Diagnosed with rosacea

Hi, my name is Aileen. I’m 29 years old and I live in Bristol. I was diagnosed with Rosacea in 2019. Rosacea (roe-ZAY-she-uh) is an inflammatory skin condition, which, for me currently, causes redness, flushing and visible blood vessels across my cheeks and nose and my top personal triggers are heat, stress/ anxiety, spicy food and alcohol. There are other symptoms and triggers and it can affect people differently at various times. It is usually seen as a cosmetic condition, but some people also find it to be painful and debilitating, which I myself have experienced. I was originally prescribed a course of antibiotics, but I now mainly manage my Rosacea through skincare and by trying to avoid my triggers as much as possible. I have also had therapy. Again, the ways in which people manage the condition differs. 

Earlier in the year, I went backpacking for 2 weeks across 4 European cities: Budapest, Prague, Berlin and Amsterdam. I was really excited but also very worried about how I would navigate my condition abroad and what people would think. The climate, the lack of creature comforts in hostels and the possibility of running out of my holy grail products all played on my mind. The thought of travelling alone and meeting new people made me nervous. I was already booked to stay in female- only dorms and had already chosen a time of year that was hot, but not often too hot and luckily, not as busy. I stocked up as well as I could with skincare and sun protection, did my research on the local pharmacies and looked for advice within the online Rosacea community. 

Not letting rosacea hold her back

I ultimately decided, however, that I wasn’t going to let my Rosacea ruin my adventure and this incredible opportunity, especially seeing as I was turning 29 on the first day! During my trip, whilst I did have a few flares, I don’t recall anyone making rude comments or staring, or if they did, I was simply having too much fun to care. Everyone, especially in the hostels, was very kind and helpful and I made friends a lot quicker than I first thought. For most of my daytime activities, I didn’t even wear make- up because I was so keen to get out there and explore, rather than waste time worrying about other people’s reactions. I did explain my condition to a few people, but when I wanted to, not because I felt I had to. The holiday did wonders for my confidence and I’m so glad I did it. I can honestly say it was the best thing I’ve ever done and I’m proud I pushed myself. These are life lessons that I brought home with me and I do my best to follow them in the day- to- day. It is easy to think, sometimes, that I can’t control my Rosacea, but I now know that I can definitely decide whether I am going to let it control me.

Whilst there is, unfortunately, no cure for Rosacea and it is quite a poorly understood condition, it is incredibly common. That means there is help from charities available and an entire community willing to offer support and guidance. I hope research into the condition will continue and that I can raise awareness about Rosacea, whilst spreading the message that having any kind of visible difference is ok.

Aileen Cook

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