It’s no exaggeration to say that some huge surgical issues experienced by Jessica Logan four years ago left her life dangling on a thread and an eventual diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
But she soon came to realise that when life dishes out lemons, it’s time to make lemonade.
“I’d always been extremely independent, hardworking and ambitious but was unable to return to the job I loved in the mortgage industry”, said 28-year-old Jessica from Tamworth in Staffordshire. “I couldn’t carry on as I was. I needed to find something to make me feel good again.”
So Jessica – who had already been verbally abused by people who couldn't see her disability – took up the cause of invisible illness awareness. Last Christmas, she treated 10 charities she admires to the proceeds of a seasonal calendar, the sales of which went very well. The ME Association was one of those which received a nice donation.
Jessica had been burning the candle at both ends, and loving every minute of it, in her job as development consultant to mortgage advisers. She would travel to Birmingham every day and there were stay-overs in Manchester and Liverpool. She was in the gym six days a week, often doing double classes, back-to-back. Life was great!
She had glandular fever just over five years ago which probably laid the foundations of her later CFS diagnosis.
What really knocked her off the merry-go-round was a diagnosis of acute severe ulcerative colitis in 2017. She needed four surgeries, sepsis set in, there was a blood transfusion, and they found cancer in her appendix. She ended up with an intestinal stoma in place and later an internal pouch (jpouch).
But wound healing was slow, she always felt exhausted and slept through large parts of the day. A diagnosis of CFS came at the end of 2019 and “I felt relieved to have some answers.”
Apart from her downturn in health, it was people’s reactions to her apparent healthy glow that made her realise that life was different.
Jessica, who got married in 2018, said:
“I had to start using the disabled toilets due to my IBD/stoma and I was receiving a huge amount of discrimination. From filthy looks, rude remarks and people even starting full-blown arguments.
“At first I was angry with people's reactions but then I realised it was due to the lack of education out there.
“Invisible illnesses and disabilities are rarely represented in society and that's what I wanted to do. I wanted to make the hidden illnesses/disabilities seen by bringing them to life, which is when I came up with a series of images I put up on my Facebook and website.
“I tried to represent as many things as possible through symbols and devices without it being overcrowded. This way people could see what was hiding, which would hopefully win their respect.”
“In fact, they have! I've received so many amazing comments from people with my merchandise telling me how it's helped them feel accepted in society.”
Life is now quite different.
“Now I mostly sleep until late afternoon, barely manage to get myself showered and walk down the stairs. I never expected to need help to the toilet at age 28. I was hoping to have children by now but I can barely look after myself.
“But I always remind myself that it could be worse. I'm grateful to be alive and life is what's important. We can adapt to changes. It is mentally challenging most days but, with the support of others, we can stay strong.”
To see more of Jessica's invisible illness images and her merchandise, please visit https://www.makingtheinvisiblevisible.org.uk
The ME Association
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