Teen's Selfies Shed Light On Invisible Illnesses By Sharing The Reality Of Them
Social media is not always the most supportive atmosphere (biggest understatement ever) — but some vocal users have been trying to change that. Recently leading the charge is a girl using selfies to shed light on invisible illnesses and educate the public on what it is like to live daily with Crohn's. Her emotionally and physically revealing Facebook post has gone viral in the week since it was first shared, even gaining media attention. The post is not only incredibly brave, but may usher in a new wave of inclusive, empowering posts.
Aimee Rouski, who lives in Liverpool, was diagnosed with Crohn's disease at the age of 11. Crohn's is an incurable inflammatory disease that affects the digestive tract, most commonly the end of the small bowel (otherwise known as the ileum) and the beginning of the colon. According to The Daily Mail , over time her symptoms worsened, until at the age of 15, Aimee underwent surgery to remove her large intestine, colon, rectum, and anus. The now 19-year-old has been living with a ileostomy bag (also called a stoma bag) ever since.
Aimee says in her post that she was inspired to step forward and tell her story because of a gap that she noticed in body positive posts she had seen of late. "I've wanted to do this for a while because I always see body posi posts for weight, but not many for disabilities / invisible illnesses," she wrote.
In the post, she describes her harrowing experience with Crohn's, and its effects. Despite the ordeal she has remained positive, but she understands how maintaining that mindset and coming to terms with the the invisible illness may be difficult for some people, "I've always been okay with the stuff that has happened to me, but some people have real difficulties accepting these things." To those who are suffering she gives uplifting advice, "No one will know unless you tell them. People who know will still love you and still find you beautiful. Your illness is nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about."
Attached to the post are three selfies. The first shows her stoma bag, the next reveals the scars down her legs from where her inner thigh muscles were removed to be used in reconstructive surgery, but the final photo may stand out the most. It is a selfie of Aimee in a cropped bustier, knee socks and a plaid skirt. The caption reads "See, you can't tell that I have a stoma so don't worry about it!" There are no visible scars, no bulges. If you saw her on the street you would never assume that she was living with a difficult, painful illness.
The brave post has been shared over 5,000 times, with nearly 2,000 comments expressing support, thanks, and sharing personal stories. While the stoma may make others uncomfortable, Aimee is thankful for it. "I love having a stoma now. It's improved my quality of life and almost everyone I know has seen it so I'm not at all shy about it anymore," she told The Daily Mail. She has also been touched by the ripple effect that her post has had, she added, "I've had a lot of messages from people telling me that I've educated them, inspired them, given them more confidence, and helped them to accept themselves a little more which is wonderful to hear."
Hopefully people like Aimee continue to speak out and make the world a better and more open place.
Images: Courtesy of AimeeRouski/Facebook