Pain Is Not Normal: HS & Mental Health (Part 1)
Last updated: January 2023
You hear it being said all the time: college is the best four years of your life. And don’t get me wrong, it totally can be! Even if you can’t necessarily get it done in four years (not to call myself out, but...).
I started to normalize my pain
While college had its high points, it’s also where I learned about pain and how much I started to normalize it. I’d been dealing with HS since my sophomore year of high school, but it got much worse when I started working towards my degree in the fall of 2012. I majored in Theater Studies, which was surprisingly (to me, at least), much more physical than I thought it would be. Between acting, voice, and movement classes, I was exhausted by the end of each week. Now that I think about it, I really shouldn't have been surprised by my major's physicality, seeing as there was literally a class called Movement, but I digress.
As you can probably imagine, this made HS pretty hard to deal with. I’d also just been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the time, and I was doing an awful job managing it.
Long story short, I was kind of a mess.
The big HS boil
During that time, I developed one of the biggest boils I’ve ever had under my left arm, making it nearly impossible to put my arm down at my side. Walking around campus was a miserable experience. I could feel the pain under my arm with every single step I took. I figured that the boil would eventually burst and the worst of the pain would be over. My logic at the time was this: the worse the pain was, the closer it was to being over.
The boil was about the size of a tennis ball and it was so big that the healthcare professionals at the on-campus Health Services building told me they couldn’t take care of it. Instead, they directed me to one of the local clinics.
I was wondering if this day could get any worse
The bus ride to the clinic was hot and way too crowded for my comfort, but I eventually made it to my destination... that is after being dropped off at the wrong clinic. Not having paid much attention to the directions the on-campus health service providers gave me, I walked a mile in the opposite direction to the right clinic. The entire walk over, I was wondering if there was any way this day could get any worse.
Spoilers: It did.
I had no idea what I was in for, but once I saw the scalpel and the syringe with numbing medication on the table, I knew I wasn’t going to be in for a good time. I remember asking the doctor how much it would hurt and when he replied with, “Well...”, I knew I was screwed.
I’ll be honest with you, it was by far, one of the most painful experiences I’d ever had.
I finally felt relief from hidradenitis suppurativa
The doctor had me squeeze a stress relief ball while he cut into the boil and two nurses stood on either side of him, gauze pads and paper towels ready to go for what was sure to be a messy procedure. And it was. I’m sure those of you who’ve had anything lanced probably understand the feeling. But then I felt something that I hadn’t felt in months.
Well, until I got the hospital bill, but that’s a story for another time.
The doctor packed the wound and sent me on my way and I remember nearly being in tears as I waited at the bus stop. I was sore, but the initial pain was finally gone.
When you need to vent about HS, who do you turn to first?
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