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My Party Season: Managing Boundaries, Birthdays and Busy Days with a Stoma

Some months back, I agreed it would be a good idea to write an article about party season for December. More recently, I’ve realised I can’t remember the last time I “partied” in the sense that probably comes to mind when you hear the word… I believe it may have been Christmas 2018!

Birthdays and boundaries

I was invited to a friend’s birthday night out this month. As soon as she said it, I knew I didn’t want to go. However, I have multiple sparkly outfits that have never seen the dark of the night, despite me buying them with a night of dancing in mind. So, I thought I’d sit with it for a while.
A few weeks later, my friend created a WhatsApp group to arrange her birthday night out. I hadn’t changed my mind, so I privately messaged her and explained why. I also left the WhatsApp group chat, so I wouldn’t feel plagued by notifications. I have set boundaries for myself in terms of phone time as well as who I choose to spend my time with, to ensure I have enough of the quiet moments I need each day to stay calm and grounded.

My friend knows I have all the time in the world for her, but I know I wouldn’t feel comfortable on a night out with her friends who I’m unfamiliar with. It’s fair to say that I am selective about the company I keep, and even then, it can be difficult to keep in touch with the friends I do have. Don’t get me wrong; I am sure her friends are lovely. I know my limits and the energy it takes to be in a room full of people I don’t know can set me back days. Plus, I knew I’d dread it days beforehand if I agreed to go. So, to be authentic to myself, I knew this night out was just not an option. Sometimes, self-care is saying no to things that don’t bring you joy, and that’s okay.

My friend and I are forever talking about mental health, self-care, and setting boundaries, and I’ve become pretty adept at listening to my intuition and having the confidence to say no when I need to. I told her how I felt about it, and she understood. The last thing she’d want is for me to feel uncomfortable. Then she asked me when I might be free to do something together another day.

Truth be told, I’m more likely to leave the house for a market or garden visit these days! It’s been a very sociable time in the run-up to Christmas – from markets to present shopping, lunch dates with friends, family celebrations, and more.

My stoma was a constant consideration throughout all of the above because new places and not knowing where the toilets are is a source of anxiety for me. I’d love to grab food from any market stall that tickles my fancy, but the reality is, I don’t do that. We usually eat somewhere with an easily accessible toilet.

On a visit to Wentworth House, I was impressed by some very well-placed porta-loos, so not once did I feel anxious about being able to find a toilet when I needed one. Shout out to Wentworth House from me!

Still open to party offers

I still hope to make it on a night out this year. The trouble is, I’m a true home bird. We have plenty of local pubs within walking distance, so I can always bail when necessary. The idea of being further afield and relying on expensive taxi rides is not for me.
I love a live band with a bit of a bop around, particularly if it’s indie music. That said, there’s not much I don’t like and won’t dance to! I’d happily settle for a decent DJ and some festive tunes at this time of year. I want to be engulfed by jingling bells and Christmas music, and if I can’t dance on a night out, I’m not going! I don’t drink much alcohol these days – something my pre-ileostomy self would never believe!

My Christmas Eve ritual is as follows:
– Mulled wine
– Cheese
– The Muppets Christmas Carol on the Telly (the best Christmas film EVER)
– Present opening with my mum.

I love a countryside stroll with the family on Christmas day. Traditional Christmas dinner isn’t my thing, but I love a good roast potato or four – or more. Dessert, for me, is where it’s at. Christmas pudding and trifle hit the spot. Family and good food are the things that fill me with joy.

I hope keeping myself busy with the above will fend off the short, grey day misery that often attacks this time of year. I’ll be out in my garden at any given opportunity for a potter about. If there happens to be a local festive party within walking distance, I may well get to wear one of my sparkly outfits after all, so keep your fingers crossed for me!

We hope you enjoyed this article from our guest blogger. They are expressing their views or knowledge on a topic because of their experience and background. Some of the opinions expressed may not reflect the views of Fittleworth or your NHS professional.

It goes without saying, but this is not clinical advice. Each person will have an individual set of medical factors to consider. So please do not to make significant changes to your diet, exercise or treatments before consulting with an NHS professional.

Sahara was admitted to hospital and diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis at the age of 19, after just two weeks of being incredibly unwell. One week later, she had emergency surgery to remove her colon and rectum, and had her first ileostomy. A turbulent journey followed; a multitude of treatments, complications, seven surgeries, a failed J-Pouch, and three ileostomies later, she is living with a permanent stoma and is a pro-active IBD and ostomy advocate.

Picture of author - Sahara Fleetwood-Beresford

 Sahara joined the online IBD and ostomy community in 2014, and it very quickly became apparent to her that whilst awareness is important, even more important than that is providing support to others as they navigate the stormy waters of life with IBD, or an ostomy.

She runs #IBDSuperHeroes fundraising and awareness campaign, and the Facebook support group. She is a blogger for InflammatortyBowelDisease.net and an IBD Patient Consultant for merakoi – bridging the gap between patients and healthcare. She gets involved with research whenever she can, and is a volunteer for Cure Crohn’s Colitis, where she donates her time and expertise in social media marketing and content creation.