When Jessica got a group of people together to shoot a body-positivity calendar, she knew they needed a way to show what they'd been through.
This is her journey, and the words that they felt represented their experiences.
As soon as I realised that our bodies should be appreciated for the lives they help us lead, and not how they look, I started to love my stoma.
I wanted to celebrate my new outlook by pushing myself out of my comfort zone and posing for a photoshoot. Although I struggled to find the confidence to do this, I pushed through and it completely changed me. I didn't feel like anything was different even with my stoma bag on show and at points I completely forgot it was there. I posted the photos online and received so much support that I was inspired to start organising my “empowerment shoots”, which eventually led to our 2021 calendar. I knew it would help others find acceptance in themselves and that's what was important to me.
The calendar was created to empower those that live with an invisible illness and/or disability whilst raising awareness of those conditions at the same time.
I wanted a word of encouragement to be included on each month of our calendar to help those that woke up having a bad day. Living with an illness and/or disability can be physically and mentally challenging, especially as they can be unpredictable and misunderstood by others. These words visibly show what we live with, whether that’s a symptom, comments from society or our own personal feelings. These things are what others do not see beneath our smiles and it was important to make them as real as possible. The process of the shoot also helped individuals accept these things and who they are without feeling ashamed.
It’s easy to compare our lives to others and feel guilty when we have to cancel on plans but our health is important. Sometimes we just have to listen to our bodies and rest, despite how debilitating that can be. I feel that these twelve words represent many people living with an invisible illness and I wanted to remind people of their positive attributes, because it can be easy to focus on the negatives in life.
'Worthy' and 'Enough' were used because we are still people living our lives despite us having an illness or disability. What we live with does not reduce our worth as a person and we should be accepted for who we are.
'Warrior', 'Powerful', 'Resilient', 'Fierce' and 'Strong' were used because each day people get up and this can be difficult and draining, both physically and mentally.
'Courage', 'Admirable' and 'Survivor' were used because going through these challenges can be scary but the people featured in the calendar have pushed through to tell their stories.
'Empowering' and 'Supportive' were used because we always focus on helping others despite our own difficulties. The community are always there to listen and give comfort where needed.
It's a community that I'm proud to be a part of and I hope my work helps others.
Most of the calendar photos were taken at home and I'm proud of everyone who took part. I know how much courage it took for some and this just proves how amazing they are. I would also like to thank each person who got involved despite the circumstances caused by the coronavirus pandemic. A COVID-safe photoshoot was arranged for the group photo by CJB pageantry in Kent.
Proceeds from Jessica's "Making the invisible visible" shop are sent to charities, including Crohn's & Colitis UK - Thank you!