HS, Sobriety, and Mental Health
Content warning: This article discusses self-harm and disordered eating.
I have suffered from various mental health issues since I was a teenager. It's only now, as a 24-year old that I understand that these issues were strongly related to my HS. In hindsight, it seemed pretty obvious but at the time I thought I was just "broken".
Hidradenitis suppurativa can feel hopeless
Depression entered my life when I was just 14 years old. I had my first HS flare at 13, but it was at 14 when I felt that there was something "wrong" with me. My poor body image started at this point and I constantly compared myself to other girls who looked "normal." By 14, the famous purple HS scars covered my groin and in between my legs. I genuinely thought I looked diseased. This is when I developed disordered eating habits that started off a spiral of several other mental health issues and destructive behaviors including self-harm and later in life, binge drinking.
These unhealthy coping mechanisms seemed to be the only way I could control my pain, as I didn't have any control over my recurring boils and hatred for myself. As my HS got worse, so did my coping mechanisms. In my elder teens, I discovered how much I "loved" drinking alcohol. I found it was a way to escape my painful reality and become someone different. Living for the weekend became my reality so I could get blackout drunk and get out of the mess that was my own head. It gave me a false sense of confidence but this only made my depression and anxiety worse. The days following a drinking session, I hated myself even more.
Taking control of my life and giving up alcohol
Fast forward to 2020: I just had surgery for my HS and was in terrible pain. My depression was at an all-time low and I wasn't looking after myself. I was binge drinking several times a week and I couldn't keep up with this destructive behavior. If I continued this cycle, my mental health would continue to decline, so I made the best decision of my life and quit drinking.
As of now, I'm currently 11 months sober. In the past 11 months, I've been able to process a lot of emotions that I used to numb with alcohol. It has allowed me to understand myself as a person and better understand my past struggles. Anytime I have a craving for alcohol, it's usually during a time where my HS is flaring. Now that I have to sit with these emotions, I understand that this was one of the main reasons I drank, to numb the pain and get out of my reality.
It does get better!
When I'm flaring, my mental health can dip. I struggle with feeling "useless" as my body won't allow me to do the things that I would like. On days like this, I have to remember that even though my body has been through a lot, it is the only one I have, and hating it will not help me grow.
I now accept that I am beautiful. Now, I embrace my HS scars. I proudly show them off because I wish I had someone to look up to when I was a teenage girl when I felt "ugly" and "broken." I now understand that I am neither of these things. I am beautiful and strong and I truly believe my HS shaped me into the strong woman I am today.
I'm currently on a journey of healing and self-love. I embrace all of my flaws and I try to become a better person every day. If you are struggling with your mental health, please know you aren't alone and it will get better! And remember, you are not broken, you are beautiful and loved!
On an average day, how would you rate your anxiety related to HS?