Published and interviewed by Mariah Wilson
Interviewed June 28th, 2022
Featuring Jessica Logan
Jessica is a former learning and development consultant for Mortgage Advisers and is now the founder of Making The Invisible Visible.
This is a cause created to raise awareness of invisible illnesses and disabilities, whilst empowering those that live with one and providing to charities that support them.
One of Jessica’s projects has helped her provide representation of all bodies in the media including those with medical devices and scarring to showcase that everyone is beautiful.
Jessica has recently been shortlisted for a National Diversity Award from 72,000 nominees and this year (2022) she won 2 other awards for her charity fundraising: the Natural Beauty Award and the Spirit of Tamworth Award.
Jump into this health journey:
Mariah: Today we have Jessica Logan joining us from the UK. We will be exploring her journey with chronic fatigue and inflammatory bowel disease. So, Jessica, before we begin…
Jessica: Of course, I am Jessica Logan from the UK, and I live in the Midlands. I am 30 years old, turned 30 last week. I am the founder of “Making the Invisible Visible”, which advocates and raises awareness for invisible illnesses and disabilities.
Mariah: Amazing. Thanks for sharing that. And also, happy belated birthday! I know that we talked a little bit earlier about your health journey when we were preparing for today’s interview, but for those who are new to your story:
Jessica: I’ve always suffered with mental health and I’ve always suffered with my bowels. So I had colic when I was a baby, and then I had IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) throughout my teens and up until the age of 25.
Age 25 was when I started to notice changes in my stool: blood in the toilet, increased frequency with going, so I was constantly having to use the toilet and I was having accidents, which was a huge change from my IBS which was formerly chronic constipation.
So it was a drastic change and that’s when I knew I had to go to the doctor because I knew something was going on that wasn’t normal. That’s when I started to have tests done. Later on, we found out that it was inflammatory bowel disease, also known as irritable bowel disease (IBD).
Unfortunately, for around three months, I was gaslighted by specialists. They didn’t feel that it was anything serious. So my condition actually got so severe to the point I ended up being hospitalized and I needed surgery within the same week of my official diagnosis.
It was all very shocking to my system to have symptoms start and then within three months nearly lose my life.
Mariah: That’s awful, and I’m really sorry that you went through that, especially being gaslighted by your medical professionals. That’s something that’s very disturbing for people to have to go through. For those who don’t know what a stoma or a J pouch is, can you explain:
Jessica: With my diagnosis of inflammatory bowel disease, it was classed as acute-severe. The medications I was on were steroids, and infliximab which is an infusion – but they weren’t changing the symptoms or improving my health. So they decided that because my bowel was about to perforate, the only way of saving my life would be stoma surgery. That entailed my full colon being removed, so it was a colectomy, and they replaced my bowels with a stoma. So what was left over of my small intestine, was pulled out of my stomach as an opening to collect the waste into a stoma bag.
Mariah: That sounds like major surgery. I’ve seen on your Instagram, and you explored a little bit about that.
Jessica: I only had that stoma bag for a year because unfortunately, I had constant complications. There were loads of bowel obstructions and I had a twist in my bowel as well. So I had to have surgery to correct that and they gave me a new stoma. But because I was constantly having these complications and not being able to eat certain foods and struggling to digest, it was getting to the point of me throwing up and they had to think of a different way that they could help me. That is why they decided on the J pouch, which I’ll get into a little bit of the details later, but within that whole year, I had four surgeries, and I had complications with sepsis. They also found cancer in my appendix, which was removed as part of my first surgery. Thankfully I had remission.
Mariah: Well, I really appreciate you sharing your story with us and it sounds like you went through a lot in a very short period of time.
Jessica: So at the end of 2015, I had glandular fever and I didn’t really recover from that. I kept feeling fatigued, but I managed to go to work. It was just harder to do everyday life… I managed to get through, just with greater difficulty. Whereas when all my surgeries happened in 2017, we started to notice that my body wasn’t recovering as quickly and by my fourth surgery, my wound took six months to heal rather than the previous two months for the bigger wound. I was later diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome.
Mariah: From back in 2017 to where we are today in 2022, how has that changed the fatigue – Is it still quite severe?
Jessica: So my fatigue has, unfortunately, gotten worse. I would like to say it’s got better, but it hasn’t. I don’t know whether the lockdown had an impact on that, with being stuck in the house and not having a daily routine… or just the impact of my illness because it hasn’t improved. I’m still having bowel obstructions…so it has got worse, and it has deteriorated, which unfortunately means that I’m unable to work.
Jessica: Yes. So I regularly feel like a burden. I regularly feel like a failure because I was in a really successful career, where that was just taken away.
It was a shock to my system. I didn’t expect to be where I am now. I expected myself to get better: have medication, and then get back to my daily normal life. I’ve always been very ambitious and motivated, so I felt really lost not having something to do.
Even family members and those close have made little remarks of: “you are lazy”, “you should just go back to work”, or “I don’t get why you’re not working anymore”. Although they mean well, those comments can really knock someone down that’s living with a chronic illness because we haven’t got normality back, and it may never return.
You have to adapt to a new life and a new way of living. So to have them question that can be heartbreaking. Then when you go out in public, that’s when you get the looks, when you’re using disabled toilets or disabled parking… you even hear them make remarks.
One time I actually had a disabled person in a wheelchair start a confrontation with me, saying that she had more right to use the toilet and I shouldn’t have been in there when actually, at the time, I had my stoma bag and it was about to burst. So I had every right to use that toilet, and it’s very embarrassing to go into a cubicle and empty all my bowels.
Mariah: Most people wouldn’t even think about that. It’s definitely a good reminder for people that we don’t know what others are going through.
Jessica: Yeah, definitely. You are always going to have people that take advantage of those things that they’re not meant to be using…but you can’t assume that everyone is that type of person.
Jessica: I have always suffered from my mental health. I’ve always had depression and anxiety, but I struggle when something new is thrown at me, like family bereavement and also the changes in my life. It was a huge shock to my system to go into the hospital. I’ve never been in a hospital before and I felt alone and fighting for my life and then having to go through that sudden surgery… It just all took a mental toll on me.
So I was suicidal, looking at my stoma for six months. I didn’t want to live with my intestine out of my stomach. I haven’t seen any representation in the media that this is normal – to live like this. And I was planning my suicide, and I was thinking suicidal thoughts.
But after six months, I just thought, “you know what, I can live like this, and I’m not the only person living like this”. There are many people living with a stoma, but unfortunately, there is no education on it. That’s why I felt that I could be the change for that education, so I could do good from my bad experience.
Mariah: I really appreciate you being so open and honest with your story because it can be hard to talk about those darker moments in life.
Jessica: My mental health will always be a burden on me and it’s always going to come and go. But helping others has actually given me this life to look forward to. So even on a bad day, I know that I’m getting messages from people thanking me for the support I’m giving them – and that just fills me with so much joy and makes me want to continue.
Yes, my life will never go back to how it was, but maybe in a way, it’s better because I’m creating change for others.
Jessica: I have started to raise awareness of invisible illnesses and disabilities because there are so many out there, but there’s no education on it. So it’s making people think, okay when I look at someone, what could be hiding?
I created an image to visualize this because 65% of the population are actually visual learners. So until they see it, they don’t really think about it. So these images are then expanded into different projects. It’s gone on to merchandise, empowerment photo shoots, and actually getting people involved that live with these conditions.
I also run my own Warrior Charity Pageant as I started doing pageants back in 2019, which helped me find my self-confidence again. So I just wanted to really show people that they are worthy, that, yes, they may feel like a burden, but they are still really important in this world, and that they can make a difference by telling their story.
Mariah: That’s amazing, especially showcasing other people and their stories. It sounds like having a community has been a really big support for both you and others.
Jessica: I go to counseling, and I am on antidepressants. I’m not afraid to admit that because it’s perfectly normal to be on tablets and have counseling, but it’s also the communities that we are a part of and it’s finding people that you can connect with. Yes, we all have very different journeys and not one is the same, but by speaking to other people that have been on a similar journey, we don’t feel so alone.
Mariah: It’s very therapeutic being able to talk to others who can relate on a different level than what maybe the majority of people in your life can… I know that art has been a very big part of your healing journey.
Jessica: It’s bringing the visualization to life of these (invisible) conditions and making people think, “there could be something there that I’m not thinking about, so I need to not make any judgment on this person”. I also run empowerment photo shoots.
I’m not the photographer, but being behind the scenes and seeing all these people in front of the camera and just seeing them glow and change into a completely different person afterward, is very therapeutic. And just to know I’ve made a difference in that person’s life, not just now, but going forward, I can’t even explain in words, what that feeling is.
Jessica: I would say, speak to people that you know, or in the community and you’ll be quite surprised. Family and friends may not even talk about the issues they’ve got because they’re too embarrassed to talk about them. Opening up is so important because you realize that you’re not alone. So don’t be afraid to talk about what you’re living with. Don’t be afraid to put it on social media. Yes, you may think people are going, “Oh, come on”, “it’s boring”, or “I’m living with my own problems, I don’t want to hear yours”…but opening up about your issues really helps because you get it off your chest. And just remember that you’re worthy and you are enough. Don’t ever doubt that.
Mariah: And not only that but what I found is people who you might not have even known are in the same boat as you and they might reach out and say, “wow, that really inspired me”. So you never know who you’re inspiring by just telling your story and being honest with people. And lastly, what is the best way for people to connect with you over social media?