Dating with an ileostomy! You can do it!

Another weekend gone and another set of adventures in my world. I figured now would be an appropriate time to address an aspect of my life I don't talk about too much--dating.

Since surgery and in the past month or two I've gone out with several people. I really don't know how I manage to meet so many people because I only have one friend who goes out with me socially and it's my best guy friend. Not exactly the best person to go out with when you are trying to attract a man. I guess I am not being too selective with this because I genuinely enjoy talking to people and I figure what do I have to lose? At the very least I am going to learn something about myself in the process even if it doesn't work out. I think it has helped me become more comfortable talking about my illness. The more I talk about it the less emotional I feel. I'm able to get my point across without getting a tear in my eye or explaining something awkwardly because I'm trying to be evasive. It's been a difficult process to gauge correctly because I really have no other choice but to share something very intimate about myself with a person whom I may or may not speak to again. I don't share the ostomy part right away of course, but it's definitely necessary to talk about being sick because it very much explains why I don't have a "real" job and I think it gives them a pretty good idea of who I am as a person right away.

So far no one has been very noteworthy. I did have a freak-out moment on Friday night when I was out on one of these dates. For some strange reason I brought all my ostomy supplies in my purse in the occasion that I had an issue. In retrospect I don't know why I did this because it wasn't like I was pushing the boundaries of my normal 5 day wear time. And lately I've been confident enough to leave the house without anything with me. But I guess because I didn't know where we were going or how long we would be out I figured I should be safe. THANK GOODNESS!

So we are sitting there at dinner downtown and I just knew something wasn't right. I couldn't even tell you what we were talking about the whole time because all I could think about was that I needed to get to the bathroom and check out what was going on. I waited till the end of eating to excuse myself and I could see that it was leaking. Now, a leak is usually nothing dramatic and it's not noticeable. You would think it would smell or come bleeding through your clothes but it's not like that at all. It's not the actual bag leaking but the part that is on your body sometimes just hasn't maintained its adherence. I knew that it wasn't a terrible situation but it had to be taken care of soon. And man, I really got to working. Keep in mind this is a busy place with people shuffling in and out of the bathroom and I just threw all of my supplies on the floor in the stall and started working. I think the fact that I had a couple drinks in me helped me to remain calm and not give a fuck if anyone saw.

All in all I returned less than 10 minutes later and he probably just thought I was throwing up my meal or something. Haha. Kidding. But seriously, it wasn't anything he picked up on and it ended up being a great night.

The point of me telling you this? A couple of things. I guess the first point is that I made it through my first freak out moment unscathed. Even when I have had leaks in the past at terrible times (in an airplane--twice!, in an airport, at an eagles game, etc...) this time I was kind of proud of myself for being able to roll with the punches and enjoy the rest of my night, and especially so because he couldn't know what was going on. I will say that I ended up meeting my friend at the bar later that night and I had multiple shots of whiskey. I don't think I was on edge because of what happened but it was more like I felt relieved that it was as minor as it turned out to be.

The other part is that I've had a lot of time to consider dating in general and how differently someone with an ileostomy approaches meeting someone new. In a way the ileostomy can be good because it forces you to forge a mature, communicative relationship before you become intimate. This is how dating should work, but we all know that sometimes we rush into a physical relationship with someone before we connect between our ears and then wonder why everything crumbles later on. I never really dated much pre-ostomy but it is certainly eye opening with my new perspective. I am learning quickly that a lot of guys just simply want to get laid without putting in any work. It's actually quite funny and pathetic.

Anyway, those are just some thoughts to consider. I haven't yet reached the point where I've had the ostomy discussion with anyone. I am sure when the time comes I will be scared as hell but I know I have to be positive, honest, and composed when I do. As easy as that is for me to do in this blog, it is a lot different when you are looking someone in the eye who likely has never dated someone with an ostomy before. In a way I kind of want to have that discussion because it's something I have thought about a lot and even came close to telling someone last year. I guess I feel like I just gotta get one under my belt.

Well, if all continues in the direction I think this dating game is headed, I am sure I will have a great story for you soon. Stay tuned!


"This part of my life...this little part...is called happiness."

When I was sick I cried almost every day. When friends and family attempted to console me they often offered up phrases like, "Everything happens for a reason." Unfortunately, that was one thing I hated hearing. I couldn't imagine at the time that there was any reason for someone to be in so much pain and feel so out of control in their own body. I couldn't wrap my head around the concept that there were things this disease could show me that I wouldn't learn about myself otherwise. I never thought that post-surgery I would be more confident with an ileostomy than I was when I didn't have one. These past few weeks, in particular, I've come to understand that the happiness I feel every day is the kind of happiness that can only be felt when one knows what it feels like to wake up every day and feel nothing but helplessness. If the past two years happened to ensure that I would wake up every day and value my health, my family, or my friends to the extent I now value all of those things, then I know there was a reason for all of the pain.

I cannot even express in words how full my life feels right now. It feels full because my relationships with my friends who stood by me have been strengthened. I feel in control, hopeful, and self-aware. I often reflect on the simple things like how great it feels to drive around in the spring weather and be in no rush to get home because I don't have anything restricting me. I think about how much joy something so stupid like walking around Target is, just because I know I couldn't do that before. I am a little surprised at how much joy these seemingly meaningless activities bring to my life. When I thought about how things would improve after surgery, I didn't imagine that driving in my car or grocery shopping would be a source of happiness.

Even though I am anxious about starting school and figuring out my life, I am still calm. Before surgery, my life was a checklist of medicines to try out and doctors appointments to attend. It left me wishing my days would pass quickly because I knew I'd be one day closer to learning the results of whatever diagnostic test I had endured or closer to knowing if I had finally found the right medicine to treat my illness. Now, I can appreciate those days when time crawls because my days are filled with activity.

It feels good to arrive at this place of peace and freedom. I think finding purpose in the last two years has been an important part of healing. In an effort to move forward, I can't just write off the past. I have to learn, grow, and make myself a better person because of it. I never imagined I would ever be able to reflect on my illness in a positive way but here I am, doing just that.

It just feels good to project positivity, to feel hope, to be happy, to find enjoyment in the little things, to learn something new about myself every day, and to be genuine in my belief that the best is yet to come.