I May Feel Defeated, But HS Will Not Defeat Me: Battling Depression Alongside HS (Part 1)
Please note: this article touches on mature subjects with brief non-graphic mentions of self-harm and substance abuse.
I woke up this morning with a searing pain in my left ear, and when I lifted my head from the pillow, I smelled that god-awful smell and to my absolute horror, there was a mixture of pus and blood on my pillowcase. I dashed into the bathroom and, sure enough, there was an angry lesion inside my left ear.
INSIDE. MY. EAR.
The darkest times have been caused by HS flares
I am not ashamed to admit that I sat down right on the bathroom floor and cried. My HS has been steadily progressing for the past 5 years and it hasn’t slowed down. It took my career from me, I wasn’t able to finish my degree, it put a damper on plutonic and romantic relationships, I’ve had to miss out on major family events, the list goes on and on. I’ve had HS since I was 13, and after years and years of agony, I was diagnosed with depression in my late teens. It has haunted me ever since. In the words of my favorite doctor: “How could someone NOT be depressed when their own body is working against them?” (Shoutout to you, Dr. Gage!)
Some of the darkest times of my life have been caused by some of my worst flares. Being stuck in bed for days on end in agonizing pain would leave anyone down in the dumps, and it led me down some dark paths. I’ve dealt with self-harm and substance use as ways to try and cope with the overwhelming emotions. I’ve been admitted to inpatient psychiatric facilities on 3 separate occasions. I’ve been on multiple antidepressant medications over the course of my life, and still continue to take them to this day. I also take part in weekly therapy. As someone with both hormonal triggers and food/environmental triggers for my HS flares, it was a difficult journey to find the right medication that works for me, but I am over the moon that I pushed through because I was able to find that proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.
Resilience is a learned skill
With that being said, it wasn’t easy. It’s still not easy. Resilience is a learned skill, and when you have HS and depression you have no choice but to pick it up on the fly. There were and are days where I absolutely want to give up, and you know what? THAT IS OKAY. There is a lot of toxic positivity (another article coming on that soon) in the chronic illness community but I am here to tell you that bad days are completely and 100% okay. Even perfectly healthy people have bad days, so give yourself some grace when the clouds are swirling and you are struggling to see the better days ahead. I hope that sharing my story gives you something to relate to, and lets you know that you aren’t alone in this fight!
I am one of the lucky ones. One of the people privileged enough to ask for help and receive it, but there are many people out there who are either too scared of the stigma attached to being labeled depressed or are unable to access proper mental health care due to various accessibility reasons such as location, financial concerns, medical racism, cultural beliefs, etc. I think everyone deserves access to mental health support, and as a certified Peer Support worker myself I want to make as much information available as possible.
Check out Part 2 of this series where I share some of my tips for pulling yourself out of a depressive episode during a flare!
Where did you first hear about hidradenitis suppurativa?