9 July 2019

My Skin Journey: Roaccutane

Last Week, after almost two years of dermatology appointments, I officially finished my course of roaccutane.

I've had acne since I was ten years old. I'm now twenty-two. That's twelve years of my life spent feeling insecure, dealing with bullies and waking up every morning to red cysts covering my cheeks. Twelve years of avoiding social situations, editing my blemishes out of photos and the sight of my own reflection bringing me to tears. I wrote a big ol' post about my skin story, if you fancy a read. 

I know most people say that they tried everything to clear up their skin but trust me when I say, I seriously explored every avenue possible, even the little side streets. Most of this was to avoid taking roaccutane, a drug I'd heard so much about; some things good, others not so much.

What Stopped Me Taking It?

I was first referred to start taking roaccutane (aka isotretinoin - a quick google search will tell you all about it) back in February 2018. However, after doing a lot of research and scaring myself silly, I chose to take yet another course of antibiotics. Granted, they did their job and cleared my skin up beautifully but when I stopped taking them, the acne came back in full force.

Although roaccutane is known as a 'miracle drug', it also receives a lot of bad press for the severe side effects associated with it; from skin as dry as the Sahara to issues as serious as low mood and in the worst cases, suicide. This was the side effect that scared me the most; there's no way I could put my mind and body through that. I knew my skin had to get worse before it got better but what if it didn't improve? So many questions! So many thoughts! My brain was a pile of mush.

I spent my nights watching vlogs, reading blog posts, interrogating friends and doing every ounce of research I could. However, no experience is the same and no matter how many people you talk to, everyone has something different to say.

Why Roaccutane?

In October of last year, I decided that roaccutane was my last resort and the only thing left for me to try. Taking this tablet is not a decision that should be taken lightly and I highly recommend that you make sure to do your research beforehand.

It took me a long time to decide I was finally ready to take roaccutane and I know I wouldn't have had the courage if it wasn't for the supportive network of people around me. Sure, some people tried to talk me out of it but deep down, I knew it was the right decision for me (and if worst came to worst, I could always stop taking it). At the end of the day, it's your decision and your decision only. You need to do what feels right for you.

I knew it was the one thing that could be a permanent solution to my acne and to be able to feel confident in myself again was something I so desperately longed for. I started my course of roaccutane on the 13th October 2018 and it truly is the best decision I have ever made.

Month 1 - Month 3

Dosage: 30mg

The first month of being on roaccutane is commonly known as the 'worst part' as your skin is supposed to purge all the badness which is why you're always told that it has to get worse before it gets better. However, my experience was a little bit backward.

I'd psyched myself up for this really bad breakout that was supposed to be brewing, yet nothing happened. I waited, and waited, and waited but my skin just seemed to be improving by the day. The overall texture was smooth and blemishes were few and far between, I'd be off this thing sooner than I thought (oh how naive you were, hun).

Side Effects

In terms of side effects, I think I was lucky. I got dry skin and dry lips pretty much straight away which was to be expected and nothing a bit of lip balm couldn't solve - even though nothing can prepare you for how many times you have to apply it during the day. 

Nearing the end of my first month I noticed myself feeling extremely tired and therefore sleeping a lot. This was potentially the worst side effect throughout the course as it brought a lack of motivation and hopelessness in some cases, not to mention it was bloody hard to get rid of. I continued to exercise and experienced sore joints however I found that taking a glucosamine supplement each day kept the aches and pains at bay. 

I also continued to drink alcohol in moderation and although it's not recommended, I had no major issues. Except that the hangovers are an absolute bitch. 

Other minor side effects included a few bad dreams, restless nights, nosebleeds, weight gain and painful periods but apart from that, the first few months were plain sailing. It seriously didn't feel like I was on medication. 

Mood

I'll be honest and say that my mood changed. It wasn't a dramatic change but I noticed myself feeling low and having a lack of interest in things. The only way I can describe it is feeling hungry, there's food there but you can't be bothered eating. However, it's hard to know if low mood is caused by roaccutane or personal issues. To help with this, I tried to keep myself busy and have some much needed me time. I also noticed that I let things get to me quicker than normal; I'd get upset about the smallest things and become aggravated quickly. 

Month 3 - Month 6

Dosage: 50mg

The next three months were the hardest and potentially the lowest I've ever felt. My dosage was upped to 50mg and subsequently, the bad breakout made an appearance. Seeing my skin get so bad made me feel disgusting, I couldn't bare to look in the mirror and the temptation to pick was so real. 

In all honesty, I felt like I'd made a massive mistake. I knew it had to get worse before it got better but I never imagined it would get that bad. It was really disheartening and I spent most nights crying to anyone who'd listen - I really was feeling sorry for myself. 

Side Effects

As expected, my side effects worsened and believe me when I say they really worsened. My periods became incredibly painful. I suffer with bad menstrual cramps anyway but roaccutane cramps were next level - I'd be in bed for days. 

The dryness also intensified, my lips started to crack and bleed and no amount of moisturiser could stop my foundation from clinging to the dry patches on my face. Eczema started to appear on my arms and legs and I was still incredibly tired all the bloody time. I had no motivation whatsoever. 

However, the worst side effect for me was hair loss. I went for my hair cut in February and my hair dresser pointed out that my hair had thinned so much it was falling out in her hands. As someone who takes pride in her appearance, especially her hair, this really upset me and my self esteem lowered even further. 


As you know, I will be truthful about this whole experience. I won't hide anything and I'll tell it like it is. So, if you want a summary of what these few months were like, I think my instagram post sums it up perfectly. 

Improvements

Towards the end of March I noticed that most of my active spots were small or had disappeared, leaving redness and scaring behind. I could only hope that the worst was over. 

Month 6 - Month 9

Dosage: 50mg

After three months of absolute hell, I finally started to see the massive improvements I was promised. I was backwards and forwards from my dermatologist, hoping it would be the last month and the end of my roaccutane journey but each time I was told, 'just one more month' and handed another prescription.

The majority of redness was scarring but I was still getting a few active spots now and again and according to my dermatologist, I had to be four to eight weeks clear before he could discharge me from his care. In terms of texture, my skin was smooth and my complexion was getting brighter by the day.

In the final months, I noticed that the warmer weather had a positive impact on my skin. It also raised the importance of using SPF, not only on my face but on my body too - something I completely overlooked when taking the drug. Due to the warm weather, I started drinking lemon infused water which had a positive impact on my scarring, calming redness and fading marks.

Side Effects

Towards the end of my final month, my body was telling me that I'd had enough and I knew that too. 

My side effects continued to intensify. Along with the bleeding lips, nose bleeds and intense fatigue, I was experiencing blinding migraines and terrible hot sweats. I could do something as simple as walk to the corner shop and I'd be sweating like I'd ran the London Marathon. Apparently, this is a common side effect towards the end of your roaccutane journey.

In terms of mood, I was low. I was really, really low. I went for weeks feeling like I wasn't good enough, feeling down about my appearance (not just my skin but my body) and feeling incredibly sensitive. I'd find myself sobbing at minor inconveniences - the silliest occasion being in work when I gave someone the wrong change. I couldn't cope anymore.

I'm lucky that I was able to talk to my family and friends about the way I was feeling. If it hadn't been for them and the supportive acne community on Instagram, I really don't think I'd have been able to get through this drug.

And Then, It Was Over

On 26th June 2018, I officially finished my course of roaccutane and let me tell you, I couldn't be happier. I was discharged from the care of my dermatologist and sobbed as he handed me my final letter.  I can't thank him enough for his support, guidance and help throughout my skin journey - he truly is an amazing human being and he's restored my confidence not only in the way I look but in myself as a person. 

What Now?

So I know what you're thinking, my skin journey is over and I'll be acne free for the rest of my life. 

Well, that would be the ideal scenario but my acne treatment doesn't end here. I'll be using Differin (a mild chemical peel) to help clear up any scarring that has been left behind and, in the words of my dermatologist, 'help my skin get better and better every day.' 

There is also a very minor chance that my acne could reappear. This is rare (and fingers crossed it won't happen) but some people have to go on two to three courses of roaccutane to get permanent results. That's the part I'm dreading. 

So, Was It Worth it?

Absolutely. 

I know I've sat here and complained about dryness, hair loss and tiredness but it really hasn't been that bad. I may have had some of the rarer side effects but there's people who've gone through the course without any dryness at all. I think the important thing is to do your research and be prepared for the side effects that can occur - that way, you know what to expect. 

In all honesty, it's changed my life. 

For the first time, I feel proud and confident in my own skin. I don't care what other people think. I don't care if they stare. It's crazy to think that two years ago, I wouldn't be seen in public without make up on, and now it's rare that I even wear it. 

I know how much bad skin knocks your confidence and I know how lonely it feels. As a society, we are under the impression that acne isn't normal when in fact, it's the most normal thing in the world. I think it's about time we see more acne prone skin portrayed in the media - instead of creating this unattainable image for people, why don't we try to encourage them to be proud of their flaws? 

I suppose I'm trying to say that it's okay to embrace your natural beauty. Acne is a part of you; spots, scaring, freckles and everything in between. Be proud of it. 

If anyone has any questions about acne, roaccutane or anything skin related then don't hesitate to drop me a Tweet, message me on Instagram or send me a little Email. I'm more than happy to talk! 

Lots of Love,
Meg x















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24 June 2019

Disneyland Paris Christmas 2018 | Day Two: Christmas Parade, Characters & Disney After Dark

After a much-needed early night, Chloe and I woke up at the crack of dawn, covered our faces in glitter and made it into Disneyland Park just in time for Extra Magic Time. I'm not one for early mornings but being in Disney makes the sound of that alarm so exciting. 

We designated the second day of our trip as 'Christmas Jumper Day' and believe me when I say, we went all out. Chloe and I both opted for Disney themed jumpers; mine was bright red and Chloe's lit up. Combined with our flashing ears, you really couldn't miss us. 

I don't think I'll ever be able to walk onto Main Street without getting butterflies. The Christmas music, the snowflakes slowly falling and the smell of fresh popcorn; I can't find a word worthy of describing it. Clear blue skies made an appearance as we stood on the bandstand admiring the view of the Castle, both of us in disbelief at just how magical it was. 

Extra Magic Time is a perk for guests staying onsite at Disneyland Hotels. The park opens an hour early so that guests are able to ride some of the more popular attractions, meet some of their favourite characters and grab photos in front of the castle before the park gets busy. 

Top Tip: Take Advantage of Extra Magic Time

Before we left the hotel, I packed my Marie ears into my backpack just in case she made a special appearance for Christmas. I didn't expect her to be meeting guests but when I saw her cute little blue bow sashaying around in front of Mickey's house I was straight in the queue. 

As soon as Marie saw my ears she came running over, gave me the biggest cuddle, admired the glitter on my face and tried to put some on her fur. It was at this point that she noticed my scarf. She picked it up and stroked it, then unwrapped it from around my neck and gave the crowd a fashion show, much to their delight. I was in fits of laughter as she walked towards the house, my grey scarf draped around her neck. However, a cough from the photographer brought her right back down to earth and she reluctantly gave it back to me. 

We did the cutest poses possible and I even gave her a little Christmas kiss on the nose. It was the funniest way to start the day and an experience I'll remember for the rest of my life. 

The next character on our meet and greet list was Mr Horrible himself, Jack Skellington or Sandy Claws, as he's known. We knew he had a designated meeting area in front of Phantom Manor so we made sure to be at the entrance of Frontierland for rope drop (this is when all areas of the park are officially open to all guests). 

I swapped back to my Christmas ears and the minute Frontierland opened, we walked very quickly towards Phantom Manor. We also let out a little squeal when we heard Magic Everywhere being played as the park opened and gave all guests a wonderful rendition of the song, with an improvised dance routine to go with it - we're talented, we know. 

Most of the crowd made their way to Thunder Mountain, so the queue to meet Jack wasn't very long. Stood directly in front of us was a family of four (mother, father, daughter and son) all dressed as characters from The Nightmare Before Christmas - it was the most adorable thing I have EVER seen. Family goals or what!? 

When it was our turn to meet Jack, he was fascinated by Chloe's flashing jumper but was a little bit annoyed when he realised that we were matching. He told us all about his plans for Christmas and we promised to bring him some light up ears next time we visit. We had some photos taken, wished him a very Merry Christmas and then went on our way. 

As we walked back onto Main Street, the park was filling up nicely. The music surrounding the castle sounded like pixie dust being sprinkled. Children gazed at the castle in disbelief, families posed for photos whilst others sat on benches just taking in the atmosphere. 

Chloe and I took this opportunity to have some photos taken in front of the castle. It was fairly quiet so we found one of our favourite photo spots at the side of the castle and started snapping away. One thing I love about being in Disneyland Paris is that everyone is so friendly, whether that be Cast Members or fellow guests. If you want someone to take a photo for you, they're more than willing to help and it's always nice to return the favour. 

As I said in my Day One Report, we got a free half-board meal plan when we booked our trip. This meal plan included breakfast each morning at CafĂ© Hyperion in Discoveryland. However, due to our busy morning meeting characters, we missed out on breakfast but it didn't bother us too much. 

Instead, we called into Main Street Bakery for some delicious freshly made pastries - let's be honest now, if you're going to get a snack, it's better to get it Mickey shaped! We also stopped off at the Cast Member door, but sadly no one answered. 

The next land on our visit was Adventureland. 

As we strolled towards Pirates of the Caribbean, we noticed Baloo dancing at his regular meeting spot outside Hakuna Matata. The queue was incredibly short so we jumped straight in. 

Meeting Baloo has become somewhat of a tradition on my trips to Disneyland Paris. Not only is he one of my favourite characters but my Dad is basically his biggest fan, so I always try to get a little hello from Baloo if I can. 

We had lots of hugs, a chat about all things Christmas and a little boogie to the jungle rhythm - if there's one thing I love about Baloo, it's that he never stops dancing. He spent so much time with Chloe and I and these photos are some of my favourite from the trip. The happiness on my face is undeniable.  

Finally it was time for our first fast pass of the day and in true style, we chose Big Thunder Mountain.  We were lucky enough to be sat near the back of the train meaning it went super fast and we screamed the entire way round. Plus we were finally able to see the new effects installed during the refurbishment and let me tell you, they didn't disappoint. 

Top Tip: I would always recommend getting a fast pass for Big Thunder. It's one of the most, if not the most, popular attraction in the park so as you can imagine, the wait times can be very long. 

After all our screaming and singing, we decided to grab a classic hotdog from Casey's Corner and get a spot on Main Street for our first Christmas Parade of the season. Normally I watch most of the shows online so that I know the songs before I go, however this time I made a conscious effort to avoid spoilers. 

And boy am I glad I did. 

The Christmas Parade is by far my favourite Parade I have ever seen at Disneyland Paris. It was pure festive magic. The costumes were beautiful, the interaction was amazing and the song was so catchy. It was everything you'd expect from a Disney parade and more. 

Bravo, Disneyland Paris! 

As 'Christmas Is Here' continued to play on loop, we danced over to the stunning photo location for Thumper and Miss Bunny. It was an array of twinkling lights, candy canes and fluffy snow; what could be more fitting? 

One thing I must credit Disneyland Paris for is their attention to detail, especially in terms of theming. Every restaurant, attraction, hotel and photo location was so beautifully decorated, not only providing some beautiful backdrops but once again adding another little sprinkle of magic.

Thumper and Miss Bunny were going to be meeting guests in an hour so to pass the time, we decided to do some rides with relatively short wait times. 

Top Tip: Download the Disneyland Paris App. It tells you live wait times for different attractions, ride closures, character locations, show times and so much more! 

 During this hour, I finally convinced Chloe to go on Star Tours. She hadn't been sure about it on previous trips but, knowing that she'd love it, I basically frog marched her inside. It very quickly became one of her favourite rides, even from just standing in the queue. Each ride is different so you're never guaranteed to get the same one twice, making us both want to go on it again, and again, and again. 
During the Christmas season, rare characters love to make an appearance. I've wanted to meet Thumper for as long as I can remember as not only does he look very cuddly, but his photo location is  always beautiful. Sadly, Miss Bunny couldn't be there to join him but we had lots of fun chatting. 

He came jumping over in his little tartan ribbon, which I was very quick to compliment, and gave me the biggest cuddle. He loved the glitter on our faces (I told him that he should ask Santa for some) and we had a long chat about Christmas, snow and waggling our tails. He posed for some very cute photos and we gave him a peck on the cheek to say goodbye (it's a good job Miss Bunny wasn't there after all).

And that concluded our character meeting for the day. 

Each day, Chloe and I listed a few things that we definitely wanted to do, whether that be shows, characters, rides or shops, which we then prioritised. Our entire trip was very chilled and we didn't stick to a set schedule. It's always good to have plan but it's good to go with the flow too. 

So what did we do? Went and got another fast pass for Big Thunder Mountain, of course. 

The park was busy mid-afternoon with some guests going on rides and others starting to get their places for the parade. Chloe and I browsed through some of the boutiques in Fronteirland, which are beautifully themed, and I may or may not have made a few cheeky purchases.

Top Tip: If you have Twitter, follow ED92 and keep checking their page for rare character appearances and live park updates

We sat down opposite Thunder Mesa to rest our feet when Chloe got a notification from the lovely team at ED92 informing guests that Minnie was meeting near Casey Junior in Fantasyland. With no time to waste, Chloe and I literally sprinted through the creepy interiors of Skull Rock, over the wooden bridge, said a quick hello to Peter Pan and then straight over to Casey Junior. However when we got there, Minnie was nowhere to be seen. Gutted.

Once Chloe and I caught our breath we wandered back into Fantasyland and what better way to pass the time than getting lost in Alice's Curious Labyrinth. 

In my opinion, the Labyrinth is one of the most underrated attractions in Disneyland Paris. It's so cleverly themed with bright colours and sprinkles of magic around every corner, as well as another castle offering stunning views of the park. It's the perfect attraction to escape the hustle and bustle and take in the magic of Disneyland Paris for what it is. 

It's also incredibly picturesque so if you're looking for some photos for the 'gram, I highly recommend having a walk around. But be warned, no matter how many times you do the maze you will get lost. I suppose there's worse places to be stuck though, right?

After skipping around, ducking under water fountains, squeezing through tiny doors and having photos taken in crazy hats, Chloe and I eventually found our way out of the Maze. 

As the sun was starting to set over Skull Rock, we walked back over to Adventureland where we bumped into our friend Jenna. We chatted for a while and found out that we were staying in the same hotel so arranged to meet up later in the evening for drinks in the Sequoia Bar. 

As guests started to take their places for Stars on Parade, the wait times for rides dropped. We used our Fast Pass on Thunder Mountain, had two rides on Pirates of the Caribbean and made it to the end of Main Street just in time for the parade. 

We got a spot in front of the Christmas tree which was the perfect back drop for our last parade of the trip. The floats twinkled as they passed and the Princesses made a fuss of our light up ears, especially Rapunzel who thought they looked like lanterns. I will never ever get bored of that parade, it is pure Disney magic. 

We filled in the rest of our evening by doing some more attractions including another ride on Pirates of the Caribbean, It's a Small World, Thunder Mountain, the Teacups and Chloe's new favourite, Star Tours. 

We also had food at Hakuna Matata which came as part of our half board meal plan. I opted for chicken with classic Hakuna fries, a box of nuggets and an ice cream, all of which were absolutely delicious - my mouth is watering just writing about them. I should also note that most restaurants closed early so check opening times if there's somewhere you definitely want to eat. 

We strolled back onto Main Street, box of chicken nuggets in hand, and joined the crowd waiting for Disney Illuminations. I was so desperate to see this show again as the version of A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes is one of my favourites - I play it all the time around the house. 

As expected, I cried. 

It was indescribable. There's something about being stood on Main Street, watching fireworks light up the night sky that creates such a sense of inner peace. I felt so content being in that moment. It's true what they say, there's fireworks and then there's Disney fireworks. 

When Illuminations had finished and the crowds began to disperse, Chloe and I sat on the edge of the fountain outside Plaza Gardens and took a minute to appreciate where we were. We also wanted to be the last people on Main Street so that we could get some photos in front of the castle with no one else around - something that seems to be common trend as it took ages for everyone to leave. 

I've had so many questions about how we managed to get these photos and the truth is, it's a lot of waiting about in the cold. But trust me when I say, it's worth it. Whilst we were waiting, we met two of the loveliest girls who offered to take our photos for us. Remember when I said that everyone in Disney is so friendly? I wasn't lying. 

I should also mention that we were very lucky to have some incredibly kind Cast Members who let us wait behind to get our photos. Every Cast Member we encountered on the trip was an absolute credit to Walt Disney Company, not only incredibly happy in their job but more than willing to go out of their way to create memories for guests of all ages.  

Disney after dark is something I always dreamed of witnessing as a little girl. I imagined all of the characters coming out to play, the Princesses having tea in the castle and the villains dancing around in Phantom Manor. However, what I saw as an adult was a different type of magic. 

It was the magic of twinkling lights, Christmas carols on Main Street and Cast Members in Mickey gloves high giving us as we left. It was being on an empty Main Street with one of my best friends after a day of laughter, characters and rides. It was the magic of meeting new friends, of having the entire park to ourselves, of my cheeks hurting from the smile that never left my face. I'm getting emotional just thinking about it. 

As you can tell, we took full advantage of having the park to ourselves and got some lovely photos on the way back to our hotel. Disney is beautiful during the day but Disney after dark is something else completely. 

We walked through Disney Village, called into a few shops and eventually arrived back at Sequoia where Jenna was waiting for us in the bar. We  spent the rest of the night sat in front of the log fire talking, laughing and drinking hot chocolate - the perfect end to a day that was practically perfect in every way. 

Lots of Love,
Meg x





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