When it comes to the term "body positivity," for many of us, the first thing that comes to mind is weight. One young woman, however, wants to make sure that we don't forget the "invisible" illnesses that can also have an effect on body image. In a Facebook post that has now gone viral, Aimee Rouski shared photos highlighting her struggle with Crohn's disease, an incurable illness that requires intensive care. "I've wanted to do this for a while because I always see body [positive] posts for weight, but not many for disabilities / invisible illnesses," she wrote in the Facebook post.
Crohn's disease is an inflammatory bowel disease that affects the gastrointestinal tract, with symptoms like persistent diarrhea, rectal bleeding, constipation, and abdominal pains and cramping. About 75% of people with Crohn's disease will require surgery, as Rouski did, according to the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America. As Rouski wrote, her surgery left her with a permanent ileostomy (an artificial opening in the abdominal wall), and with no large intestine, colon, rectum, anus, or inner thigh muscles, "as they were used for plastic surgery on [her] wounds." Rouski was also fitted for colostomy bags that assist her digestion and bowel movements. The diagnosis, she says, has shaped her body as well as her life. However, she wants people to know that having the disease hasn't stopped her from living her life — and she doesn't want it to stop anyone else, either. "I've always been okay with the stuff that has happened to me, but some people have real difficulties accepting these things so I just want to say this. No one will know unless you tell them. People who know will still love you and still find you beautiful," she wrote. "Your illness is nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about." Rouski's brave decision to post photos documenting her struggle with the disease has clearly been inspirational for others. Her post has been shared more than 17,000 times on Facebook at the time of writing, and has even been Liked by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg himself. Her story is spreading an important message: Even though an illness (no matter how invisible) can change the way you think about your body, you deserve to feel great about the way you look. And of course, body positivity isn't just about weight.