Tuesday, 3 August 2010
THE VICE OF VANITY
Some time in May I developed a sore patch of skin on my chin. Hormones, I assumed and waited for it to go away. Then we had a break at Centre Parcs and not surprisingly a week of chlorine did my patch no favours at all. It was larger and redder and sore.
When we got back from the Lakes, I took to the Internet and did that most fatal of all things, a google search. I peered at all manner of skin diseases and ailments until I was sure that I had identified the one that was afflicting me. Perioral Dermatitis. Effects women mainly, cause not entirely clear, treatment no face creams on make up on the affected area and antibiotics for two months. I looked at the pictures and I looked at my chin. No. It couldn't be. Surely?
I took myself off to the GP feeling like a fraud. I explained about my non illness and thrust my chin forward to allow diagnosis. He mentioned a type of dermatitis and prescribed a mild steriod cream. "The one that says in block capitals DO NOT USE ON FACE," I asked and we laughed at the things that pharmaceutical companies have to put on their products to protect themselves.
"It couldn't be perioral dermatitis?" I almost whisper, not wanting to insult the GP or suggest that my twenty minutes on the Internet was in any way the equivalent of six years at medical school and countless years of experience. "No," he assured me.
So I left with my prescription, delighted that I didn't have something that need a prolonged course of antibiotics. But a month later my chin was no better and whatever it was was spreading round my mouth and eyes.
I went back to the doctors' and, through the vagaries of the appointment system, saw someone else. He looked at my face and looked at his screen. "Perioral dermatitis," he said. "Antibiotics for two months and be careful what you put on your skin."
The point of this story is not to criticise the GP. It's a difficult job and he hadn't had the benefit of hours spent comparing my skin with the hideous photos on the Internet. No, it's how it makes me feel that interests me. I am devasted. The skin on my chin is now only lumpy and no longer red but the skin around my eyes is bright red, puckered, sore and downright flaky. Check out my photo and see for yourself. In fact, I look positively reptilian and I am relieved that I have a genuine excuse to wear sunglasses a lot ( being on holiday and all.)
But really I feel as if someone has taken part of me away. I have never really thought of myself as particularly vain and yet I quite clearly am. I am obviously so shallow that a slight blemishing of my skin leaves me distraught. There will be very few holiday photos of me this year because I look so awful. And old.
So there we have it. I am as vain as a peacock. But is that really so difficult to understand? So much in life is based on first impressions and much of the impact that we make on others depends on how we feel within ourselves. Girls all know how almost anything can be achieved on a good hair day. I don't feel like me and so consequently the rest of my life is affected.
I'm hoping that by the end of my treatment I will be back to normal although I fear for my eyes. At almost 44 I need all the help I can get in that department. And in the meantime I shall skulk around in the background of my life hoping that no one looks directly at me.