What is Bravery?
A couple of years ago, a few girls started a revolutionary movement called “Get Your Belly Out.” Sahara Fleetwood-Beresford posted a photo of her belly with the hashtag #GetYourBellyOut to help raise awareness and funds for inflammatory bowel disease. The photo went viral and soon IBD’ers everywhere began posting photos of their scarred or medication/disease-ridden bellies. Everyone wanted to boost awareness for the diseases they’d been suffering with in silence. They had a voice. Sahara and her team of IBD’ers were hailed as brave. That they are.
Showing off an ostomy for awareness
Another movement began when Bethany Townsend, a beautiful model, posted a photo of herself laying out in the sun donning a bikini and her ostomy. She showed the world that people with an ostomy aren’t ugly or disgusting. Having an ostomy makes you brave. Soon photos shot up all over the internet of people in their bikinis or lingerie—or even nude—with their scars and ostomies. This movement continues on and these people are also hailed as brave. It does take an immense amount of courage to bare some skin and your ostomies or scars for the entire world to see. There’s no denying that.
We're all brave no matter how much we choose to share
While many call these things brave and courageous and empowering... I would like to address those of you who maybe aren’t comfortable taking a stand like this. People, like me, who wouldn’t be caught dead sharing photos of myself in a bikini on the internet to raise awareness for my disease. I would argue that simply having an incurable disease and continuing to fight— even when you don’t have the strength to—makes YOU brave, too.
Bravery is enduring multiple doctor visits. Bravery is being stuck with a needle multiple times a month, week or day. Bravery is going through test after test to find out how best to treat your disease. Bravery is waiting in line for your prescriptions when all you want to do is lie on the floor at the pharmacy. Bravery is making sure you take and stay on top of your medications despite the side-effects.
Bravery is holding on to hope for a cure even when your hope has been crushed and destroyed time and again. Bravery is standing tall in the face of people who don’t believe you are that sick. Bravery is lying on the floor of the bathroom, praying you get through another night and live to see another day after a really bad bout of vomiting and diarrhea... not to mention the pain. Bravery is putting a smile on your face when you feel like crying because your joints ache so badly you can barely move.
Bravery is letting yourself have a good cry when all you want to do is have just one hour of relief. Bravery is going through your 1st, 2nd, 3rd or even 50th colonoscopy, praying that it will give you or your doctor answers. Bravery is talking about your disease and raising awareness without worrying what others think. Bravery is being who you are and not letting your disease define you. Bravery is enduring surgery and hoping that it will bring relief.
Bravery is getting back up even though you know your disease is about to deal you another heavy blow. Bravery is crying on the floor of your closet because sometimes the pain is too much to bear. Bravery is walking into the doctor’s office, knowing he’s about to slap you with another diagnosis. Bravery is going to work when you know most “healthy” people stay home with a cold. Bravery is signing up for disability when you envy those who can work. Bravery is admitting you need someone else’s help to get dressed, take a bath or get out of bed.
You don't need to prove that you are brave to others
Every day, people with chronic illnesses face many obstacles. You don’t need to prove your bravery to the world. You don’t owe anyone an explanation. You know who you are and you know what you can handle. Don’t let your disease make you feel like a coward. Don’t make anyone pressure you into doing something you’re not comfortable doing.
You are brave just because you continue to fight against your own relentless body. You are a warrior. You are a ninja. You are courageous. Remember that.