That was another incredibly healing step for me, because I knew there was a little girl inside of me that just so desperately wanted to be seen fully and be loved — all of her, not just, you know, what society would deem the typical pretty parts.
So it was incredibly healing to do that, and I had so many people from all over the world reach out and start to share their journey. And I was overwhelmed. I did not expect that at all. I still get really emotional thinking about it, because it was a very vulnerable piece for me. But to have other people all over the world be as vulnerable and share pictures of themselves, even — you know, it’s just such a beautiful, beautiful thing.
Growing Up With Psoriasis Took a Toll on Rimes’ Mental Health
EH: How did it affect you when you were younger to feel like you had to hide your psoriasis?
LR: I’ve talked about mental health a lot, too, because I’ve struggled off and on with depression and anxiety, and I think psoriasis was a huge part of that piece, as far as my mental health and feeling very isolated, feeling like not all of me was welcome to the party of life. Having to hide my skin and my body, ever since I was a little girl, I mean, that really does — some of it consciously, but a lot of it unconsciously — put a damper on life.
I went through major, different treatments where it was very confining and painful. I’ve been on stage with bleeding underneath my clothing. It does a lot to your mental health.
I think those photos, for me, were such a huge reveal of this piece that I had been kind of shoving down for 37 years. It definitely was a struggle. And I know I’m not alone in that. I know a lot of people feel that way.
And even though we’re talking about psoriasis now, it’s a topic that we discuss these days, it hasn’t been that way for a long time. So people can still have the misconception of “It’s contagious,” and, you know, all of the things.
EH: When you felt the pressure to hide and you were feeling isolated, do you think that was coming more from outside pressure, or from someplace inside yourself?
LR: Both. [Laughs.] As a quote-unquote “celebrity” in this world, and as a woman, there is a high expectation of the image that I’m supposed to uphold. And I think that there were external pressures. And my parents, especially my mother — meaning well and wanting to protect her daughter from the outside world — always made sure that I was hidden. So there’s also, with the best of intentions, this kind of programming starting very young, of like, “You have to hide this piece of you. It’s not welcome,” which, obviously, I just internalized all of that myself.
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And there’s this wonderful voice that I like to call “Tubby.” I named him Tubby. [Laughs.] He’s very judgmental and very loud sometimes. And that was my own self-judgment, obviously, trying to protect myself. And I think a lot of us do this, because God knows if we can judge ourselves first, then the outside world, whatever everybody else says, doesn’t hurt as much.
EH: Did it help to separate out a name, “Tubby”? So that it’s not you being mean to yourself, it’s Tubby, and you can just tell Tubby you’re not listening to him today?
LR: Exactly. Yes, it was very helpful to recognize that that wasn’t me. Someone said something the other day that I really thought was so powerful: “There’s anger here, but I’m not angry. There’s sadness here, but I’m not sad. There’s judgment here, but I’m not the one doing the judging.” It’s Tubby.
Community Support Is Super Important, Rimes Says
EH: Have you found any other methods or tips that are really helpful for dealing with that negative self-talk when you’re dealing with a flare?
LR: Connection. I mean, connection is a huge, huge piece. And being able to verbalize my own internal experience to those who I know love me and will listen. Having a great support system around you. For me, that’s my husband and my very, very close friends. For others who don’t have that, to find that kind of community is super important. To find people who really understand.
Even for me, even though my husband and people that are close to me are there for me, they still don’t quite understand what it’s like. For me, connecting with Cyndi Lauper recently was such a cool piece, because I’ve never really talked to other celebrities or other performers that have been through the same kind of situation that I’ve been through.
And so to be on the PsO in the Know podcast, and connect with her and get to talk about our stories, for me, that was just another level of validation: talking with someone that’s really been there through all the same experiences and hearing, “Yeah, this is real. All the things you go through are real.”
EH: What can friends and family do to support someone with psoriasis, especially during a flare?
LR: I think one of the biggest pieces is validating their pain and their experience. Recognizing what they’re going through, the loved one might not completely understand. But to be there and to be someone to listen — not to fix. [Laughs.] There’s nothing that can be done sometimes, you know.
Another piece is, treat us like it’s just another day. My husband has been so fantastic in that way. Last year was the first time that he had ever seen me with psoriasis on my body, and we’ve been married for almost 11 years. I had talked about it, he’s known about it, he’s seen photos of me with it, but he had never experienced it. So for me to have him truly see me, even with it on me — for me, I get caught up in my head, and that’s all I see. And he’s like, “I don’t see it. I don’t see what you’re seeing.”
I never really understood that until I took the photos that I did. And when I looked at those photos, I saw past what was there on my skin. And I think it was the first time that it kind of clicked for me, like, “Oh, I understand what he’s saying.”
So it’s wonderful when you have people around you that treat you the same, whether or not you have a flare going on. That can help bring the joy back into your life, when it all seems to be kind of … painful. It’s wonderful to have those people around that will remind you of your true essence, of who you really are.
Communication and Self-Advocacy Can Change Everything
EH: When you had that big flare for the first time in your marriage, did you feel like it took away from your desire to want to be intimate with your husband or just feeling desirable? If so, how did you deal with that?
LR: Absolutely. Once again, communication is key. I think that’s one of the best tricks that I’ve ever learned, is to be able to communicate. Like, “Hey, this is my experience. This is what I’m going through. These are the stories I’m creating.” Like I said, to have someone in my corner — who’s my partner, who treats me and my body and my everything as if that wasn’t the case, that my psoriasis wasn’t there — is a beautiful thing to have.
But it really does take away some of your zest and joy for life. Because it’s like, for me, at least, I felt so abnormal — but what’s normal? [Laughs.] What’s normal? This is my normal; my skin is highly sensitive, and it’s just a piece of me. So the more that we can have that self-acceptance and self-compassion, that brings the joy back into our experience and our ability to connect more intimately with those that we love.
EH: Why is it important for people with psoriasis to practice self-love and self-advocacy?
LR: Because at the end of the day, you’re all you’ve got. Obviously, it’s wonderful to have all of these people around us that love us if we’re so lucky in life. But at the end of the day, we are our own best advocate, to educate ourselves, to find the right care.
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So many different things work for different people. What works for me might not work for someone else. I like to think of myself as kind of like the science experiment and the scientists at the same time. [Laughs.] Throughout life — when it comes to mental health, physical health, skin health — really be curious. Curiosity is such a beautiful tool when it comes to finding what works for us. We are always our own best advocate and we know what’s best for us. Listening to our bodies, listening to our intuition is super, super important.
When it comes to that self-love piece, showing that self-compassion to all the parts of ourselves that we love to bring judgment towards. Catching ourselves in that judgment, catching myself when Tubby likes to get really loud, and applying self-compassion. You know, a great teacher of mine always says, “The game of life is a love game; it’s applying love to pain.” Applying love to where pain has existed is the only way.
Those sound like really big ideas, but for me, at least, I’m coming to be able to apply those more and more in my life, and boy, does life get a lot more joyful and sweeter.
Rimes Fights Stress — and Staves Off Flares — by Taking Time for Herself
EH: Stress can be a huge trigger for people with psoriasis. Is that true for you? And if so, what are some concrete things that you do to decrease your stress level?
LR: Yes, stress is huge. I grew up in a pretty stressful environment as a child. And obviously having psoriasis from such a young age was incredibly stressful. And then being on the road and in the public eye my whole life, stress has been a part of my life. [Laughs.] And it’s that way for everyone. There’s no way of getting around it. Obviously, this pandemic has caused another whole level and layer of stress.
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So really take the time for yourself. That’s been a huge key piece for me, recognizing how I can’t stretch myself. I can’t do 50 million things at once — and not apologizing for it. “No” is the best word that you can find. And stick to it. Once we get comfortable with saying no, and like you said, advocating for ourselves, that’s a super important piece.
Also meditation has been a huge thing for me, which I’ve been a major advocate for for many years. Walking, nature, being out in nature. I think we’ve all been cooped up a lot, so we’ve all recognized the importance of fresh air, something so simple that we all took for granted. To be able to be out and connect with nature is a huge one for me.
Obviously feeding ourselves properly, maintaining and trying to bring down the level of inflammation in the body. Lots of water, that’s a huge one for me, keeping hydrated. I know these are all super simple things that we think like, “Oh, yeah,” but most of us don’t do it often. It’s the simplicity of life that we take for granted and forget to do.
EH: Do you follow any kind of anti-psoriasis diet?
LR: I don’t. I love a balanced diet. I’m not a big gluten person, so I try to keep away from it, just because I don’t feel like it makes me feel that great. But I don’t really follow a specific diet. I’ve tried things in the past and — I do like food. [Laughs.] I like food, I enjoy food, so I try to just keep it as balanced as possible.