LeAnn Rimes on Her Journey With Psoriasis
On the road and in the spotlight since age 13, country music superstar LeAnn Rimes knows what itâ€™s like to live in the public eye. She also knows what itâ€™s like to hide from the judgment of others: Diagnosed with psoriasis at age 2, she spent decades concealing the red, scaly patches that at times covered much of her body.
A year later, Rimes is speaking up about her psoriasis again on the podcast series PsO in the Know, hosted by another music powerhouse with psoriasis, Cyndi Lauper. (Rimes and Lauper are both spokespeople for Novartis, which sponsors the podcast.)
In a recent interview, Rimes shared more of her story about life with psoriasis. Read on to learn about the method she uses to quiet the negative voice in her head, her husbandâ€™s unexpected reaction to her big flare, and the lifestyle strategies that keep her feeling joyful and centered.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
ishonest: Where do you like to start when you talk about your journey with psoriasis?
LeAnn Rimes: It is still an emotional journey for me. I mean, I was diagnosed when I was 2 years old. And you know, I have been suffering with this my whole life off and on. Iâ€™ve had clearer moments in my life than others. But itâ€™s something that I have hidden for a long time. Iâ€™ve started talking about it over the past decade, which has been incredibly healing for me.
But Iâ€™ve been clear [of my psoriasis] for a lot of that conversation. And last year, I was not. During the pandemic, with so many stressors, I actually had a severe breakout, and I decided to share photos of myself.
A post shared by LeAnn Rimes Cibrian (@leannrimes)
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 â€” 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 â€” you know, itâ€™s just such a beautiful, beautiful thing.
Growing Up With Psoriasis Took a Toll on Rimesâ€™ Mental Health
EH: How did it affect you when you were younger to feel like you had to hide your psoriasis?
LR: Iâ€™ve talked about mental health a lot, too, because Iâ€™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 â€” some of it consciously, but a lot of it unconsciously â€” put a damper on life.
I went through major, different treatments where it was very confining and painful. Iâ€™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 Iâ€™m not alone in that. I know a lot of people feel that way.
And even though weâ€™re talking about psoriasis now, itâ€™s a topic that we discuss these days, it hasnâ€™t been that way for a long time. So people can still have the misconception of â€œItâ€™s contagious,â€ 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?
And thereâ€™s this wonderful voice that I like to call â€œTubby.â€ I named him Tubby. [Laughs.] Heâ€™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, doesnâ€™t hurt as much.
EH: Did it help to separate out a name, â€œTubbyâ€? So that itâ€™s not you being mean to yourself, itâ€™s Tubby, and you can just tell Tubby youâ€™re not listening to him today?
LR: Exactly. Yes, it was very helpful to recognize that that wasnâ€™t me. Someone said something the other day that I really thought was so powerful: â€œThereâ€™s anger here, but Iâ€™m not angry. Thereâ€™s sadness here, but Iâ€™m not sad. Thereâ€™s judgment here, but Iâ€™m not the one doing the judging.â€ Itâ€™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 youâ€™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, thatâ€™s my husband and my very, very close friends. For others who donâ€™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 donâ€™t quite understand what itâ€™s like. For me, connecting with Cyndi Lauper recently was such a cool piece, because Iâ€™ve never really talked to other celebrities or other performers that have been through the same kind of situation that Iâ€™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 thatâ€™s really been there through all the same experiences and hearing, â€œYeah, this is real. All the things you go through are real.â€
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 theyâ€™re going through, the loved one might not completely understand. But to be there and to be someone to listen â€” not to fix. [Laughs.] Thereâ€™s nothing that can be done sometimes, you know.
Another piece is, treat us like itâ€™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 weâ€™ve been married for almost 11 years. I had talked about it, heâ€™s known about it, heâ€™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 â€” for me, I get caught up in my head, and thatâ€™s all I see. And heâ€™s like, â€œI donâ€™t see it. I donâ€™t see what youâ€™re seeing.â€
So itâ€™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. Itâ€™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 thatâ€™s one of the best tricks that Iâ€™ve ever learned, is to be able to communicate. Like, â€œHey, this is my experience. This is what Iâ€™m going through. These are the stories Iâ€™m creating.â€ Like I said, to have someone in my corner â€” whoâ€™s my partner, who treats me and my body and my everything as if that wasnâ€™t the case, that my psoriasis wasnâ€™t there â€” is a beautiful thing to have.
But it really does take away some of your zest and joy for life. Because itâ€™s like, for me, at least, I felt so abnormal â€” but whatâ€™s normal? [Laughs.] Whatâ€™s normal? This is my normal; my skin is highly sensitive, and itâ€™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?
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 â€” when it comes to mental health, physical health, skin health â€” 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 whatâ€™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, â€œThe game of life is a love game; itâ€™s applying love to pain.â€ Applying love to where pain has existed is the only way.
Those sound like really big ideas, but for me, at least, Iâ€™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 â€” and Staves Off Flares â€” 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?
So really take the time for yourself. Thatâ€™s been a huge key piece for me, recognizing how I canâ€™t stretch myself. I canâ€™t do 50 million things at once â€” and not apologizing for it. â€œNoâ€ 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, thatâ€™s a super important piece.
Also meditation has been a huge thing for me, which Iâ€™ve been a major advocate for for many years. Walking, nature, being out in nature. I think weâ€™ve all been cooped up a lot, so weâ€™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, thatâ€™s a huge one for me, keeping hydrated. I know these are all super simple things that we think like, â€œOh, yeah,â€ but most of us donâ€™t do it often. Itâ€™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 donâ€™t. I love a balanced diet. Iâ€™m not a big gluten person, so I try to keep away from it, just because I donâ€™t feel like it makes me feel that great. But I donâ€™t really follow a specific diet. Iâ€™ve tried things in the past and â€” I do like food. [Laughs.] I like food, I enjoy food, so I try to just keep it as balanced as possible.
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