Can you be sexy with an "ugly disease"?

YES, you can! I've posted this picture before. It's a little risque, but I feel the need to show people that there is nothing gross, dirty, or unattractive about someone who has Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis. We can even be attractive...or dare I say it, sexy! That large line from my belly button down is my scar from my total colectomy and j-pouch construction surgery. It's quite long and it isn't perfect but I don't think there is anything unattractive about it. The small bullet hole looking scar is where my ileostomy was located, and that semi-colon tattoo is my way of showing my pride and humor during the tough times. Just because at times our disease causes "ugly things" to happen does not mean WE are ugly. I am not ashamed of my body and actually like it more after my surgery scars. Those scars represent a story, the story of a girl who lived years embarrassed about the things that her disease was causing to happen to her body. I made it through all that and I still continue to fight battles with my Crohn's disease all the time and darn it, I'm proud. I'm one cool chick missing her large intestine!

One of my goals for the work I do in the IBD community is to teach females with Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis self-confidence. I don't like that people outside of the IBD community view Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis as an "ugly disease", but even worse is that some of us who have IBD think of ourselves or our disease as ugly. THIS HAS GOT TO STOP! What about you? Are you sitting there reading this bummed because you think you're not attractive? Did your inner dialogue start beating you up about how much weight you've gained on steroids, hair loss, skin lesions, or any other nasty side-effect we experience? STOP IT. I am told over and over by the people who read my blog that they feel ugly and have been robbed of their self-confidence and self-esteem because of this disease. It makes me sad because I know those feelings well as I have felt them before myself. Our disease isn't as "pretty" as other diseases because a large part of it affects our digestive tracts. The results being frequent trips to the bathroom, bowel incontinence, and embarrassing tests and procedures that take any dignity you had left. That combined with the side-effects of some of our medications leave it hard to feel confident and attractive. It's not easy to talk about, we become embarrassed and ashamed, and soon our disease becomes an "ugly disease".

So why do I care so much? I've gone through some real lows during the many years i've had this disease. I've been down to 82 pounds and lost all the muscle in my legs so that I couldn't even walk up the stairs. My hair has fallen out, my body has broken out in acne from steroids, I've lost teeth, and have been crippled by arthritis. At one point I spent a couple months wearing adult diapers at night not knowing if I would ever gain control of my bowels again. During those times I didn't feel attractive at all and I had lost almost all hope at ever having a normal life again. BUT, I overcame it. The nature of our disease is that we will go through highs and lows over and over again. It can be exhausting, but at least I know that when I am experiencing a hurdle that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. In the past I was embarrassed and ashamed, now I am confident and outspoken about my disease because I know I have nothing to be embarrassed about and neither do you!

You have surgery scars? Flaunt them like I am doing in this picture with my fellow fierce fabulous confident friends who also have IBD.

Steroids caused weight gain? This won't be forever, you can lose it.

You lost a lot of weight? It may come back. If not, pretend you model in Milan! :p

You have an ostomy? Who cares? Look how strong you are!

Acne from the roids? It clears up.

My point is, IBD does not make you ugly. Be proud of who you are inside and out and know that the lowest points of our disease won't last forever. Sometimes the highest points won't last forever either, so appreciate them while they are there. We are not ugly, our disease is not ugly, you have nothing to be embarrassed about. So what if you're sick, if you have scars, if medication affects how you look, etc? There is only one you so be proud of her! Scars, ostomies, frequent trips to the bathroom, pain, and everything else that comes with having Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis does not an ugly person make.

-Sara