I was only two years old when I was diagnosed with psoriasis. By the time I was six, about 80% of my body was covered in painful red spots—everything but my hands, feet, and face. These weren’t the days when there were commercials about psoriasis on TV or open discussions about skin conditions. No one was talking about this. And certainly not when I signed my first record deal at 11. In the world we lived in, our “flaws” were not invited to the forefront.
I tried everything I could to treat it: steroid creams, major medications—I even tried being wrapped in coal tar with Saran Wrap. And when I was in public, I did I everything I could to hide it. Onstage I’d often wear two pairs of pantyhose or jeans—even in 95-degree heat. Underneath my shirt, my whole stomach would be covered in thick scales that would hurt and bleed. For so much of my life, I felt like I had to hide.
Finally in my 20s, I found a treatment that seemed to help keep my skin clear. As my condition improved, I stretched out the amount of time between each of my shots until I felt at ease going off them two and a half years ago. And then the beginning of this year happened. All hell broke loose in the world—and inside of me, as I’m sure it did for so many other people amid this pandemic. Suddenly I went from doing what I love, and being surrounded by people, to just hanging around the house in sweats. Stress is a common trigger for psoriasis, and with so much uncertainty happening, my flare-ups came right back.
I’ve talked about having psoriasis before. When I first revealed it, it was a big deal for me to come out and say, “I deal with this.” But so many people responded, “Oh my God, your skin is so clear!” Because, yeah, I was speaking about it only when my skin was clear. I think people thought I was making it up because they’ve never seen me with a flare-up. This time is different. Even though I’ve opened up, I’ve still kept hidden. And when you’re hiding your physical body, there’s so much that rolls over into your emotional and spiritual mental health. You feel like you’re holding yourself back—like you’ve been caged in.
Maybe it’s the fact that this year has really put things into perspective, but I now feel like I’m at a point in my life where I just want to break out of that cage. We’re at a moment in time right now when we’re all being stripped of everything we thought we needed—and now we can see how worthy and good enough we are without all of the bullshit. We’re worthy without the makeup and the artifice. We’re worthy of love without having to work for it.
And that’s why I’m tired of hiding.
So much of my journey—both personally and in my new chant record and podcast coming out—has been excavating these pieces that I’ve been hiding. To allow them out and let those fragments come back into wholeness. Music has been my gift, and why I’m here. But I want to give a voice to these other pieces of me. And I want to give a voice to what so many other people are going through. This is finally my time to be honest about what psoriasis is and what it looks like.
You know when you say something you’ve been holding in for so long, and it’s such a sigh of relief? That’s what these photos are to me. I needed this. My whole body—my mind, my spirit—needed this desperately. I honestly thought these photos were going to be challenging to look at. It’s one thing to see yourself and judge yourself in the mirror; I thought it would be even harder in a photo, which is why in the past I never let people take pictures of me during flare-ups. Being in our own bodies, we judges ourselves so harshly.
But when I look at these photos, I see so much more than my skin.
Before this shoot, my husband would look at me like, “I don’t even see that,” which I obviously didn’t understand. I’d think, How can’t you see it?! It’s all over me! I think I see what he sees now.
Will these photos change the way I live? Will I wear shorts out to the grocery store? I honestly don’t know. But what I do know is that it’s amazing how small we can keep ourselves. When you finally allow yourself to step outside of what you’ve been caging in, the whole world opens up. There’s freedom in even just putting one foot outside the door.
I hope anyone who also kept themselves small has the courage to step outside of that cage. When we allow ourselves not to be held in, our lives come back to us.
LeAnn Rimes is a singer, songwriter, and actor. Her new chant record, The Human and the Holy, a collection of 12 meditative tracks, will be released on November 20. And her new iHeartRadio podcast, Wholly Human, which explores various facets of mental health and wellness, launches on November 30.