Editor’s Note: Zain Verjee began her career at CNN in 2000 as an anchor in Atlanta and now anchors the Europe morning show for CNN International from London. She is a part-time master’s student of creative writing at Oxford University.
CNNI anchor Zain Verjee climbed the ladder of the news world despite a secret
The sometimes debilitating skin condition psoriasis plagued her physically and mentally
Verjee tried many treatments and cures but found the answer for her lay within
I have spent more than a decade of my professional career on international television, my face visible to millions each day. Yet I have spent a lifetime hiding.
For years, I guard a painful secret: I can’t bear to look in the mirror. I shrink from bright light. A gaze that lingers a second too long makes me panic. A hot summer day sends me into the shadows.
I have fish-like scales. There are tiny red islands floating on the surface of my skin. They combine to create continents with jagged surfaces. They turn black and start to smell. There is blood and pus.
My scalp spits out silver flakes. My ears are filled with crusts. I leave white specks wherever I sit. I float in long, loose clothes. My hands betray me. The sores sit openly. My nails are dented with pockmarks. I find strands of hair on the sheets and pillowcases every morning.
I suffer from psoriasis. It’s ravaged my body since I was 8. At its worst my plaques look like leprosy. I feel like a leper.
“Please can you leave the pool,” a woman once told me when I was 22, visiting the Dead Sea in Israel, “we’re not comfortable with you in it.” She is horrified at my body. I am ashamed. I hang my head.
The landscape from my neck down is chaos.
So I choose to look away. I am able to dress perfectly in the dark. I can feel my way around a room or a closet full of clothes. I instinctively choose the dimmest corner of a restaurant to sit in. Winters are a relief only because I won’t stand out covered from top to toe.