balding, sudden loss of vision and seeping nails? Yup, that would be me. I bet ya!”.

That night I got home and I read umpteen forums online, most of which were on The amount of horror stories out there is crazy! You would have people posting things like:

“OMG don’t do it! It was the worst thing I ever did. I ended up with Crohn’s disease and my hair fell out”

“Don’t do it, people have committed suicide because of this”

“My twin and I took this, I’m fine, but they’ve been left with so many health complications”

Reading these sent my thoughts into overdrive. I was beside myself. What was I going to do? I have exhausted everything. My acne is depressing the life out of me, literally! Here I am, faced with a horrific solution that could either cure or kill me. Is it worth it?

During the 2 week cooling off period, I was up and down like a rollercoaster. Some days I would look in the mirror and be all “I look horrific, I don’t care about the side effects, I’m doing this”, and others were “You know what, I may be ugly and spotty, but it’s better than dead!”. By the time my next appointment came around, I was so nervous. I sat shaking in the waiting room. My mouth was dryer than Ghandi’s sandal. When I was called into the room, I felt myself about to bubble. I knew I had no time left and I just had to make the decision. I talked with my dermatologist about all of my concerns, and he took the time to really listen to me. I was assured, that out of the hundreds of patients he’s seen, and put on Roaccutane, only 2 have come off the treatment, and that was their own choice, due to side effects. He then went on to tell me that he’s even treated someone with schizophrenia, and they had no issues at all. He did tell me that he wouldn’t offer me something, if he didn’t think it was safe to do so, and if he didn’t believe it would work, however, it was completely my choice and we could revisit the possibility of more antibiotics.

I took a moment to think, and I came to realise that I could at least try it. If I don’t like how it’s making me feel I can come off it. He’s already told me this, more than once in fact. What if I walked out of the room, with more antibiotics, finding myself in the same situation a few months later, regretting having not tried? And with that thought, I told him I would take the prescription. I was given a prescription for 20mg, of which is the lowest dose you can be put on to see results. It is also the dose that has shown to give the least side effects. Usually people are put onto 60mg for 4 months, but these are the people who suffer the worst. On the 20mg dose, you take it for up to 10 months, but I don’t mind, assuming it clears my acne and gives me the least side effects.

As I took my prescription to the hospital pharmacy, I was still shaking. I did even debate as I waited for it, just leaving without it and not looking back. As I walked back to the car, I thought about going back to talk with my dermatologist again, to discuss (again) my alternatives. I was driving myself crazy. When I got back to work, I was completely detached. I felt awful, dizzy, sickly. I let all of the negative thoughts surround me like a blanket of doom. I convinced myself that I was going to die that night. That was it. This would be my last day. Dramatic? Fuck yeah!! But, this is how my brain works. I’m sure some of you reading this will get it.

When I got home, I knew I had to take it, as they are best taken at night, with food. I stood making dinner, reading the booklet of warnings once again, and reading all the forums again. I was looking at all the arguments for and against it, trying to be objective. All the while the dark voice in my head was telling me “You know you’re unlucky. You know all the bad things you’re reading about will happen to you. You will die!”. It’s at this moment my Dad walks into the kitchen, looks at the booklet briefly and goes on to plead a case as to why he doesn’t want me to take it. I barked at him. I didn’t need him telling me the concerns. I had read them. I had thought about them for 2 weeks. Constantly. It had quite literally taken over my entire life, affected my sleep, work, mood, etc. It had consumed me. So, hearing my Dad make a negative case, just caused me to take it all out on him. Not my finest hour, and I have since apologised.

I stood in the kitchen, bubbling, again. Trying to read some positive comments, with a glass of water poured and my tablet in my other hand. The level of fear I felt was unreal. I’ve not felt that scared to do something for many years. If I was to liken it to anything; it was a similar level of fear I felt about leaving the house when I was agoraphobic. I put the pill back in the box, and then I thought, “You will regret not even trying”, so I quickly grabbed it back out of the box, and swallowed it without a second thought. I had done it. That was it. No going back now. I started to sob again. What had I done?

My daughter was staying home that night, so I had asked if she would sit with me and watch a movie for a bit. I was too scared to be alone in case something really bad happened. Thankfully, my daughter knew this, and was happy to sit with me and make jokes to help lighten the mood. I was also messaging my sister, who, as always, managed to put things into perspective for me. Before I knew it, the movie was over. I was still alive. I hadn’t gone blind. There was no headache, Abdominal pain, breathlessness, sickness, stomach upset etc. I was absolutely fine.

The other day I was speaking quite openly with a friend about my being worried when I started Roaccutane, and someone else I know approached me and was all “Don’t do it! I’ve been refused it from dermatologists because it’s so bad for you”… essentially putting the absolute fear in me. The whole while they’re offering me this advice, my inner voice is screaming for them to just shut up! Go away!! Take your concern and direct it elsewhere, this lady right here doesn’t need any more fear instilled… I tried to politely explain to this person that more than a little thought had gone into this decision. It wasn’t on a whim. I’ve not bypassed all the good doctors and been given a shit one that wants to kill me. Yet they continued to offer ‘advice’. This sent my anxiety into overdrive once again. I sat at my desk, in bits, frantically messaging my sister and husband, who both managed to peel me off the ceiling. I know that this person didn’t mean to scare me. Their concern came from a good place, and they are a really lovely person. I just wish people wouldn’t offer medical advice so freely, especially when negative and not asked for.

Today I’m exactly 8 days from taking 20mg of Roaccutane nightly with my dinner. Other than dry skin, throat, &  some tightness around the forehead and cheeks, there is absolutely no side effects for me. I do appreciate that it needs to build up in my system, and my side effects may worsen, but for now? I’m all good. I have used my PMA every day to get me through being able to take my next tablet. Every day I recognise that this doctor has been practicing for a number of years, has successfully treated hundreds of happy/healthy patients, and I am but the next on his list. I also take the time to look in the mirror and marvel at how quickly my acne is starting to clear up. I had about 4 cystic lumps on my jawline just as I started treatment. They hadn’t quite surfaced yet, but they were sore, and you could feel them just waiting to appear. These have now gone. Completely. No red marks left behind. Just gone.

To anyone reading this, with anxiety issues, looking to start Roaccutane, I would say this to you:

There will always be scaremongers out there! Always. People love nothing more than to post doom and gloom. Someone on the site quite rightly pointed out, that people who have positive outcomes, tend to not need anymore, therefore their success stories are not there. People who have bad experiences however, need a platform to shout from, and that just so happens to be where we are finding our information.

It is not something to consider lightly. It is serious medication. My advice is this; read the leaflets you are given, talk in length with your dermatologist. Be prepared! You know that dry skin, throat, eyes, and peeling lips etc affect more than 1 in10 people, so keep your fluids up, buy eye drops, and invest in a good moisturiser and lip balm. Start from the moment you take your tablet to prevent, not treat, the side effects. Someone else said they started supplements like Vitamin D & Vitamin B6, and they found it helped. I discussed that with my dermatologist and his simple answer was “there is no evidence to support that supplements will help you when taking Roaccutane, but it cannot hurt if you want to”. So really, it may not help, but it won’t do you any harm.

As with all medication, possible side effects need to be listed. Take a moment to read a paracetamol packet for instance? They have a little list too. It’s not to say you’ll get any of them, they are just precautionary.

Do your own research, but take your findings to your G.P/Dermatologist, who can discuss them with you. Also, remember that you will have bloods taken at the start of treatment, and then again every 30 days.. This medication is not given out on a whim, and you are closely monitored. Just be sure that you’re informed from all the right sources, and try not to trust everything you read on forums. As whilst you can be sure some of the horror stories are true, don’t forget that the internet is full of trolls, and I don’t doubt for a second that some of those responses are just that. People trolling others, because why? Well they can, and unfortunately, there are some weird creatures out there that get off on it. We also need to consider, that whilst some people get terrible side effects, they may have underlying, or even existing, medical conditions that are affected by Roaccutane. We just don’t know. So don’t focus too much on others, focus on your medical history, how you feel, and what your doctors suggest for YOU.

I will look to do another post on this, at the end of my 30 days. I’ll give a full update on my moods, side effects (if any more appear), my skin and my anxiety.

I do hope that this helps you make your decision, whichever one is right for you!



Always angry!

I feel like I spend my life being frustrated, negative and angry! I honestly need to try and be positive. I work very hard daily to find at least one positive in every situation and you know what? It’s tiring.

Even growing up I was a very negative child. I saw the worst in everything/everyone, and in all honesty, was probably a nightmare to be around. I was angry when I was little because my parents were divorced, I was stuck in the middle, and I was being bullied. I was so frustrated and bitter about the whole thing, that it made me incredibly negative. There was a girl I went to school with, Janine, who was the happiest/bubbliest girl I think I’ve ever met. Just such a lovely, genuinely nice person too. I would look at her sometimes and think “how can someone be this happy all the time? Its not natural!”. In hindsight, Janine probably just wasn’t an angry, bitter girl. Makes sense really. Abraham Lincoln once said “You’re only as happy as you make your mind up to be”, and I believe he’s right. If we start something with negative thoughts, it will only ever be a negative experience.

You would think that as I’ve gotten older, I would have curbed this by now. I have managed to find a way to cope, by using PMA, but it’s so much effort and tiring that sometimes it annoys me and just contributes to my frustrations. Why do I have to find it so hard to be positive? To be happy? To not be angry/frustrated all the time?

I have things and people that make me happy, but it’s like my brain cannot see this as enough. I have had bad things happen, and that’s it. Arse has fallen out of my world, I hate everyone, everyone hates me, it’s all gone to shit and I’m gonna eat some worms. My mind races over the negative comments/situations and blows them all out of proportion. Then I need to sit, and painstakingly go over everything and find the positives. If I don’t do that, one negative thing will just snow ball into the next, and the next, and so on until I have the mood I’m in today.

I am currently sitting in my room, in the world’s worst mood and I’ve been very politely asked to just stay in here and chill. I’m not even mad at that. I get why my husband would rather not deal with it. I don’t want to deal with it either, but I’m stuck with me. I have let things this week get on top of me to the point of not being able to sleep (shock!), and having nightmares when I do sleep. I’ve let life and work just get on top of me, taking no time to do my PMA and this is where it’s gotten me. Grimacing at my phone as I type this blog.

This week I have managed to bark at everyone who has dared to give me a sideways glance, or heaven forbid, disagree. I also do this thing where I look to others to make me feel better, and when they dont, this makes me frustrated. What is that about? It’s not anyone else’s responsibility to make me happy. It’s mine.

So here it is; I’m sat here, after a pretty meh week, feeling frustrated. I’m then feeling angry with myself for letting it get this out if hand and now being sat here in the world’s worst mood. I have spent the week feeling completely detached and it’s been horrible.

What now? I need to get a grip and focus on my PMA. I need to start looking at all the positives that have come out of this week, even if it’s only one. I need to look toward the weekend and week ahead and find the positives, so that I’m not taking this bad mood forward.

To all of you that have had to endure me this week, I’m sorry! Believe it or not, I do try to not be so angry, grumpy, negative, argumentative and just a general pain to be around.

This is why PMA is so important. Without it, I don’t cope. Yes this week is a bit of a write off, but tomorrow is a new day! It’s also Saturday, so a longer lie, no work and hopefully a chance to spend sometime with my family and enjoy the rest of my weekend.

Do any of you find it hard to see the positives? Do you feel angry/frustrated all the time?

High Functioning Anxiety?

Naturally since starting this blog I have worried about what people will think. I’ve had thoughts like “Is this the right thing? Am I exposing too much of myself?”, “Will people think I’m just attention seeking”, “Am I boring them?”, “Do people even read it? Do they even care?”, “what if they read this, but think it’s a load of crap, as I’m up every day, at work, out socially etc. They’ll never believe what I have to say”. Again, with the negative thoughts. But I must remember why I’ve started this blog. I’ve done this for myself, to get out what I’m thinking/feeling, but also to help those around me and even strangers facing the same struggles. These worries are what has inspired tonight’s post, as I need people to understand that I do appear ok on the surface, but inside it’s a very different story.

In 2005 I was diagnosed with G.A.D (Generalised Anxiety Disorder). Meaning, I don’t just have one form of Anxiety, I have a bit of everything; I worry about absolutely everything from social situations, health, money, family, friends, work etc. Yes I know, everyone worries about these things, but for someone like me, It involves anticipating the worst, and overthinking the scenarios of how the worst can happen. This level of worrying and overthinking, is what rears the feeling of being scared and can induce a panic attack.  In the beginning, I found it overwhelming and I really struggled to cope. When you go from being ‘normal’, to essentially fearing life, it does take its toll. In the first few years of learning to cope, I was completely erratic and I had many more bad days than good. These days, it’s a different story. I can go weeks having good days, before I have an episode where my Anxiety can take over.

What is a good day, and what is a bad day? Well a good day to me is one where I’ve not let my Anxiety take over. It’s always there, in the pit of my stomach, like a dull ache, but on good days I can ignore it. I can let the feeling wash over me, and I will pull through and do what needs to be done. A bad day, is one where that feeling cannot be ignored, and I let it consume me until it’s grown bigger than I can handle. This doesn’t always result in a full-blown panic attack, these days it usually manifests as depersonalisation. You will find that over time, you find your own ways to manage your fears. You become accustom to what can set you off and you can choose to avoid it completely, or, find a way to get you through it. I wouldn’t recommend avoiding your fears forever, as you will only isolate yourself, making you feel worse. I would say that you should understand what your triggers are, and work towards better managing them. My way of coping is PMA, and in my blog about this I explain how I have to reinforce positive thoughts in my head, or completely distract my thoughts to get me through things that make me feel anxious.  I would love to sit here and say that I’ve mastered all my fears, I have not, but I have mastered most and like to think this attributes to me being able to get up each day, go to work, go shopping in supermarkets, and be there for my family.

I’m someone who is classed as having ‘High Functioning Anxiety;’. What is high functioning Anxiety? Well, it’s pretty much what it states; it’s someone who is high functioning, but still lives with the inner struggles of an Anxiety Disorder. If you have read my  blog, ‘You don’t look anxious to me!’, I do explain, that just because someone isn’t cowering in a corner shaking, doesn’t mean that they don’t have an Anxiety disorder.  Remember watching Tom & Jerry, when the Angel & Devil would appear on Tom’s shoulders? Having high functioning anxiety is a bit like that. Naturally the Devil is your Anxiety, and the Angel is your rational thoughts. It’s a constant battle between the two. I get negative thoughts, rationally I know it’s my anxiety, but this doesn’t always stop me from doubting myself or letting the feeling of being anxious overwhelm me. I’m pleased to say my rational thoughts triumph more these days, and I appear like I’m a ‘normal’ person.

Despite me appearing normal to those around me who don’t know any better, I do struggle with:

  • Never feeling good enough – Every single day of my life I feel like I’m a bad mother, bad wife, bad at my job, bad friend and just an all-round bad person. I worry about every little decision I make, how it will impact others, and will this cause the people I care about to hate me. If you are outwith my circle, I care about what you think, how you are, how my actions affect you, but, if you are in my circle (someone I care about), my feelings of not being good enough for you are magnified. I fear that I will be seen as a fraud, and that you will see the terrible person I am and leave me.
  • Rejection – Yes, I just love to be rejected! Said no-one ever. No-one likes it. Probably one of the worst feelings in the world. For someone like me though, this ties in with never feeling good enough. If we take the chance to put ourselves out there, exposing ourselves, only to be told we’re essentially not good enough, that hits us hard. I will doubt myself in every way. I will sit and scruitinise every single moment of our encounter, and tear myself up inside. A job interview for example? Wow. I will over play every possible outcome of this interview in my head, then when in the interview, I’m just a wreck. Looking at the interviewers faces thinking “Why are they not smiling? Oh, my god they hate me. I shouldn’t have worn this outfit, I don’t look smart enough…” These negative thoughts will go on. I will then leave the interview and over play the whole scenario again in my head, hating the answers I’ve given, beating myself up for missed opportunities to say something funny/positive. Queue a bout of panic, depersonalisation, and the need to go home and curl up in bed. That is exactly what happened after the last job I went for. Thankfully I got that job, but that didn’t stop me from being in bits until I got the call to say I had the job. I don’t think I slept or ate a full meal for a week.
  • Change – Small progressional changes I can just about cope with, as these I can prep, plan and make lists for. Big changes that are progressional, are a little more nerve wracking, but again manageable if I’m given time to prep, plan and make a list. Sudden change can set me off into a downward spiral. This is throwing me into the unknown, unprepared, and I will freak out. Sometimes I’ve done so publicly, others I’ve had a quiet eruption beneath the surface.
  • Being let down – I am someone who has had to learn to cope with things on my own. I pride myself on this and will never ask for help, unless it’s completely necessary. If someone has said they will be there for me, or help me, and let me down, I take this particularly hard. It sends my thought process down a negative path of wondering things like “Do they not care?”, “Am I not worth their time?”, “Is this because they hate me”, and before you know it I’m doubting my relationship with this person. Sounds dramatic, and it very much is, but it’s how my brain operates.
  • Stress – No-one likes feeling stressed. It’s hardly a pleasurable feeling. We all deal with it differently; there are those of us, that very rarely get stressed and when they do, they understand they need to slow down. Then there are those that find the smallest situations stressful, namely me, and do not cope well with high stress situations. I deal with high stress situations every day, that others may hear about and think “wow, you need to calm down”. Just a heads up, never tell someone who’s stressed to calm down, you’ll only turn the stress to anger. When things get too stressful for me, I need to take a deep breath, walk away, clear my thoughts, then come back to try again. Doing this allows me to look at the situation more objectively and assess things properly.
  • Health Concerns – I worry relentlessly about my health. All it takes is a chest pain (usually wind. Must be all the hot air), and I’m convinced I’m having a heart attack. A headache is a stroke/brain tumour. Sore stomach is an ulcer/stomach cancer. You can see the pattern here. I know this I not rational, but in the back of my mind I then worry that one day I’ll blame it on the anxiety and it will be real and I’ll die. That will be that. I will have ignored obvious signs of being unwell, put it down to being in my head and I’ll just die.

Ok so to anyone who has just read my list and is thinking, “Well, I can relate to all of that and I’m not anxious. We all don’t like these things”. You are totally right. The things I have mentioned are things that no-one in the world likes to have to deal with. My point here is; whilst no-one likes to feel stressed, be let down, go through change, be rejected, or never feel good enough. To someone like me, we cannot cope with these situations, as well as someone with a more rational mind. That is the difference.

How do I manage to be high functioning, when feeling anxious?

  • Planning – I like to plan, plan, plan! I swear the people close to me are driven around the bend with this. The unknown is a daunting place, and I like need to be prepared. If I’m ever in a situation where I do not have time to plan, my panic will start to surface. I do not cope well with not at least contemplating how things will work out. I need to have at least one scenario in my mind.
  • Lists – Once I have planned something, I will then list the tasks in hand. This is so that I know nothing will be missed, but also so I know I’m on the right track and can see my progress.
  • Distraction – I need to keep my mind busy all the time. One of the reasons I love my job, is the fact that I can completely submerge myself into work. When I’m working, I don’t have to think about the house, the kids, my partner, bills, family, health, friends etc. I get to just worry about the task in hand. I need my work to be able to cope, and even on what may be a bad day, I’ll chose to go to work, as I know staying at home would be worse, as it would give me more time to think. There have only been a few occasions where going to work wasn’t feasible, but this was because the physical symptoms were so bad, that I just would not have managed.
  • Space – I need space! Lots and lots of space. Me time is a must. I need to be in a room where I’m not expected to answer 101 questions, or even just have a conversation. I’ll often just crawl into bed and put on a movie/TV show, something I can get totally lost in, that allows me to completely detach for a couple of hours. I always find that my brain is racing at 100mph, but chilling with a good movie, allows my brain to switch off.
  • My Circle – My circle is small, and purposefully so. I need to surround myself with people who understand why I am the way I am, but also those who are a positive influence and who can keep my spirits up. These are also people who I trust implicitly and who I know would never let me down, reject me or make me feel like I wasn’t good enough.
  • Music – Everyone listens to music, whether it’s when you’re getting ready for work, in the car, when you’re cleaning, cooking etc. All of us listen to our music. I listen to music all the time, every opportunity. Why? Because it helps to calm my thoughts. If I put music on, then I tune into the rhythm or the lyrics and it helps to keep my negative thoughts at bay.


There is nothing to say that because you suffer Anxiety/Depression, you cannot be high functioning with it. For some people, they can’t, either due to still learning how to manage their disorder, or the fact they’ve got an acute form of Anxiety/Depression, that prevents them from being able. I have found a way to manage my anxiety to the point where I can do things like go to work, go out socially, and have a life that would appear to be ‘normal’, but this doesn’t mean I don’t find it hard. For those of you reading this that don’t suffer from mental health issues, I do hope that it’s given you some understanding of what it’s like for us. For those of you that can relate, or are just learning how to manage your Anxiety, I hope this helps you to see you’re not alone. If you have any of your own coping strategies you’d like to share with me, I’d be happy to hear them.