Aimee Rouski, a 19-year-old Liverpool woman with Crohn's disease, shared selfies on Facebook showing her ileostomy bag on May 25. Her photos, along with a short message describing the results of her life-changing operation, were intended to ease the social stigma associated with having a disease that most people don't see. She says that people shouldn't be worried about their friends finding out about their invisible illness.
"People who know will still love you and still find you beautiful," she wrote. "Your illness is nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about."
The Invisible Illness Awareness Week website estimates that the overwhelming majority of people with an illness have an affliction that is invisible, such as certain types of cancer, allergies, eating disorders, autoimmune diseases and depression.
Although there are stigmas associated with having an invisible illness (as there are with other illnesses), public awareness is growing. Projects like the Invisible No More! campaign are designed to celebrate people with these diseases and to educate the public about their experiences.
Changing how we talk to people living with invisible illnesses can make a world of difference. For example, we should avoid saying things like "but you look good!" and "it's all in your head." Making small changes and being a little more thoughtful can allow people like Rouski to live their lives more comfortably.
"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," Rouski told The Daily Mail after her Facebook message went viral.
A Plus reached out to Rouski for a comment.