Jessica looks to help others with ‘invisible illnesses’
To the outside world Jessica Logan looks like a perfectly healthy 27-year-old.
But she is grappling with chronic conditions that make everyday life a constant challenge.
Jessica, who was diagnosed with acute severe ulcerative colitis in July 2017, is one of many people in the UK living with an invisible illness.
Since undergoing life-changing bowel surgeries she has faced discrimination for having a “normal appearance”, particularly when using disabled toilets. Now she wants to turn her experiences into something positive to help others and raise awareness of their hidden difficulties.
“If you don’t have a walking stick or if you’re not in a wheelchair, people can be quite judgemental because they don’t understand. I want to raise awareness to hopefully educate others and prevent the discrimination we receive,” says Jessica, who lives in Staffordshire.
Five days after learning she had the life-threatening bowel condition, she underwent stoma surgery and had a total of four major operations in the space of 12 months.
Jessica, who was forced to leave her successful career in banking due to her illness, said her diagnosis had a huge impact on her mental health.
“I couldn’t leave the house without having an accident so I couldn’t have a social life. I was going to the toilet 30 times a day and I was in excruciating pain. It got to the point where I was stuck inside the house and I felt like I was in a prison.
“The stoma surgery was a complete shock for me. I felt I didn’t want to live anymore. I was 25 and body image was so important but I felt disgusting having the stoma on my body,” she says.
Talking openly about what she had been going through helped Jessica, who also suffers with chronic fatigue syndrome, to start to coming to terms with what had happened. “A counsellor told me I had to grieve for what I had lost and the life I had lost,” she adds. “I had a good career in banking and had worked hard to become a manager at the age of 21.
“I don’t know yet when I will be able to go back to work. I still have bad days where I feel useless and will be in bed unable to move but I make the most of the good days,” she says.”
Jessica has decided to channel her energy into raising awareness after experiencing negative reactions when using disabled toilets since having her surgery from people assuming she is just skipping the queues.
“I’ve been in disabled toilets and have been given filthy looks by people and heard tutting because I’ve been using them. I’m comfortable with talking about my bowel condition but not everybody is. So if they get put on the spot and asked why they are using them it can be embarrassing and intimidating,” she says.
One of the ways she has chosen to highlight invisible illnesses is to take part in pageants which she she says has also helped to build up her confidence. “I want to show people that beauty comes in all forms. My stomach is now full of scars after surgeries but I’m proud of these as they tell my story and I want to show others that they can be proud of their scars too,” says Jessica, who also runs a support group.
Next month In February, she will compete in the finals of Royal International Miss UK for the chance to represent the UK in Orlando in the summer.
Jessica has also been busy organising her own charity pageant for contestants that have invisible illnesses which will take place at Burntwood Institute on March 28.
“I’ve got 25 contestants so far and they have a have a mixture of hidden illnesses and disabilities such as autism, lupus and endometriosis.
“Half of the funds are being donated to charities that have supported me – Crohn’s and Colitis UK, Purple Wings and Colostomy UK, with the remaining half going to contestants’ charities to support their illnesses,” she says.
Anyone interested in taking part in the pageant can contact Jessica by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
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