3 Things I Wish I Knew Before Taking Accutane

3 Things I Wish I Knew Before Taking Accutane

It may not be worth it. And it will hurt.

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I survived my cystic acne.

Seems like a dramatic thing to say about some pimples--but for me, it isn't. The self-hate that came with the lesions on my face made me feel anything but beautiful, anything but worthy of love--sometimes, anything but human at all.

I went through four years of various topical and oral antibiotic treatments, feeling increasingly discouraged as they failed, one after another, to clear my skin. In a last-ditch effort, my doctor sent me to a dermatologist who could prescribe me the Accutane--the strongest of all acne medications, and my last hope.

While acne has no known "cure," per se, Accutane-- the brand name of isotretinoin, which is essentially a form of vitamin A--is the only known drug that effectively puts severe forms of the acne into a sort of "remission."

Like all strong, promising medications, Isotretinoin has its fair share of side effects and problems--here are a few I wish I'd known about before I made the decision to go on Accutane.

They aren't joking When they said it makes depression worse 

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I'm naturally an anxious person who tends towards depression when I'm stressed, so taking this medication during the most stressful period of my high school career was definitely not the best decision I've ever made. There were days where I couldn't seem to stop crying or get out of be--days when suicidal thoughts threatened to overtake me. Taking accurate definitely impacted my mental health, which made it 10 times more difficult to do...well, anything. My relationships with my friends, family and boyfriend all suffered, as did my work ethic and my physical body.

"Chapped lips" is putting it lightly 

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I had one chapstick that worked actually to moisturize my lips while I was on Accutane--it was from the Johnny Cash museum in Nashville and it contained Lanolin, an oil from sheep's wool that I later found out was the key to stopping my lips from falling off entirely. When i eventually lost my magic chapstick, I felt the real pain of accurate dryness. Most of the time, the surface of my lips looked like I had spent days roaming the Saharan desert with no vaseline on hand. My dermatologist told me that if my lips weren't chapped, the medication wasn't working, so I guess in some ways the dryness was a good thing....still not the most fun to deal with, though.

You can't be afraid of needles 

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Because vitamin A is a fat soluble vitamin--not water soluble like B or C--overloading on it has been known to cause liver damage. Because isotretinoin is a high concentration of vitamin A, it has the potential to mess with your liver function..which means your liver function must be monitored closely...which means blood tests. Lots, and lots, and lots of blood tests. Generally administered either once a month or once every other month for as long as you are on the treatment. Luckily, I am not afraid of needles, so this part didn't bother me as much--but it would've been nice to know beforehand!

Despite the debilitating side effects I experienced, I believe taking Accutane was the right decision for me--but that certainly doesn't mean that it's the right medication for everyone.

In the end, The one thing that I really wish I'd have known before I took Accutane was that...my pimples didn't make me ugly. they didn't make me unlovable, or any less than human. They were an impediment to my self-worth, and one I'm glad I got rid of, but with or without them, I remain the same person: strong and anxious, imperfect and beautiful.

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Avatar: The Last Airbender Is Still Iconic, And Here's Why

Although it's a children's cartoon from the 2000s, ATLA remains one of the greatest shows ever made.

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Avatar: The Last Airbender ended in 2008, but I've watched the full series at least ten other times since then. I was a big fan of ATLA when it was first airing, but sometimes I marvel at how lasting it's impact is over a decade later. I've seen ATLA bumper stickers and tattoos depicting the four elements, not mention that I myself have a "Jasmine Dragon" sticker on my laptop resembling the Starbucks logo. ATLA was incredible. It's witty, fun, emotionally impactful, interesting in plot, and filled with relatable characters. "Korra" was a nice attempt to follow up on a passionate fanbase, but it ultimately didn't resonate with viewers to the same degree. That said, sometimes people wonder why I'm still so invested in a kid's cartoon from the 2000s. Here's why.

The show referenced a variety of cultures from around the world

If you've watched the show, you've probably realized that there aren't actually any "white" characters in the Avatar-verse. Not that European cultures aren't valid, but it is notable that the show was created as an appreciation of cultures that often go overlooked. The art and music were heavily influenced by East and South Asia, and the different nations clearly reference Asian and indigenous traditions. Earth Kingdom cities were based off of real cities in East Asia, and the culture depicted drew from various East Asian nations as well. The same applies to the fire nation, which was originally modeled off of Japan and China. The water tribes have their foundations in Inuit and Sireniki cultures, and the air nomads are based on Tibetans, Sri Lankan Buddhists, and Shaolin Monks. There are many other historical references throughout "Avatar," including a nod to ancient Mesopotamia in the Sun Warriors.

The characters were complex and relatable

"ATLA" didn't just give us a typical group of teenage heroes, with each one fitting into a typical mold. They were complex and realistic, and that's what made them relatable. We saw Aang balance his role as Avatar with his personal moral philosophy, all while experiencing the onset of puberty and young adulthood. We watched Katara struggle with responsibility as the main female role model in her family after her mother's death. We observed and related to Toph and Zuko's complex relationships with their families, including the influence that an abusive parent can have on a young life. We experienced the struggles of inferiority to "better" friends with Sokka, and even learned about toxic friendships with Mai and Ty Lee. These were all growing kids and teenagers, and nothing could have been more genuine.

"ATLA" gave us some incredible, strong female leads to look up to

Katara was truly the first feminist I ever encountered on television. Not only did she become a master waterbender in the span of weeks, she also taught the Avatar! And the whole time, she reminded us that strong fighters can be feminine too. Meanwhile, Toph showed us that just because a person has a disability, doesn't mean that they are defined by it. In fact, Toph's blindness only enhances her abilities, rather than holding her back. We also encounter powerful female characters like Azula (I know, she's evil, but that doesn't make her any less of a prodigy), Ty Lee, Mai, Suki (and all the Kyoshi warriors for that matter), Smellerbee, and even Princess Yue (who literally died for her people, mind you).

It made a deep, dramatic topic witty and fun

It occurred to me recently that "Avatar" is basically about imperialism and genocide. The Fire Nation decides to take over the world through military force, and it does so by exterminating an entire people and occupying and colonizing everyone else. For such a deep topic, you wouldn't think the show would be quite as fun as it is, but it is. I've restarted watching, and I find myself constantly laughing. With Sokka's sarcastic comments, Iroh's oddities, and everybody else's regular quips, "ATLA" is regularly lighthearted and never takes itself too seriously.

There's some real wise advice throughout

Finally, what "ATLA" is really known for, is its heart. Uncle Iroh provides us with a regular understanding of the world around us, encouraging us to see the world in balance and look for our true selves. His wise words ring true throughout childhood and adulthood. The underlying themes and messages of the show, including balance, friendship, love, and loyalty, all serve the greater purpose of advising the audience.

In summary, "Avatar" was amazing. If you haven't, I highly recommend you do. If you have, maybe go rewatch!

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