Last week, I was asked to write a piece about my condition and how it has affected my life and my confidence. It didn’t get used, so I thought I’d upload it here instead.
I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis, a form of inflammatory bowel disease 11 years ago. For me personally, the diagnosis was fast. I had two weeks of horrendous stomach pains and bloody stools before going to A&E, where I was whisked off for a colonoscopy and diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis. After a week in the hospital and the medications not helping, I had surgery to remove my colon and rectum (because both were full of ulcers) and an ileostomy was created.
Firstly, being diagnosed with an incurable disease at the age of 19 was hard enough, but I hadn't even had time to get my head around how it might affect my life before the surgery was needed and I was faced with something that, just one week earlier, I didn’t even know existed.
I was grateful to have survived because there was a point when we didn't know if I would, but I hated the bag. I hated that part of my intestine was coming out of my stomach like something from a horror movie, and I hated that I was essentially carrying around poo with me everywhere I went.
Mentally it was a tough time, but eventually, things did get better. I’ve had another 5 surgeries since and now live with a Jpouch, which is essentially a new rectum fashioned from my own small intestine, which allows me to store poo on the inside. My stomach is covered in scars from open surgery, two stomas (one on each side) and drains etc. I have small scars on my neck where lines went in whilst I was on the high dependency unit. I have scars on my face from skin conditions I've had which are related to the IBD or the medications I have taken (Psoriasis, acne and steroid-induced rosacea). They are what they are, and I am what I am. I don’t try to cover them up with makeup every day because the extra sleep is more essential to me than vanity.
I don't think society and the media help people with body confidence at the best of times. People in magazines and on the TV are not an accurate portrayal of "normal" human beings.
I’ve had my moments. I’ve cried because all of the stomachs I see on TV are perfect and un-marked; something which mine will never be, but I don't think that has too much to do with me and my journey because I’ve also been bothered by all the perfect complexions and perfect breasts. I think it’s just human nature, to not be happy with what we’ve got.
I'm still not "well", and I don't think I ever will be. On a daily basis, I am in pain, and I’m still in the process of trying to find a medication which will help me achieve remission, but I have accepted the life I have because I don't have another; this one is MINE.
I can say though, with complete honesty, that I love each and every one of my scars. They tell the story of what I've overcome, the tough times I've fought my way through already and remind me that after having been through all of that, there's nothing that can come at me that I can't handle.
Bodies are like oil paintings. We're born with a blank canvas and we build up the paint, layer on layer throughout our lives until we're finally finished - until we are perfect. From the lines on our face from laughing and crying to the scars from falling off our bikes as kids. It might also do you good to remember, that no matter how many times you fell off, you always got back on. It's only when we die that our picture is truly finished, and that's as perfect as we'll ever be. How can you not love that? You are the picture, and you are the artist, and no one else could paint the same picture, even if they tried. You are unique. You are beautiful. Your body is your own story; evidence that you lived your life, in your own way, in a way that ONLY YOU could, and THAT is amazing.
Of course, there are days when I wish I didn't have scars all over my face and body. However, I know for them to not be here, I would have to re-write my life. If my life hadn't gone the way it has, I wouldn't be who I am today, and most of the time, I like me. So, I am accepting of my imperfections and my scars and I am proud of the picture I’ve painted so far. I look forward to adding to it, with whatever else life brings; with laugh lines and cry lines, and by falling off my bike!