Many people with rosacea are left wandering why their skin suddenly becomes hyper sensitive, bumpy and flushing red at the slightest change in temperature or food trigger. Many rosacea sufferers describe their skin as ‘developing a life of its own’.
Rosacea still remains a very complex and poorly understood skin condition with no solid explanation as to why it develops in some people and not others.
There are many ‘triggers’ for rosacea, including hormonal changes and physical trauma or illness.
But emotional stress or trauma can also trigger the condition, such was the case for Rachael Miles, 36, a single mother of two and civil servant from near Glasgow, Scotland.
Rachael’s rosacea was triggered by a traumatic break up with her partner, despite having near perfect skin for all her adult life before the break up.
“People will think it’s crazy but, honestly, I’d say finding a solution for my rosacea ravaged skin, which was triggered by the shock of finding out my partner of three years was cheating on me. was the one thing that gave me the strength and courage to get over my ex.
When I found out my partner was cheating on me, my whole world collapsed. However, from the outside it might have been hard to tell the emotional turmoil I had going on inside, if it hadn’t been for my skin.
My skin said it all really. It literally erupted into a furious red lumpy mess, which I later discovered was rosacea. I’d always had great skin my entire life but the trauma of my break up chose to manifest itself through my skin.
We’d been in a committed relationship when I found out my ex had betrayed me and was an accomplished, compulsive liar. And as the catalogue of disturbing facts revealed themselves, I realised with shock and devastation that he was not at all the man I thought he was. By the time the truth was fully revealed I felt I no longer knew who he was, a sheep in wolves clothing.
He was my first serious relationship after the separation from the father of my two children and we were living together. He was a professional man and portrayed himself as a pillar of the community, the nice guy next door. I really thought I’d found ‘the one’.
I could not have been more wrong.
I was in a total state of shock when I found out all that had been going on. I emotionally froze., I didn’t eat for nearly two weeks. I couldn’t sleep. I lost over a stone almost immediately. I was crying constantly. My while family was really worried about me. Eventually I had to concede that I needed some help to process my feelings and I turned to therapy to help me try and understand.
After the initial physical shock, I settled into an almost overwhelming sense of grief and anxiety. I functioned day to day in the tasks I had to do like work, and doing my duties for my kids. But I could not see any light at the end of the tunnel. And just when I didn’t think things could get any worse, my skin just kind of collapsed.
It started with lots of little red lumps and then it just erupted into a burning red agony. Even putting water on my skin stung like crazy and my face was permanently inflamed and sore.
The doctor prescribed a topical steroid, Eumovate, which is actually for eczema. When I put it on my skin, it felt like my skin was literally on fire. After going back to the doctor numerous times, I was put on several different types of steroids and lotions, all of which had pretty much the same effect.
After months of agony I lost all faith in the doctor’s ointments and begun my own experimental process of buying everything I could find on the shelves at Boots to see if anything calmed my skin. All to no avail.
I’m a keen walker and as I live in Scotland its obviously very cold but when I went out in the brisk wind, my face burned like a furnace. It had never done this before. So eventually I stopped walking. Walking was my one mental reprieve from the trauma and giving it up plunged me even further into a sense of anguish.
My skin was having a catastrophic effect on my self-confidence. I stopped socialising. I hit rock bottom when I was invited to a leaving do for a work colleague. I didn’t want to go but she was a friend and I felt awful saying no. I tried to muster all my courage and I went and bought tons of make-up even though I knew it was going to be agony when I put it on. Before the night had even begun I found myself in the pub toilet sobbing my eyes out. I was in such agony because the cosmetics burned my skin and were literally running off my face with this furious raging bumpy skin poking through the bare patches. I felt hideous. In the end I just had to leave as I couldn’t bear to face people.
This went on for months. Eventually I only left the house when I had to; to go to work or the school run. In the house I would stare in the mirror constantly to check the state of my skin. I was constantly anxious about my skin. I was terrified it would never clear up. I went back to the doctor, saw different doctors, but no one seemed to have any answers and everything they gave me made it worse.
I had been diagnosed with eczema and then perioral dermatitis and given medications for both conditions. None on them worked in fact they made my skin worse. Eventually I was referred to a specialist, but it was a three month wait just to get an appointment. I felt desperate.
I worried everyone was staring at my skin. I found myself talking about my skin all the time, I felt I had to bring it up before others did. It became the main topic of conversation for me. It got to the stage where it was the one thing that dominated my life, it was all I could talk about. All I could think about.
I became obsessed with googling my symptoms and comparing my symptoms and photos to those on the internet.
It was during one of these searches that I found the Kalme products on line. They were recommended by someone on a rosacea support group website. The account was written by someone who had actually tried them and who described symptoms similar to mine. I’d read a lot of these types of accounts but something about this one rang true to me so, on impulse, I ordered some.
I knew the Kalme products were going to work the second I tried them as they were the first products I had put on that did not burn when I applied them. I tried one of the creams on a tiny skin patch first as I was so terrified of the burning. When it didn’t hurt I actually rang my best friend in tears as I was so excited.
When I realised they didn’t sting I used the products all over my skin twice or three times a day. I ran through so many tubes in the first few weeks it cost me a small fortune.
I felt a huge improvement in the first month, but it took about three months for my skin to be back to what I would call ‘normal’.
I felt empowered. It changed my whole outlook. It felt like the first thing I was able to finally control and conquer since the break-up.
I no longer fear people looking at me. I guess it felt like my skin was telling everyone what a mess I was inside. That makes you feel very vulnerable.
I started socialising again bit by bit and things have now started to return to normal.
I’m in a new relationship now. It’s refreshing and exciting although I can be cautious and guarded at times. But he’s lovely, a really genuine person. I’m learning to trust again and not view everyone with suspicion based on the actions of one damaged individual.
I also did something I’ve wanted to do for a long time and went back to university to do a psychology degree. So, there could even be a new career in the pipeline soon too.
I know people will say it’s just skin, but your face and your skin are often the first things people see. And if inside you are not coping, and your skin gives that away, the effect is devastating to your self-esteem.
Skin conditions are too often overlooked by doctors as something not that serious, but if you listen to how people with skin conditions really feel, it’s actually a far more serious matter than people realise, particularly if its accompanied or caused by emotional turmoil. The combination of the two can be truly devastating.
Now my future feels positive and exciting once again. I’m so relieved to be able to get on with my life. There were several points in the past year when I never thought that would happen.”