I don’t intend to get all mushy with this post, but I do want to acknowledge Valentine’s Day this month.
Valentine’s Day is all about love. Some people enjoy it and some people hate it. For me, this year especially, I want to celebrate everything and anything.
I don’t think Valentine’s Day should specifically be about romantic love. It should simply be a celebration of love in general; friends, family, partners, and most importantly of all, ourselves.
2020 was a rough year. I think many people began to notice the things they take for granted, including people. We began missing people. Personally, I missed physical contact with others a lot more than I ever realised I would!
Going back to the people we love, I just want to touch upon the ways in which an ostomy might have impacted some of those relationships along the way. Just so you know you’re not alone really! Having a stoma can affect so many areas of our lives, and it can be difficult for someone that’s not been through it to understand. I just want you to know, I see you.
Friends and family
I have grouped the two together because I’m a big believer in friends being the family that we choose for ourselves. Who was worth bothering with was cemented in my mind when I had my first ostomy surgery. After a brief period of being really unwell, I’d ended up stuck in the hospital for almost 6 weeks. I had a few surgeries, multiple complications, and I left with a stoma. When I began the slow recovery back to better health, I wasn’t in a great place, emotionally. The stoma had been a shock, and I found it difficult to talk about. I’d been very near death, and that made me re-evaluate my life and the people in it.
I lost some friends along the way; some just drifted away as my priorities changed, and I ended some others because they were not good for me. I didn’t want negative external influences, or to feel uncomfortable around people that were supposed to be my friends. It wasn’t all loss though! I have gained many new friends through online support groups such as IBDSuperHeroes. It’s great having people who just get things, without the need for an educational speech! I have collected even more online friends throughout COVID-19, simply because we set up online weekly chats for the community, meaning I’ve had the chance to get to know more people, a lot better!
A quick nod to my furry family! They have motivated me to get out of bed after many of my surgeries and they have kept me company for long periods of time, just giving cuddles and not being mad about me not being able to take them for a walk!
The people that are in my life now are the people that I am comfortable talking about my health and my stoma with. They are people that understand that sometimes my fatigue means I won’t reply to messages for a few days. They know I am going to want to seat us near the toilet in a restaurant. They are the people that I love.
I’ve spoken to people that have had their relationships end after stoma surgery because their partner couldn’t deal with it. I’ve heard about dates going sour as soon as someone mentioned their stoma… Unfortunately, that is the reality. Not everyone can cope with being with an ostomate. I personally had one guy just immediately stop talking to me when I told him.
Experiences and stories about relationships ending and people not being interested purely because someone has a stoma does stick with you. How can they not?
Dating can feel much harder when you feel like you have a secret. Not knowing when the right time to bring it up is (this can be the case with new friendships too). When I was dating, I would always lay my cards on the table very early if someone showed an interest in me. In my mind, I wasn’t up for wasting time getting to know someone that ultimately wouldn’t stick around when they found out about my stoma.
I felt like it helped me separate the good from the bad. Did I want the type of person that was put off by something like a stoma? No, I did not! I needed someone who saw me for what I am, the whole me, and that liked me that way!
The person we choose to have a romantic relationship with should be someone that we feel really comfortable with. Someone that we know will stick with us, through good and bad. Someone who loves us as we are. Basically, you’re looking for a best friend that you are also attracted to!
I saw an image quote on Facebook the other day which said: “And if I asked you to name all of the things that you love, how long would it take for you to name yourself?”
I think you should be at the very top of your list. It’s only when we love ourselves, and take care of ourselves, that we can really share that love and care with others.
Loving yourself is never easy. Not even for ordinary people, with ordinary healthy bodies and no “baggage”. We all have things about ourselves that we aren’t fond of. That IS normal!
Losing confidence after surgery is completely expected. It’s the people around us that help build us back up, so if you have chosen well, you will see that in reality, simply having a bag does not change who you are.
What we go through in life shapes us. We are ever-changing. That can make loving ourselves through all of those changes difficult.
Loving yourself will always be a work in progress.
So, show your love this month to everyone who matters, including you. When the month is over, carry on!
About the advice and opinions of our bloggers
We hope you enjoyed this article from our guest blogger. They are expressing their views or knowledge on a topic because of their experience & 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 a 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.
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.