Before 2013, I didn’t have the best body confidence. I was a size 16 with stretch marks and wobbly bits, I had carried, birthed and fed three big babies (9lb9oz, 8lb1oz, 11lb) with one c-section to boot. Before I had kids, I was a size 8, after my first I was a size 16 and that weight never really shifted.
I was constantly dieting, I would lose weight but then gain it all back again plus a little more. I hated my body, I thought it was flabby and ugly, it wibbled and wobbled and definitely didn’t look like the women in magazines. After years of this, it started to piss me off and I sort to find better role models, I stopped buying crappy women’s weekly mags whose aim in life is to point out the flaws of women, I started to think about the qualities that were important in life, rather than the physical appearance of a person.
But it was hard, and mainly I just felt a bit sad and disappointed in my body. I have been a size 16 for 15 years now and I have learnt that society views me as fat. I can’t always buy clothes I want as shops either don’t go up to a 16 or they don’t have them in stock. I know that on the BMI scale I am in the upper part of overweight and when I go out in town, I see people judging me. But I carried on, with the ever changing diet and dreams of skinniness.
And then in September 2013, I got so ill with Ulcerative Colitis that I had to have surgery to remove my colon and give me an ileostomy bag and everything changed. All of a sudden my focus wasn’t on the number in the back of my dress, or the size of my backside, it was on survival and recovery, of getting over the surgery and learning to live with a bag of poo on my tummy. All of a sudden, all those worries over calories and cellulite, fat bits and wobbly arses seemed silly.
I have been looking back at photographs of myself and I realise that the things I look at aren’t how big my thighs are, or my stretch marks but that I am healthy and happy. Even though these images were taken during the 10 years I had with Ulcerative Colitis, they were also during remission periods. I look at these now compared to my scarred and stoma’d stomach now and wish I had appreciated my body a little more!
The next photos were taken whilst I had my first ostomy, it had been a huge shock to me but I was happy to be feeling well. I went travelling three months after surgery to Vietnam and Australia, it was hard work but it was so important to me to take control of my life and not let my stoma stop me.
During this time in my life I just felt so happy to be alive! I started to love my body, I celebrated that my body had survived the surgery and began to love myself. I stopped giving a shit about my cellulite and I wasn’t concerned about my stretch marks, I was just grateful to have a body that worked.
The next shots are from after my reversal, I no longer had my ileostomy and had my jpouch, but the jpouch wasn’t working so well. I started to feel panic about my body failing me again. Thinking about my body physically stopped being about the parts society tells me are wrong, my weight, my scars, it was about my health. My concern was that my pouch wasn’t working, that I was having accidents and that I was going to have to have more surgery.
Honestly, it was a sad time and I think you can see that in these photos. I had accepted my body for it’s physical appearance but my health worries were a very difficult and heartbreaking time. I regretted my decision to have the jpouch and I was sick and tired of being sick and tired.
And we come to now… I am 6 weeks post op and I now have a permanent ileostomy, I have a bag for life! How do I feel now? To be honest, I think it is just too early to say, I am relieved to not have pouchitis any more, I am happy that I don’t shit myself, but the bag is something I still need to get used to.
I am being careful not to put my stress and unhappiness onto my stoma.
The past few months have been the hardest of my whole life, I had rejection over my book, I am moving house and have had 6 months of stress regarding this move, my grandfather passed away in January, I am feeling insecure in my writing and work and then I had major surgery!!!
I have so much on right now and life is very overwhelming, I take on so much and I think I need to step back from some things that aren’t vital. I am a parent governor, I run the South Yorkshire Crohns and Colitis group, I work for lots of different people as a freelance writer and life is hectic. My family is going through everything I am and my kids are stressed out, I am a swan, I am calm on the surface but paddling like fuck under the water.
So with all of this going on, I don’t want to put my emotional state solely on my stoma. I am struggling, I feel anxious, overwhelmed and ever so sad, but with so much going on, I think I need to give myself a break.
What I refuse to do now though is to berate my body, to feel bad about it. I refuse to diet, I refuse to conform to how society wants me to look. Everything I do regarding my body is going to be what I want, fuck everyone else. This is MY body and it has gone through a lot, I am going to celebrate the fact that despite 4 surgeries in 3 years, I am still standing.
So #effyourbeautystandards and rejoice that we are here, we are unique, we are beautiful. And I don’t need to be a white, size 6, able bodied 20 year old to be fucking awesome.