Alicia's Story: Tell the class something they wouldn’t know just by looking at you

Ready, set…play. I stood up in front of my class as the video started. Palms sweaty, heart racing, my eyes glanced around the room trying to gauge the reactions
of my peers. The images of my previous hospitalizations and the reveal of my ostomy bag were plastered all over the screen. Unable to read my classmates
expressions I closed my eyes tight and held my breath until the video was over. The video ended and the lights went back on, but still I kept my eyes shut. And then I heard…applause? I opened my eyes and everyone was standing, applauding me and asking to see the video again. My video was the only one in the class to elicit such a reaction. I was…surprised. Shocked. Relieved.

My classmates who I had known for 3 semesters now knew something about me that they wouldn’t know just by looking at me. This silence is one of the biggest problems for people with an “invisible” illness such as Crohns. They now knew that I had both a chronic illness AND a colostomy bag, and to my surprise, didn’t run out of the room screaming in horror. My disease didn’t bother them, didn’t gross them out like I thought it would. My having a bag of poop hanging off of my waist didn’t gross them out either. So what had I been so afraid of? I spent hours upon hours everyday trying to layer my clothes the right way to hide my bag and make sure to muffle the lovely sounds of digestion that seem to occur at all the wrong times. Suddenly, this big secret was revealed and I didn’t feel like I had to hide. I was relieved. My video caused such a reaction and chatter from my peers that an article was published about me on my schools website.

My classmate’s response gave me a new perspective on my life and a serious boost of confidence. I had spent years hiding behind my disease, letting it dictate what I did or didn’t do. I realized though, when my classmates didn’t cringe, that I was a fool for thinking they would. Today, two years later, and ostomy free, I can make any poop or fart joke known to man without blinking an eye. I am open and honest about my disease and it all started when I got the “guts” to press play.