How HS Helped Me Take Control Of My Mental Health
Last updated: August 2022
Depression and anxiety are like the sisters I never asked for. They linger around and ask me how I'm doing just to drag me into their lair of despair and uncertainty. When I give up my power, it's usually because of the terrible two. This didn't happen when I developed HS, but I realized it was hovering since the first kid called me fat, Black, and ugly. I've always had a complex about my body, and HS amplified that.
Every layer of my experience I bore with shame. I isolated myself because of it. When I developed HS in 6th grade, it was like this chronic inflammatory disease was the cherry on top of my psychosis sundae. It sunk me deeper into something I was already familiar with.
Integrating lifestyle changes
About three years ago now, I started seeing a therapist who helped me to understand how HS influenced my mental health. As I understand it when our bodies are constantly inflamed and in pain, depression, and anxiety can be side effects. One way of combating depression and anxiety, for me, has been integrating lifestyle changes to lower the inflammation in my body.
And I did just that. From 2014 to 2017 I was in remission, and while I experienced less chronic pain I didn’t realize the next layer was unpacking grief and shame. When the isolation became too much and started impacting the quality of my relationships, it encouraged me to find a therapist to craft a treatment plan and unpack my history of medical trauma.
Building my own HS community
In addition to this, I began channeling these complex emotions into art projects ranging from journalism to film to poetry to photography. I leaned into these modalities to express what I couldn't say. It was a representation of my energy and experience without having to explain much.
As creative as I am, there were times when art, therapy, and eating right still weren't enough. So, I added another layer of healing, patient advocacy. Connecting with HS patient support groups and even building my own community on social media has filled a gap I didn't know I needed. I didn't only need my friends and family to understand what I was going through. I also needed a community of people to whom I didn't have to explain what I was going through too. They just inherently understood, and that to me was peace.
If something isn't working, keep trying
Giving back to the community through my non-profit My Gold Lining, Inc. has enabled me to channel all of the skills I've acquired to serve in a meaningful way. These aren’t bulletproof steps to combating depression and anxiety.
What I've learned is that when something isn't working, go back to the drawing board and figure out what can be added or altered. Just because one thing doesn't work doesn't mean there isn't something else out there waiting to be discovered.
How has HS helped you to take control of your mental health?
When you need to vent about HS, who do you turn to first?