I have battled with Hidradenitis Suppurativa (HS) for the last five years. At times, HS has consumed my life and my self-confidence has plummeted as a result. During difficult periods, feeling as if no one could possibly understand my skin condition, I’ve often wondered whether I’d ever be able to maintain a long-term relationship.
Then, a few years back, I met someone special. In the early weeks of dating, I was petrified to tell him about my HS because I knew that no one in his circle of friends and family suffered from such a chronic condition.
How do you explain HS to someone totally unfamiliar with it? Would he ever truly understand? Would he be okay with my scars and the incisions I’d need to get in intimate areas?
For a while, I avoided breaking the news altogether. I didn’t want him to know how ugly I felt underneath my clothes or how badly my dressings could sometimes smell.
Eventually, however, I decided that I couldn’t let a skin disease take over my life. I couldn’t let HS get in the way of a great relationship. Worst-case scenario? That he would get freaked out and dump me. If that happened, I realized, he wasn’t the right guy for me anyway.
Sure, I was apprehensive. But HS is a part of me and I knew it always would be. So I decided to open up to my new boyfriend at a pace I felt comfortable with, explaining HS to him bit by bit.
For starters, I revealed my underarm. I’ve had countless surgeries on this part of my body, including gland removal, so it looks as if I’ve sustained first-degree burns there.
“Wow, that’s so cool,” he said. “Can I touch it?”
I was massively relieved, but also confused. How could he be so okay with something I thought of as downright ugly? Overall, I considered it a lucky thing that he wasn’t freaked out…yet.
A short time later, I warned him about the scars I have on my groin and other intimate areas. Instead of freaking out, he comforted me and said that everyone has something they have to deal with. “This is just your thing,” he reassured me.
Still, I wanted to give him the chance to let everything sink in — to fully comprehend that my body had these scars and that my body would continue to develop many more new scars over the years.
It wasn’t too long into our relationship that I had to go to the hospital for an incision in my groin due to a recurrent abscess. I explained that the same condition that caused my previous scars had led me to the doctor yet again.
In response, he insisted on visiting me at the hospital. That was the first time I showed him an abscess. He said it could’ve been a lot worse and that I was lucky to have good care. He tried to be there the best he could without being intrusive. I let him stay whenever the doctors or nurses came around so he could understand HS better from a medical perspective.
After the surgery, I showed him my dressing. I felt so insecure but he was quick to reassure me once again, telling me that my bandages were there to do a job.
At that point, I think he realized just how much the disease affected me. I was glad that I’d chosen to open up because it helped him understand me even better as a person.
Nowadays, I take my boyfriend with me to outpatient appointments so he’s aware of everything my condition entails and feels involved with the treatment process. Without fail, he reminds me to take my antibiotics and he’s never afraid to help me with my bandages if I spend the night at his place.
I can honestly say that our relationship would not be as strong as it is today if I hadn’t opened up about my skin condition and allowed him to partake in that aspect of my life. HS is no longer just my issue, it’s our adventure!