Plagued with chronic acne, Patricia, 19, reveals her emotional battle — and how she's learning to handle it.

I used to have clear skin — in fact, friends and teachers would compliment me on how great it looked, making me feel pretty and confident. But my senior year, I started getting breakouts and things changed. At first, I didn't think my acne was unusual: You get a pimple, treat it, and it clears up. But mine didn't go away.

That summer, I could tell by people's long, awkward glances that they were grossed out by my face of swollen red zits. I went away to college, the stares increased, and I became more self-conscious. I tried every over-the- counter face wash and cream out there, and I started caking on foundation, concealer, and powder to hide the bumps. Nothing worked. I go to an out- of-state college, so my insurance wouldn't even cover a dermatologist visit.

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I began distancing myself from friends, thinking they'd be embarrassed to be seen with me, and I hardly left my room. When I did go out, friends would recommend acne products, and I sensed overwhelming disgust radiating from strangers. I wished I could scream, "I wash my face three times a day and still look like this. Don't judge me!"

The Breaking Point

Eight months into my acne nightmare, I worked up the courage to go out to dinner with friends. Afterward, in my dorm room, my pent-up anxiety sent me into a panic attack. I began crying hysterically, thinking that everyone was disgusted by my face. I shook uncontrollably, couldn't control my breathing, and my body and mind went numb. I called my mom, crying, asking how anyone could stand to be seen with me. I felt helpless.

52% of Seventeen readers surveyed admitted their skin has made them feel depressed, anxious, or more sad than normal.

A week later, I met with a family friend who's a psychologist, and she felt I was suffering from social anxiety and clinical depression. She recommended I see a dermatologist and suggested I confide in close friends and family so I don't feel alone. (It's helped.) Because of insurance reasons, I haven't been to a derm yet, but four months ago, my regular doc put me on birth control and an anti-inflammatory antibiotic. They've worked a bit, but I still have severe acne.

I hate that society makes me feel less pretty because of a thing I can't control, but I'm working on loving myself. When I feel insecure, I throw myself into school (I'm proud to be in an honors program) and music. No matter what people say, it is what's on the inside that matters most. And I'm doing my best every day to remember that.

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A version of this story was originally published in the December/January 2017 issue of Seventeen. Pick up the issue in stores everywhere now or subscribe to get instant access.

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