My View On Body Positivity With A Chronic Illness And Ostomy

by Jen McGregor

Jen Body Positive

Hello again SecuriCare Blog readers!

I thought this month I’d write about my perception of my body and how it has changed since I was diagnosed. I haven’t had the best perception of my body over the last several years. It started when I was diagnosed in 2007 at the age of 13. I went through a period of time where I struggled with an eating disorder because I was taller than every other girl in my year and had been bullied for it. I was referred to as the “fat one” amongst my friendship group and that just happened to be when the Crohn’s disease began to flare up. That’s how I found it so easy to lose a drastic amount of weight - I was in pain when I ate so I just didn’t eat and lost well over a third of my body weight and became malnourished. I was then unhappy with being so small and I hated my body more because I was so frail. I was also very young and I couldn’t understand why I was so unhappy because in my head, skinny meant happy.

I wasn’t ever happy with how I looked and felt, because my appearance constantly changed.

Over the next 6 years I started to go through a constant routine of moving through the available treatments, dealing with flare ups and being on steroids for 6 months at a time. When I left school I realised how hard I’d been on myself and how the only person that could make me feel happier was me. My weight didn’t have to define me.  I needed to deal with my body issues so I decided to speak to someone to see if I could ever begin to love my body. I headed to my GP surgery and asked to be referred to a psychiatrist. I had to wait a few weeks for my first session and it was decided that 1-to-1 meetings would suit me better than group therapy.

I eventually began to see my body for what it was, an amazing thing that kept me going against the odds.

I had an amazing psychiatrist who helped me deal with a number of issues including the reasons why I hated my body and she helped me to see that I associated how I looked with all the things that happened to me. From scars, to moonface, to stretch marks… by looking so deeply at everything it became clear I wasn’t dealing with my underlying issues which were PTSD and anxiety. Thanks to talking through it all and the coping mechanisms I learnt over the following year, I eventually began to see my body for what it was, an amazing thing that kept me going against the odds. I was also taking a trial drug which kept the Crohn’s in remission for a year, and I began to fall in love with fashion, things were going well.

I started to appreciate all my little imperfections and felt good… until I faced getting my ostomy.

After the trial medication ended, I was faced with the prospect of getting an ileostomy and I was terrified of the idea. Despite being bedbound by sickness I said I’d rather die than get an ostomy as I thought I would go back to hating my body. I didn’t know it at the time, but this was because my anxiety wasn’t fully under control. Thankfully I had time to get my head around the idea of an ostomy (it took 6 months from the end of the trial to my surgery date) so I made sure to attend my psychiatry appointments and take control of the anxiety.

I’m now so proud to show the world that I’m a fighter.

I made sure I was fully prepared for having a stoma by looking at pictures and wearing ostomy bags on a trial basis regularly. And I decided it was time to wear whatever I wanted and to celebrate my body. So what if I got an ostomy? So what if I have scars? So what if my weight yo-yos? The alternative would mean I wouldn’t be alive and I’d have given up the chance to have a life because I was being vain! Yes I have wobbles lots of the time when I’m uncomfortable and it’s bikini season but I’m now so proud to show the world that I’m a fighter because these scars show it and my ostomy has given me my life back so now I keep that at the front of my mind and it helps me every day to love my body more and more!

Jen McGregor

About the author

I'm Jen, I've had Crohn's Disease for more than 10 years and have a permanent ileostomy. I love all things fashion, animals and travelling. I'm also a student, a vlogger, and I have a dream to bring my adaptable clothing line CrohnieClothing to the masses.

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