Before being diagnosed with an Inflammatory Bowel Disease I was a confident, independent and worldly woman. Living with Crohn’s disease impacted all of that. As my symptoms worsened, my insecurities increased. I became introverted, anxious and less confident.
Going to work, socializing, even grocery shopping became a struggle. I relied heavily on my family and friends for support. There's nothing wrong with this, but after being independent for so long it was difficult for me to accept that I needed help.
Financially, physically, personally, socially… my world changed.
My self-esteem plummeted in more ways than one. Financially, I felt I wasn’t contributing as much as I should. Changing from a full-time to a part-time job reduced our household income significantly, meanwhile doctor’s bills continued to rise. Some days I couldn’t even get out of bed. I felt useless and worthless.
Personally, I had body and self-image issues. From the illness and steroid medication I lost weight, had puffy cheeks, facial hair, and atrocious skin. I hadn’t been to the hairdresser in months. Despite my partner telling me how beautiful I was, I didn’t feel it.
Socially I tried to go out as much as I could, but I would decline many invitations or cancel at the last minute. And even when I did manage to get out of the house, I wasn’t myself due to fear and anxiety of having to urgently use the bathroom.
I reminded myself, this wasn’t my fault.
I stayed positive as much as I could, and knew I had to carry on and make most of the situation. I had to somehow regain the confidence I was continuing to lose. It would've been easy to just stay at home where I was comfortable and felt safe, but that’s not what I wanted. What’s the worst that can happen? Okay, maybe I'll have an accident (I’ve pooped my pants in public on several occasions). It’s not fun and it's embarrassing, but you just deal with it.
I had to listen to my body and put my health first.
When I was well enough though, I did everything I could to prepare for an outing and taught myself many different strategies to help my confidence and sense of security. Eventually it came to the point of ostomy surgery, and with that came a whole new set of challenges around confidence and self-image. It took some time, but I have adjusted to being an ostomate very well. In fact, in many ways I'm even more confident than I was prior to my diagnosis!
Having Crohn’s helped me understand what’s really important and not to worry so much about what others think. We have to make the most of life with what we’ve got! I am more at ease and confident within myself and with my body, and so grateful and proud of what having an ileostomy has done for me. I’m not afraid or ashamed to get my body and my bag out!
Of course I sometimes still struggle, but I do two things to help me feel better and work through it;
- I talk about it with friends and family (or a psychologist or therapist).
- I look for the good in everything (including myself), and always remember that I am not alone.
We are all beautiful and worthy no matter what, on the inside and out!
Connect with Laura at Stomalicious.