Body Image and IBD

When a person suffers from moderate-severe inflammatory bowel disease, there is a very real possibility that they are going to suffer from some type of body image issue. I am not saying that everyone diagnosed with ulcerative colitis and crohns disease aren’t confident, well adjusted people because that couldn’t be farther from the truth. But, what I am saying is that IBD changes you and it often changes the way you look. Ulcerative colitis and crohns disease can and often do cause body alterations either as a result of medication side effects or because of surgery.

The impact that this topic has had on me is enormous. It is also very difficult to talk about because even though I believe whole heartedly everything that I am saying, I can’t seem to internalize it enough to be accepting of who I am just yet. The majority of the medications that patients suffering from IBD are given come with pretty bad side effects. Most of it is internal which I don’t feel a need to continue on about because let’s face it…they are scary and some of us don’t have a choice about whether or not we put these medicines in our bodies. The point I want to make right now though is that some patients with more severe crohns disease or ulcerative colitis are given steroids (ex, prednisone) either intravenously or orally. The side effects of something like prednisone are not only devastating to a person internally but at the right dose can have an incredible impact on the way a person looks. I plan to go more in depth about this specifically tomorrow, along with sharing the single picture I have of myself while I had a week left of weening to show you just how unbelievable and noticeable the side effects are of this medication in particular.

Patients with inflammatory bowel disease have body altering surgeries. They have their intestines cut out. They have their anus and rectum removed and sewn up. They have to wear external appliances. They have to stick catheters into their inverted stoma. They have to watch as their intestines move out of their skin. They have to see that with each surgery comes a new scar and a new reminder. No, not everyone with ulcerative colitis or crohns disease will have these types of surgeries. But, many do -75% of IBD patients will need at least one surgery in their lifetime.

This is a topic that has plagued me for so many years. This is also one that I know will take a while for me to overcome. But it is also something that I don’t think gets talked about enough. It amazes me actually. Whenever I meet a new IBD friend and we start to get more comfortable with each other (which usually happens pretty quickly), the topic of body image generally comes up. It is also usually followed with something like “I don’t talk about this with anyone” or “don’t think less of me.” It seems like it is a taboo subject when it is so understandable to me. I am going to expand on this a bit tomorrow with pictures like I had mentioned earlier but…

How can we NOT have body image issues? I mean, seriously…look at what so many of us have to go through! I know that I have had to adjust to more body alterations than most so I am probably a little more sensitive to this topic but I know I am not the only one. Weight fluctuations from medications and/or flare ups…and just life drive me crazy! I feel like I look different every time I see someone. It also makes me feel like I don’t know what I am “supposed” to look like since I have so many clothes in all different shapes and sizes. And all of the body alterating surgeries, jeez! Sometimes I feel like the IBD community is seriously the strongest group of people in the world.

I know the key to happiness is realizing that none of these things matter. They are all superficial crap. The way you go to the bathroom doesn’t make a difference. The number on the scale won’t make or break anything. The thinning of your hair or acne is what it is. I do know that rationally. But it is so difficult not to get upset over these things. Ulcerative colitis and crohns disease aren’t just diseases… they are so much more as I talk about in this post here