5.31.2011

Your ostomy is not the end of the world

This week I went on some ostomy message boards and forums because I am interested in starting some kind of support group in the Philly area that involves more than 70 year olds. I know there are young people out there who have an ostomy. Even the support groups for Crohn's and Colitis seem to have dwindled in the recent years. Certainly that kind of support group would have a bigger audience than simply ruling out people with ostomies. And I think I could be an example to others suffering from IBD that if you are considering going down the route I chose, it's not the end of the world.

I guess I get really discouraged with all of the negative postings on the internet. I understand that the likelihood of finding blogs like mine are fewer because the people turning to the internet are probably ones who don't have much support. And with an ostomy it's not like most people even know someone else who has one that they could talk to. Even if there is such a person in their social sphere, they may not even be aware of it.

I have become a firm believer in the notion that the rewards you get from your world are a direct result of what you are projecting from within. Right after surgery I was going out a lot socially and for the first time in years I felt confident and happy because I was healthy. It was pretty amazing how many new friends I made and the attention I got from boys, which is something I never really experienced in my life. I knew I was attracting people who were genuinely interested in talking to me because that's exactly how my mind worked when I would go out. I just wanted human interaction again. I wanted to feel the youth that I lost and the two precious years of my twenties that I spent sick.

I've also come to understand, through reading the sad stories of others with ostomies who haven't adjusted well, that I need to chose to project positivity when it comes to my ileostomy. Sure, I am allowed to bitch about a leaky appliance application or the fact that I can't wear a skin tight dress that I tried on the other day, but everyone around me knows that I regard my ostomy as something that brought me back to life. Without it, I am not sure where I would be.

If I explain my ostomy to a potential boyfriend or a curious friend, how are they supposed to accept it and understand it if I feel it is a horrible curse that is keeping me from being happy? The more I have read stories about people being "rejected" because of their ostomy, the more I understand this concept. Of course they are going to be rejected if they themselves can not accept it. This concept is universal when it comes to self-esteem. The bottom line is, until you are happy with yourself, ostomy or not, you will never attract the right person.

I certainly understand that everyone absorbs change differently. I know that having an ostomy isn't always a voluntary decision for some. Sometimes people go in for surgery and wake up with an ostomy they didn't know they were going to have. I feel almost fortunate that I have had a decade of misery with Crohn's because I can make a clear distinction between my life with Crohn's and this new, post-surgery life. For me, the differences are noticeable and therefore I can say with certainty that my ostomy has changed my life for the better. And maybe this is the factor that has made me able to adjust and cope. It just makes me sad to hear that some people feel crippled because of their ostomy.

The only advice I can offer is that life is so precious and uncertain. Whenever I start feeling the slightest bit of self-pity I just think about how much worse it could be. I've known too many people in their twenties who have been affected by heavy issues that have either taken their lives or changed them to an extent I can not even imagine. I feel fortunate to be alive and healthy even if it means I am just a little bit different than those around me.

Now to enjoy this beautiful day.

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