Coping With HS and Cultivating the Art of Being Resilient
It has been 13 years since I was diagnosed with Hidradenitis Suppurativa, a skin condition that surfaced in my early twenties. With repeated outbreaks of puss-filled lesions in my underarms, I had spent most of my time undergoing several treatments such as incision and drainage, wide excision, laser hair reduction, Ayurveda, Homeopathy, and steroids, to name a few.
The boatload of pain medications and the aching stiffness in my shoulders would seldom make me forget the severity of this debilitating condition.
As a child, I enjoyed listening to stories read by my parents during mealtime. Exposure to a wide range of literary genres helped me understand and appreciate life significantly. I always believed in finding light at the end of a tunnel, until I got diagnosed with HS. With no sign of complete remission for years, a feeling of despair had begun to establish a firm bearing deep within me.
Giving my mind and body time to heal
After my graduation, I had taken up a job as an assistant teacher in a primary school. Interacting with children came very naturally to me. But HS had unfortunately progressed to stage 2 and life had become all the more challenging to stratagem. The initial days of dealing with lumps and unpleasant odors had been draining. Performing simple actions like brushing, bathing, combing, cleaning, and driving had caused friction that left a sharp burning sensation in my underarms.
It had become onerous to stay positive or believe that I would ever be able to lead a normal life again. I had found it increasingly difficult to actively participate in classroom activities, supervise children while on field trips or sit through education conferences. Thick layers of gauze fastened with surgical tapes in my underarms had always been soaked in puss. I had to visit the school clinic several times for wound dressings as my clothes would get soiled. The daily dose of medications had caused fever, fatigue, weight gain, and nausea. The delay in getting a proper diagnosis or treatment had left me partially disabled. Reluctantly, I had decided to quit my job. It had become necessary to give my mind and body the time it needed to heal.
Hidradenitis suppurativa made it hard to be happy
Over the years, multiple surgeries kept me home-bound. I reached a point when I found no purpose or meaning in life anymore. After having followed every medical advice that had been prescribed, nothing seemed to stop the birth of a new flare. I would cringe when the pain shot up my arm as if a thousand needles were jammed into scar tissue. Despite all the cheer and encouragement that came my way, it was a daunting task to stay resilient. I couldn’t fake a smile any longer.
During my sabbatical days, I began to consciously reflect on all the painful episodes of coping with HS. I realized that my mind had been wallowing in self-pity. The agony of dealing with HS on a daily basis was undoubtedly crippling, but the flow of negative thoughts and emotions that followed demotivated me even further. I had to make an effort to pop the bubble of misery that had engulfed my chattering mind.
As a wise man once said, pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional. It had taken me a while to internalize this, but eventually, it brought about a shift in my thinking. I began to appreciate ordinary experiences that evoked an instant sense of calmness and peace. Recognizing personal attributes helped me regain self-confidence. And most importantly, I valued the people who had expressed their support and kindness during trying times. All these gentle reminders strengthened my ability to notice the good. It further alerted me to count my blessings during all phases of adversities.
Have you shared your HS story?