picture of book Acne: A Memoir (by Laura Chinn)

Can Our Emotions Cause or Cure Acne?

The other day I was walking around in downtown Abilene, and outside of one of the stores was a table of books. As any librarian and/or book lover would do, I paused to glance over the titles. Only one book really caught my eye:

Acne: A Memoir

I loved the simple design of the cover, light pink with varying sizes of red dots sprinkled all over it. It seemed like a no-brainer for me – I love memoirs, I love reading… I don’t love acne, but unfortunately it has had quite an impact on me and my story.

I scanned the book for a price, and suddenly saw a sign that said “Free books: Limit 1 per customer.” Free book??? Even better.

I had no idea what this book was really going to be like, but when I came to this paragraph on the second page, I knew I was going to like it:

“After genocide, nuclear war, famine, slavery, and child abuse, acne is the absolute worst thing that can happen to a person. Okay, fine, maybe cancer is worse, and probably a bunch of other stuff, but acne is bad, really bad, and if you haven’t lived though it then… honestly, go f*** yourself.”

— Laura Chinn (p. 2)

I laughed out loud when I read that last part! It was so honest and real. If you’ve never had bad acne, you will think these sentiments are crazy exaggerations. If you have struggled with bad acne, you’ll know that during your lowest points of dealing with red spots all over your face, you literally do feel like this sometimes.

My experience with acne is something that deeply affected me, more than I ever knew until I really started doing some reflecting upon the experience in my 30’s. It affected my body image (I stopped thinking I was pretty, and in fact, was convinced that because of acne scarring I could never be beautiful again), my idea of my own self-worth (I questioned why anyone would want to be friends with someone as ugly as me), and my mental and physical health (I had a few years of extreme dieting when I was trying to find the perfect diet to “cure” my acne, and instead ended up losing so much weight that my period stopped).

Acne is no joke.

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mural "You are exactly where you need to be"

Exactly Where You Belong

A few weeks ago as I was walking across my university’s campus to go to my Tuesday yoga class, I noticed these words written on the sidewalk in chalk: You are right where you belong.

"you are right where you belong" in sidewalk chalk

I knew that these words had been written for the incoming freshman to make them feel more welcome, but I honestly felt like they were written for me too.

I’d been struggling over the past few months with feeling like I wasn’t sure if I was in the right place, or if I was going down the right path. I’d been laser-focused on accomplishing certain goals, and I had been failing at achieving them. For over two years now, I’ve thought I was going to have another baby – but infertility struggles have prevented that so far. Failure. At the beginning of 2022, I had a specific career path in mind, and even interviewed for a job I felt like I would be perfect for, but ended up not being chosen for it. Failure.

If you follow my blog, you know that what ended up happening with my job was that I worked with my boss to find a better fit at my current place of employment, and it’s been a really great change for me. And if I hadn’t been rejected by the other place I interviewed at, I would have never even considered moving to my current department. (I’m still in Library-land, now working in the Special Collections and Archives department.)

The unexpected job change still kind of rattled me though. (In a good way.) I had been so sure that I was going to be working at a different place, or possibly having another baby, that I never allowed myself to consider other possibilities. I had been stuck in a season of waiting, instead of a season of truly living. And I needed to be rattled in order to me to make me realize that.

It’s hard to give up on dreams – maybe “give up” is too strong of a phrase. It can be hard to simply have your dreams change. It sort of feels like a shift in identity. But I’m trying to lean in to the place where I’m at, and make the most of it.

As I go about each day, I’m trying to believe that I’m exactly where I need to be – that the people I interact with and the places I go are purposeful and important. That they are integral parts of my journey, and that someday I’ll look back and be able to see that so much more clearly.

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How the Enneagram Helps You Recognize Your Mental Health Red Flags

I said that the next time I posted, I would talk about some of the things I find helpful when I’m in a mental health slump. But as I thought more about it, I wanted to be sure to first talk more about how to recognize your own mental health red flags. Before you can get help, you have to realize that you need it.

On my resources page, there are two different infographics that can offer some insight regarding this. One is from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIH) titled My Mental Health: Do I Need Help? The other is from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and is called Common Warning Signs of Mental Illness.

Those infographics are a great place to start, but I also think each person has their own unique red flags and triggers when it comes to mental health issues. And learning what your own unique red flags are will be immensely helpful in making sure you don’t go too far down the path towards a mental health crisis before intervening. 

Another really amazing resource for identifying your own personal red flags is the Enneagram. 

I have found the Enneagram to be an absolutely amazing tool for helping me learn more about myself and try to grow into a healthier version of myself.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Enneagram, I recommend checking out the Enneagram Institute. Essentially, the Enneagram helps you to find your basic personality type out of 9 different options. Once you know your type, you can really start digging in to all the resources the Enneagram has to offer!

Enneagram chart with types listed

Each Enneagram type is associated with a basic set of general traits that describe them, and each type also has unique traits that they exhibit when they are in times of stress (disintegration) and times of growth (integration). 

I am an Enneagram type 1 – which is known as the Reformer (or Perfectionist). When Ones are in a healthy place, their growth arrow moves them towards the healthy traits of a Seven (the Enthusiast), which means they become “more spontaneous and joyful” (often hard for Ones who like having control of all situations.) But when Ones are in a state of stress, or disintegration, their arrow points them towards a Four (the Individualist), which means they might become a bit more “moody, irrational, or dramatic” (some of the less-healthy traits an Enneagram Four might exhibit.)

Over the years, I’ve started paying attention to myself more, and have discovered a few telling signs when I’m under stress. One of the big ones for me is that my tolerance for mess and clutter goes to zero. I like things to be neat and tidy on my best days, but when I’m under stress, every little pile of papers and dirty dish just grates on me like nothing else! So I find myself spending all my free time cleaning, and it’s never good enough. And then I see my family members doing things they enjoy, like playing games or relaxing on the couch, and I start to get angry that no one is helping me with all the chores.

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