Bénédicte is 31 years old, soon 32, she is the mother of a little Theodore who is 3 years old, and the person behind the Instagram account @be.n.family.
But Bénédicte is also one of our clients, and not only! She was selected among others to be an Elia lingerie model for a shooting. Indeed, we wanted to put forward the stories of our customers with the idea that THEY are the best representatives of the brand and its values. We felt it was our duty to put forward all the bodies, all the morphologies, all these singular paths and all these magnificent women.
So today, Bénédicte comes back with us with a lot of humor and hindsight on her journey as a woman, her illness, her maternity, and what has changed for her the menstrual panties Elia lingerie. But she also gives us a beautiful lesson of life.
What do you talk about on your Instagram account?
"I talk about my life with my words, with many words. I talk about things that are important to me, including my son's education, my relationship with the disease, my son's relationship with the disease, because it's important. About what we can bring to each other in our family really."
What disease do you have?
"I have psoriasis, so I have all forms. I have it on myskin, so that's the most visible part.I have it on my nails. I'm affected on the scalp, on the tongue and on the joints"
How did it start?
"Following an emotional shock at the age of 10, I started to have small patches on my chest and hands. We tried to make them go away, but maybe not in the right way. So it got worse and the most difficult part was on the scalp because psoriasis causes a lot of flakes. What we call squames, which means patches that when they fall off are dead skin and it's true that it can be a bit discouraging to say to oneself "she has dandruff, she's dirty", or things like that. And then, at the age of 25 or so, I had the most severe form, the one that attacks the joints. It started with the knees and then gradually spread to the wrists, hands, ankles, toes, elbows, hips and neck.
Is it possible to cure Psoriasis?
"No, it is a disease that is incurable. It is a disease therefore what is called auto-immune: it is your cells which attack you. So we started with creams. So the creams are the applications on the skin, things like that. The problem is that I had so many plaques that I ended up being poisoned by cortisone. So then we did UV. There are several types of UV: UV A, UV B, I did both. Both didn't work, I lost my hair. And then I was given oral medications that didn't help me at all, that actually made it worse. So that's the normal course for someone who has skin psoriasis at the beginning. And afterwards, for all the articular psoriasis, we go to see a rheumatologist who generally does cortisone infiltrations, punctures, as if there were, for example, synovial effusions or things like that. After that it's biotherapies."
How are you feeling?
"It's true that the treatment has helped me a lot to accept my body, at least for the skin. Afterwards, I think that the birth of my son has been a saving grace because he has, let's say, the eyes of love. He has the eyes of pure benevolence, there is no other word because when he sees me, when he sees "my sores", he says "oh mom, I'm giving you kisses, it's going to be okay".
I'm giving you kisses, it's going to be okay", or "here mom, I gave you kisses, there's more, it's gone". The people who have seen him, who have been with him, have been able to feel: he has had a relationship with the body and with beauty that is really...in fact the word "pure" is exactly that. He loves everyone, whether they are different or "normal" we'll say. And for him, everyone is only love, and well, I am a little afraid for the future, but for the moment he is really only love for everything. And it's true that it also allowed me to say to myself that in fact, if I saw the world a little more like him, it might be easier. Instagram has also allowed me to meet and talk with people who have suffered like me, who have pain like me. To realize that in the end the hardest thing is the way we look at ourselves, more than others in fact."
Why break the taboo of Psoriasis?
"Once someone told me to "talk about it" because it's something that affects me, that is in my daily life. And I tried one day just to show a piece of my daily life outside of my son. I have a friend who told me "But listen Benedicte, your daily life is also your illness", and I said "but my illness is not Instagrammable in fact, my illness is not beautiful, my illness hurts me and I don't want everyone to see that I am in pain". The first time I posted, I got a burst of love from people I didn't know. And more than that I had people talking to me privately saying "Look, I'm sick like you and I'm having a hard time with it". And I've had a lot of that, a lot more than I thought I would. I remember when I was 15, I texted my best friend and said "Hey Caro, you know Britney Spears has psoriasis". And for me that day, I was a resta (star) for me. I told her "I have the same disease as my idol actually". And it's true that I would have liked to know that it's a disease that many people have, and I find that in fact people talk about it in everyday life but we don't see it. It's not something you go and see. And when we talk about psoriasis, people all say "yes, you have a little eczema there, you have a little patch there". I was covered with 80% of it and I felt bad about my skin, but I had some harsh words, I had things that hurt me a lot. And it's true that at that time, I would have liked to see people who actually said "Here, I'm sick, no, it's not just a small plaque, or two or three things. Yes, it can take a huge toll on your life. It can be very debilitating in everyday life, but in fact we get through it. I promise you, we'll get through it.
How does your illness impact you in your work?
"Professionally, it is very difficult for me to have a job. I had a job I loved in a printing company. I'm an art director, it's true that I didn't say that. When I do something I give it my all and in my job it was the same. The problem is that with the disease I am often tired. The treatments, you have to be able to say that you are not there one or two days every 3 weeks. Or when you're in too much pain, to not be at your best. To be a little tired, things like that. So I think that at this time, finding a permanent job for a boss who can understand that the disease - I'm still considered disabled, even though it's not a word we like very much in France - is complicated."
And how did it impact you for your pregnancy?
"To have a child, there were things that were very difficult. For the delivery in particular. It is true that with the inflammations in the joints: for example the epidural was put on an inflammation, which normally is not authorized, and that had the opposite effect, i.e. that it put me to sleep the top of the back and not the bottom. So to give birth without an epidural, with a caesarean section, and without anaesthesia, that's it, I don't need to draw a picture. Afterwards, to have a child, it's unfortunately another disease that makes it difficult for me to have a child. I am waiting for PCOS which is polycystic ovarian syndrome, which is also an inflammation of the ovaries.
Tell us about your period
"So I don't live my period, I undergo my period, in the sense that the first symptom of polycystic ovaries is to have anarchic periods. I can have no period for 3 months, no period for 6 months, and then have my period for 3 consecutive months. It's either I expect it or I dread it. I remember that the first time I had my period - so I had it young, I was in fifth grade - it was my aunt who explained to me about sanitary napkins, tampons, things like that. And me, at this time, I'm scared to death of tampons, and pads are nice, but you always have to have some on you, in the long run it's quite expensive. And then to find pads that are not full of chemicals or things that are a bit dirty, it's complicated. So menstrual panties were for me the perfect alternative. To have something clean, something that doesn't pollute the planet a billion percent. And then I find that the approach of Elia lingerie is really interesting and important. I am PCOS, we also talk about endometriosis I know about fertility problems or intimate problems, it's something that I know and that touches me.
A little word for the end?
"My mantra is "be beautiful and love yourself". Be beautiful by being you and learn about yourself as you are, and I think I tell myself that every day. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, we all have our ups and downs, but it's true that it's a phrase that I like to hear myself say and that I repeat to my son every day: that he is beautiful and that loving yourself is the beginning of growing up well in fact.
"My mantra to myself is 'be beautiful and love yourself'. Be beautiful by being you and learn about yourself as you are, and I think I tell myself that every day. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, we all have our ups and downs, but it's true that it's a phrase that I like to hear myself say and that I repeat to my son every day: that he is beautiful and that loving yourself is the beginning of growing up well in fact.
"My mantra to myself is 'be beautiful and love yourself'. Be beautiful by being you and learn about yourself as you are, and I think I tell myself that every day. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, we all have our ups and downs, but it's true that it's a phrase I like to hear myself say and that I repeat to my son every day: that he is beautiful and that loving yourself is the beginning of growing up well in fact."