This is an incredible piece for Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness Week. Within the IBD community I wondered if anyone would like to show a selfie or photo of their stomach to represent the meaning of “there’s more to us than meets the eye.” You must be thinking “Alannah what on earth are you rambling on about?” Well, the reason I wanted and I am sharing this is to show non sufferers that just because a person who is suffering with an invisible illness looks “fine” on the outside, this isn’t the case on the inside. In fact, it is one of the biggest struggles IBD sufferers struggle with most. Our condition is not visible on the outside apart from past surgical scars, iron deficiencies causing discolouration under the eyes or the bloated stomachs we suffer (which people often mistaken women as pregnant, yes, it really does happen!)
The response I got was phenomenal! So many sufferers got in contact and shared their photo’s of their tummies, being such brave and inspirational warriors (if I do say so myself!) I want to share with non sufferers just how severe this condition can be, and so here is a little part about Inflammatory Bowel Disease: It is a life long illness that causes ulceration and inflammation of the digestive system, however both condition affects differently; Crohn’s Disease can affect anywhere from “gum to bum”, whereas Ulcerative Colitis only affects the large bowel and rectum. The awful symptoms that IBD patients suffer are: Diarrhoea, cramping and pain, fatigue, nausea and being sick, weight loss, mouth ulcers and anaemia. Where this doesn’t really sound like much in writing, in person it can be absolutely devastating to go through. There are also other things that come along side IBD such as fistulas which is an abnormal passage that grows between the bowel (or where the disease is present) to another organ in the body or to the surface of the skin. It can also cause eye inflammation, arthritis, constipation, slowing in healing, hair loss, dehydration, infections, bone thinning and mental health conditions.
Many people who suffer from IBD go through treatments to control the disease and the side affects of that can also be truly terrible, the biggest being infection. Those who have suffered infection can develop Sepsis which is infection going into the blood stream which can lead to a matter of life and death, resulting in having to have surgery for a stoma in cases where antibiotics don’t work. Many go through multiple types of medications that simply just don’t work and the condition doesn’t get any better where surgery is the only option left. Some people find that after having parts of their bowel removed or have a stoma formed that they regain their life again and can move on and live a “normal” life. There are also many just like me where that just doesn’t happen and we still are unwell and can develop the disease else where.
None the less, we all do our best to remain positive and stay in high spirit! I must remind you that we do have down days and that’s OK. Mental health is closely linked to IBD and it can be a serious challenge to deal with both. Anxiety and Depression are most common however other mental health conditions can arise too. It’s important than when you know someone with mental health conditions that even the happiest of people can suffer in silence, and so, it’s so important to help someone when you know something isn’t right. The best medicine for those who suffer is support, love and laughter (if you are an IBD sufferer then you know we wish this was an option!)
Now the best part of the blog! Are you ready?! I certainly am! The beautiful and brave people shared their photo’s to help raise awareness and little did I know whilst we were all sharing, it was also helping people gain confidence and acceptance with their scars, stoma bags and health conditions! That was the best part for me; helping those gain confidence again. One lady in particular thanked me for helping her do this and another had shared that in 13 years she had never shown her stomach to anyone until yesterday and also thanked me for giving her courage! To me this is extremely rewarding and being honest all the photo’s and responses has completely melted my heart and I am so glad and proud of helping other sufferers achieve something so great in life.
I hope you look forward to seeing the photo’s and those who took part enjoy them too!
For those who are struggling with self confidence, I hope that all of us who have shared our tummy selfies have helped you! Thankyou so much to all who took part! 💜