Shingles taught me to have confidence in my skin

29 April 2021

Jessica lives with Crohn's and, whilst in high school, experienced skin flare ups and shingles.

She tells us what this was like, and how it led to her passion for makeup art.

When I was 13, I had constant stomach pains, felt sick and was extremely tired.

Living with Crohn's

At first, I thought that it was just hormonal changes as a teenage girl but one morning when I woke up, I felt a soreness in my shoulder. It was like I had pulled a muscle. It was very painful, especially when I put clothes on as it felt like a constant stabbing sensation.

When I made my family aware, we thought it was chicken pox which was strange as I had already that before, when I was younger, so we went to the doctors. The doctor diagnosed shingles and noticed thick brownish marks on my neck which he said could be dry skin. He gave me a steroid cream for my shingles and some cream for my brownish marks.

I had never heard of Crohn’s and, really, I didn’t realise that different diseases could be linked.

We also mentioned my stomach issues and he said that it sounded like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) brought on by stress. He told me to come back if it was no better in a couple of weeks. After 2 years and extensive testing, I was finally diagnosed with Crohn’s in 2018, one day before my 15th birthday.

Dry skin and breakouts really affected my mental health but after a while I learnt to embrace it. 

I can’t say that school life was super easy, especially with having constant skin problems. School and college were probably the biggest hurdle I had when I was diagnosed. It’s almost like they didn’t understand it. I felt like they treated it as IBS which really took a toll and I made the decision to start fresh.

In the years since being diagnosed I got an art diploma and started doing my own SFX makeup. I share this on my Instagram page which helps me feel so confident with my skin. Even though I got rid of my shingles with steroid cream I still occasionally get brownish marks on my neck and I don’t think they will ever go. I also still get irritated acne on my face from time to time but I don’t let it get me down. I will always have to protect my skin from the sun as I burn more easily. This is partly because of my immunosuppressant medication so I have to make sure I wear sun cream.

Even though you may feel alone there will always be someone there to support you when you’re ready.  

My family and friends are such amazing people they have supported me so much and have been there every step of the way, even when I’m a bit grumpy! They are such a big part of my life and have really made me feel like ‘me’ again, even when I was diagnosed. I have to admit that when I was first diagnosed, I did close myself off from my family and friends. It really did affect my mental health, but they have all been my rock. They always ask how I am, my mum and dad help me when I have hospital check-ups and they supported me even when I went through some dark times. This journey has been up and down but when I’m feeling mental and physically well, I hardly notice that I’m ill.

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We especially want to hear from people living with other conditions alongside Crohn's or Colitis or experiencing symptoms outside the bowel such as hair loss, joint pain, eye inflammation, anaemia and anything else!