a bathroom mirror is covered with CAUTION tape

Crohn's and Body Image

I turned 55 last month and June marked my 35th year with a Crohn's diagnosis. It might say 55 on my drivers license, but in my mind, I still feel as though I am in my 20s.

But because of Crohn's, my body feels like I am a lot older than my 55 years. I certainly do not see the fit, trim, athletic, strong body in the mirror I used to see prior to diagnosis. I now see a body with multiple scars, ugly, disproportioned, with an ostomy bag in prominent view.

I miss my old self, what I use to look like, and what my body could do. Yes, men can have body issues.

My body before Crohn's

Growing up (before Crohn's) I was never one to be standing in front of a mirror, except maybe drying my hair, but that's it. I was happy with how I looked, and soccer and competitive figure skating had a lot to do with that.

I was very fit, strong, athletic, and muscular. Little did I know at the time that I would never look like that ever again. I was 19 years old.

Weight loss with Crohn's disease

Once symptoms started, primarily severe abdominal pain and diarrhea, I basically stopped eating as I related eating with pain. And when you don't eat, you lose weight.

I only started to notice when my clothes started to feel loose and when I started to pull my belt tighter. I could see my bones started to show. A year or so later I had my first of many many surgeries.

This or That

When I was diagnosed with IBD, I...

Surgery scars and more weight loss

My first surgery was a bowel resection and left a crooked 9-inch vertical scar from above my belly button down, as well as 2 scars where drainage tubes were placed. It was not too much later there were more surgeries with more scars. Along with the new visible scars came severe weight loss and what that made my body look like.

My face became gaunt and sickly looking. My rib cage and spine became visible. My shoulder blades and hips protruded. Crohn's took all my weight and what little fat I had. And when all the fat was gone, it took my muscle as well.

I hated my body

I was weak, tired, dehydrated, but most of all, depressed. Before Crohn's appeared, I was 170 pounds. By the time Crohn's had its way with me, I was 115 pounds (at my worse). I hated the way I looked, but there was nothing I could do about it.

People around me would tell my I look fine. I knew they were lying because I could see what I looked like .I know men are supposed to be strong, or at least show strength, but I was at the point of giving up. I could not pretend to be strong anymore. I became an introvert, not that I was an extrovert before, but I avoided going out in public.

Crohn's complications and depression

After dealing with weight loss and multiple surgical scars, not to mention perianal disease, kidney stones, and the like for 32 years, I added new scars after having ostomy surgery to help the fistulizing perianal disease.

I am going to have this bag attached to me for the rest of my life, and once again, I hate the way I look. I am so self conscious I think people can see it every time I go out even though I am wearing a shirt. I am not depressed about it like how I used to be, but deep down I wish I never had to have it. On the upside, because of the ostomy, I have gained the weight I lost 30+ years ago.

How I see my body now

I still see a body with multiple scars, ugly, disproportioned, with an ostomy bag when I look into a mirror. I am older now, though, so I don't get depressed, just disappointed. I still advocate for the newly diagnosed to get a mental checkup as part of diagnosis to help deal with many different issues that will arise.

Your life is going to change and so will your body and how you see yourself in the mirror. Talk with someone. Man or woman.

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