How Chronic Boils Taught Me To Live Guilt-Free (Part 1)
I was a young girl who had just tasted my first sense of womanhood when I felt a small bump in my genital region that generated intense agony each time I moved. Over time, that tiny bump would swell into a gumball-sized boil that screamed to be acknowledged nearly every second of the day, demanding complete attention in my life.
In a time where my mind should’ve been focused on my favorite Disney films like High School Musical and a newfound obsession with Corbin Bleu, I was silently haunted by the seemingly invisible boils that ruled my world. At this age, I can remember being excited to shop for big girl under clothes with my mom and feeling all grown up by gaining another avenue for self-expression. But underneath the layers of innocence and an occupied mind that focused on age-appropriate issues, my body had turned against itself, unleashing a perpetual rage on my skin.
Trying to discreetly manage my hidradenitis suppurativa
As the days went on and the boils magnified in size, the abscesses began to drain leaving behind distinctly foul puddles of bacteria that sat in my underwear. It was in these same moments that I vividly remember the inner child in me fading and my mind first envisioning the resilient woman that I have grown to be.
I can remember secret bathroom trips spent holding my breath in an effort to fight off the onset of nausea while I tenderly wiped away the remnants of a boil that had burst, now ending its’ war on my body. I remember discreetly using excess tissue paper to hide the blood and pus-soaked evidence of my chronic condition that at the time remained nameless.
Fighting the war
I lived these early days with my chronic boils in absolute darkness ridden by the shame of feeling unclean intertwined with feelings of guilt to admit that something was wrong with me. My mind was driven by an unfounded reasoning that the world already held enough problems and therefore, I did not want to turn into one too.
In my first attempt to fight this war, I stayed up past my bedtime quietly scouring the internet for causes of boils and how I could manage the excruciating pain I tolerated on a regular basis. Through my research, I falsely learned that my boils were caused by poor hygiene and that washing more frequently could help ward off the bad bacteria that lived on my skin. I began taking longer showers and making the effort to scrub vigorously in the areas where my boils lived, and yet, they continued to return. I used warm compresses at night time after everyone else retired to their rooms, and still, the pain rode my back like an enemy that was getting the best of me during a melee.
I'm not hiding my HS anymore
As life went on, I learned to accept the boils as something I would deal with that no one else had to know about. They were my own little secret that was eating me alive from the inside out. Miraculously, one day the boils ceased and my body entered what I now know was a period of remission.
I was no longer enslaved to fighting this war or trying to distract my mind from the inevitable pain that plagued my body. I felt free to live my life as a normal teenager without the burden of managing chronic boils. It was in this great period of immense privilege that I was blessed to enjoy a life that many others who also experience my disease are not able to. Then came college, and as quickly as the boils had vanished from my life, they were back with a vengeance and had spread to a more visible area where they could no longer hide.
On an average day, how would you rate your anxiety related to HS?