CNN Anchor 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 stunning on air, but she has a secret. It's a secret she is now telling.
The Anchor is suffering from a skin dis order that has her scared to look at herself and dressing in the dark.
Verjee writes that 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.
My face is flawless. Not a blemish. Not a mark. Compliments are endless. But I am acutely aware that a horror film unfolds in secret beneath my clothes. I am effervescent and radiant on the outside and rotting inside. Which is the real me?
The cameras fire up, the red light turns on. I am splendidly made up. I lose myself in the moment. I am energized. I am focused. It's only my face. It is floating. It's all that exists. It gives me confidence.
No one has it all. I fight my body and myself all my life. I hit rock bottom many times because of my disease. It seems futile to try anymore. "Who will ever want me like this" I cry hysterically at home. "No one could ever touch me." My mother pulls me out self-loathing and defeatism. When I want to give up, she will not let me.
She becomes an expert on psoriasis. She reads medical journals and approaches alternative healers. She takes me for acupuncture and hypnosis. She mixes various acids in a lab for me to use on my skin and soaks me in a tub full of Dead Sea salt. The rest of the day, I am in a messy, smelly cream. Endless personal research, trial and error bring occasional relief.
Imagine the nightmarish teen years. I cower from close friendships. No one can know the truth. I never date. Intimacy is out of the question. I have no sensation of touch. The scales are too thick.
The itch is unbearable. I try and ignore it. It's impossible. It agitates me. I use all my strength and I tear at my skin. I am violent. I scratch back and forth until there is blood. It is too raw to do any more. I am filled with rage and humiliated.