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New Beginnings and Acceptance
By Jessica Logan
Hi I'm Jess and I live with IBD, CFS, Mental Health issues and some other illnesses. My aim is to raise awareness of ALL invisible illnesses and disabilities to hopefully one day end our discrimination.
My name is Jessica Mary Logan, I'm 28 years old and married. I guess you can say I have 2 new beginnings: one at the age of 25 when my newly diagnosed illness created a massive change in my life, and later on when I finally accepted what life had dealt me.
To find acceptance we need to understand that we cannot change the past or control our future. We can set a path but we must accept what happens. It’s ok for our goals in life to alter, or for us to achieve them later than we originally desired. As long as we do our best that is all that matters. We also need to understand that these ‘perfect’ lives we see on social media are not always as they seem. Things could be hiding behind closed doors. The person with the lavish car could be piled with debt.
We need to stop comparing ourselves to others and find happiness within ourselves.
So how did my first new beginning, actually begin?
I became severely unwell in 2017 with my health suddenly deteriorating. My doctors referred me for tests and to a specialist but I ended up being admitted into hospital and receiving a diagnosis of ‘acute severe ulcerative colitis’. In the same week I needed emergency stoma surgery to save my life, which came as a complete shock and I struggled to accept it. I felt mortified seeing the actual stoma for the first time, as it was nothing like I had imagined. To me it looked like a foreskin hanging from my stomach. I questioned whether Dale would still love me and find me attractive, whilst wondering how I would get used to what a stoma entailed.
Living with a stoma became normality very quickly as you just have to cope with it but for the first 6 months I was suicidal.
My journey was a complete roller coaster. It didn’t end after my first surgery. I had a twist in my bowel which resulted in severe bowel obstructions and needing emergency surgery a few weeks later. I had sepsis after my second operation when my wound burst open on day of discharge. I burst into tears as I wanted all the issues to end. I was told having my first surgery would end all of the pain but things kept on going wrong.
In the coming year I had 2 further bowel surgeries and I now live with a j-pouch. After these operations I needed a blood transfusion and a few other complications.
I kept on questioning why me and wondering if there would have been a different outcome if my GI listened to me.
As time went by I started to accept that I couldn’t change what had happened and had to find self-love. I took part in a photoshoot with my stoma bag on show and this helped me love the changes to my body and was the first part of my self-love journey. It made me feel normal, sexy and empowered, which is why I’m glad I pushed myself out of my comfort zone doing it.
I did 2 more shoots after this, one with my stoma and one with my J-pouch which I posted on social media and different support groups. The stoma one was used on the front of a magazine and it was nice to receive messages from these. I showed others that they can still be strong and sexy despite what they had been through and I became a role model for those in a similar situation whether it was pre or post-stoma surgery.
I suffered with body dysmorphia from a very young age as a result of being bullied throughout my childhood. I never felt good enough and this resulted in me weighing myself regularly, becoming addicted to exercise and trying out different diets. Since having my surgeries I have accepted my body for what it gave me and don’t care what it looks like. I now have visible scars on my stomach but these have never bothered me. They are something I love about myself because they tell my story and remind me of my strength.
We all have our own unique beauty and that’s what we need to find in ourselves.
My health unfortunately didn’t improve following my surgeries, despite my J-Pouch helping my IBD complications. I would look at success stories after surgery and wondered why me? Why am I still not recovering? Why am I still constantly fatigued? And a billion other questions. I just kept on telling myself give your body time and you'll be back to normal.
I started realising something wasn't right at the end of 2018 when my wound wasn't healing after my 4th surgery. It took 6 months to fully heal but a larger wound only took 2 months to heal after my 2nd surgery. I knew there had to be a reason my body was struggling. Once it had healed I thought that would help but I kept on feeling fatigued despite me sleeping most of the day. We had building work going on and I could sleep through all of the noise, which really wasn’t like me. I used to be a light sleeper.
Throughout that year I was deteriorating. Any normal daily task would drain me of energy and I would have to go for a nap. The naps would last hours and I'd wake up still feeling exhausted. I started struggling to pull myself up in bed some days and couldn't get myself to the toilet without help. That's when I took myself to the doctors.
After a number of tests, I was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome. I felt relieved to get answers but found out there was no cure and then started wondering how my life would get back to normal. I was unable to return back to my career as I struggled to stay awake during the day so knew I wouldn’t manage and I had to keep cancelling on plans with friends and family. I found it hard to do tasks around the house and had to get my husband or mom to help me to the toilet on my bad days.
At first I struggled to accept what I had lost. It had a massive effect on my mental health and some days I wanted to end my life as I felt like I had failed myself and others. I would be in tears when it came to the thought of having children. I had planned to have them after our wedding day (April 2018) but I had to accept that right now I wouldn't be able to look after them. Instead it's something we hold hope to achieve in our future. I feel my husband deserves better at times but then I remind myself it's not my fault and he loves me for me. You have to remind yourself that you can only do the best you can do and avoid putting pressure on yourself. You didn’t choose to be unwell so you can’t beat yourself up about it.
Finding a new purpose in life has really helped me find acceptance and give me a new beginning. Instead of being career driven, I’m now focussed on the support I can give to others. Whether that is charity or community work, as well as helping those with an invisible illness and disability. Knowing I’m helping others has really helped me find happiness in myself and I also appreciate the other things I’m grateful to have in my life.
Since last year I have raised over £3000 for various charities. I run www.makingtheinvisiblevisible.org.uk, which focuses on educating others on what they could be living with underneath their ‘normal’ appearance. Through this I run numerous projects and sell merchandise with all profits going to charity. This month (November 2020) I have launched my 2021 awareness calendar, which includes over 70 people that live with a different invisible illness / disability. Through this project I have helped others feel empowered and represented so they don’t feel alone or embarrassed in their own skin.
My aim is to one day END the discrimination we receive and to show that those with these conditions are just as worthy as those without any / those who live with visible ones. We have to stay positive. We are alive and that's what's important. We also have to accept that its okay to not be okay and we shouldn’t be afraid to talk to someone to help.
Facebook - Jessica Mary Logan
Instagram - @Jessicarrrmary
Whole post recording read by Jenni Pettican