Coping with a chronic illness is challenging, both physically and emotionally. Often the illness can change the way we look, making us feel self-conscious or embarrassed. This is not helped by people commenting on physical changes like weight gain or loss, or other body or facial changes.
However, there are people who have used their experience with body-shamers to raise awareness of their chronic illness, taking the opportunity to try and educate people about their disease. Erin Migdol writes for The Mighty about people living with various chronic illnesses and how they have used their own experience to help inspire others and to raise awareness of the effects of chronic illness.
Here are a few famous faces who used their platform to speak out against body-shaming:
Actor and model Wentworth Miller suffered online body shaming when pictures of him circulated comparing his different weights. Miller took the time to explain that he’d been dealing with depression and thoughts of suicide and the picture that was intended to shame him actually had the opposite effect and reminded him of his emotional struggle and how far he’d come to face his demons.
Famous for playing Haley Dunphy on the hit show Modern Family, Sarah Hyland recently had to deal with a lot of online criticism about her weight. The 24-year-old took the opportunity to share why she’d gained weight and her face had become swollen, explaining that it was due to having kidney dysplasia (a condition that required her to have a kidney transplant in 2012) and the medications she needed to treat it. Hyland used social media to address her critics and to ask that people be more understanding and supportive of those living with chronic illness.
Fashion model Jearlean Taylor hasn’t let her two ostomies get in the way of pursuing her career. Diagnosed with a rare form of vaginal cancer at the age of three, Taylor had two ostomy bags fitted as part of her treatment. She is regularly photographed with the ostomy bags visible and is an inspiration to others who have ostomy bags to go out and follow their dreams and ignore the haters.
Lizzie Velasquez discovered her image was being used as the subject of cruel online memes and videos. Velasquez rose above the cyber bullying and used the experience to become a motivational speaker and author, helping educate others about rare diseases, including neonatal progeroid syndrome (a condition that makes people look older and have distinctive craniofacial features).
Jovika Rivers is an outspoken advocate for lupus and uses social media to post pictures of her symptoms. The comments she receives give her an opportunity to raise awareness of the disease and educate people about what it’s like living with the condition.
Heidi Johnson-Wright lives with severe rheumatoid arthritis and has to use a power chair. However, don’t make the mistake of thinking she is weak or limited in her abilities. Johnson-Wright recently appeared in a naked photo shoot to show that despite her chronic illness, she is still a strong and beautiful woman.
Jessica has had to deal with self-consciousness and embarrassment as part of her journey with scleroderma but as she explains in her article What it Feels Like to Look Rare, she defies the stares and gets on with life. She’s using her experience with body-shaming to help others wrestling with feelings of wanting to look “normal,” while also encouraging those who don’t have a chronic illness to reach out and show kindness to those who do, rather than judge them for how they look.
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