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What Helps Me Overcome My Insecurities as Someone With Chronic Illness

Body positivity, self-worth, depression, insecurities — why are these words barely talked about in the chronic illness community? Is it supposed to help us by not acknowledging these difficulties happen and can affect us? It doesn’t help; it actually hurts us.

I’m in my 30s, and  I have struggled tremendously over the last year with insecurities and body image issues. I’ve been very vocal about my struggle. Since getting my feeding tube, I’ve struggled to accept my body as it is — scars, tubes and all.

So many others have tubes, central lines, ostomies, scars or other medical devices. So many others struggle with insecurities, yet it’s rarely ever discussed. Why is this so taboo? Why is there not more of a network, more of a community lifting each other up?

I worry about if we as grown women struggle, what this is doing to our young women in these communities. What is it doing to them to see absolutely no one speaking about these struggles? Seeing no one like them out there blasting beauty standards to raise awareness and empower others.

Why are there so few others showing their body acceptance and vulnerability? I’m not sure why, but it’s motivated and empowered me to be that someone. Someone has to speak out. Someone has to demonstrate body positivity to these young women, men and anyone that feels alone in their fight.

We often let others define us, our beauty and our worth. We may let our diagnoses, tubes or ostomies define us. Letting them define us as unworthy or unattractive.

It’s so important to lift each other up and to acknowledge these topics and struggles and to discuss them. We have let what society has deemed “beautiful” affect us in such a negative way. We have let others decide whether we fit into a mold or not. Guess what, we don’t. That’s OK! We don’t have to. We’re not made to. Our beauty and worth shouldn’t be based on what fits a mold. Let’s break that mold.

I’ve struggled with this so much and it has affected me deeply. Counseling and friends have helped. What really helped was someone told me: “Who cares what others say is attractive? Who cares?! If you feel it, then you feel it! Stop trying to fit into society. Stand out. Stand up for yourself.”

I remember sitting there, taken aback. Then I thought about it. They were right. I had let others’ words and views affect me so much, I couldn’t see my own beauty or worth.

My self-esteem didn’t improve overnight. Goodness no. It took months of work. Months of positive self affirmations. Months of talking about my insecurities to really start to shed them. Start to being the key word. It’s a process; every day is a small step forward.

I also have struggled with depression  for a while. Sometimes it goes hand in hand with my insecurities. However, this isn’t discussed as much in support groups. It’s almost like we should be ashamed of it.

Absolutely not! Never be ashamed of your story. Never be ashamed of your struggle. I refuse to be ashamed of it, to hide it, ignore or pretend it doesn’t exist. I can’t. Why lie? Depression happens, and it happens when dealing with chronic illness. How could it not? It’s hard to adjust from one life, to this “new” life.

It’s like grieving. You’ve lost who you were, and now you’re struggling to find who you are and who you’ll become. It’s OK to be angry, hurt, upset, depressed. It’s OK to feel emotions. My only advice: don’t let your emotions control you. Don’t get so lost in them you give up living. Please, if you feel that anger, hurt or overwhelming sadness, reach out to someone. Reach out to me. I’ll listen as you vent. Reach out to others and know there’s someone struggling similarly.

It’s become my mission and motivation to help others. To empower others to see their beauty and worth. I took it a step further and have participated in photoshoots. Creating powerful images that show my strength, motivation and beauty. These photos weren’t easy to do; it was scary and nerve-wracking. What kept me going and motivated was that I was determined to love myself. I was determined to see my worth, my beauty. My tubes don’t take away from my strength, worth or beauty. They do not change who I am at a fundamental level.

What my tubes have done is give me strength I didn’t know I had. They gave me courage, passion and a desire to help others. They gave me purpose. They have motivated and empowered me to do that for others. To show others their beauty and worth. My tubes in a way gave me freedom. Freedom to knock down beauty standards and create my own. Freedom to strive for goals, to find my passion and help make changes. Freedom to love me.

These topics need to be discussed and acknowledged. We as a community deserve more. We deserve love, happiness, goals, hopes and dreams. We are worthy. We are absolutely beautiful.

You are warriors, you are fighters. Never give up. If you feel like giving up, know you have a community of warriors behind you to lift you up, to lend you strength. We won’t let you feel alone in this battle.

Image via contributor