My mental health can seriously affect how I care for myself and even impacts how I take care of my ostomy.
I often find it starts with little things like just tying my hair up rather than ‘doing’ it or not doing my make-up. That might seem a tad self-absorbed but doing my hair and make-up every day helps me to feel better about myself in the same way that you’re supposed to feel better after a shower if you’re ill. Once that lack of hair and make-up care starts happening, I know that my mood and energy will soon be so low I’ll avoid changing my appliance even when I know I should.
When you have mental health issues, regardless of what they are, I think we all move self-care down the list of priorities which is daft in reality because you can’t pour from an empty cup.
I definitely don’t make myself as much of a priority as I should, and I always suffer worse for this. My peristomal skin, for example, can become irritated and then sore which takes more time and effort to get it back to healthy, than if I’d just taken care of myself in the first place.
If my skin is in good shape and my output is consistent, I can usually leave my pouch on for a week. But if I’m feeling down and leave it on longer, I will likely experience the following issues:
- If my output has become too watery it can sometimes break down the adhesive and then I’m left with just plastic.
- My output can seep under the base plate and if I’m that low I’ll just ignore it which then does the obvious and also affects my eczema more.
- I have increased paranoia that you can smell the output; I get this anyway but have very rarely found odour to be an actual issue unless I just haven’t changed my bag for ages like when I’m feeling really down.
Even though I’m fully aware of this vicious cycle when it comes to my mental health and ostomy care, it’s still quite hard to break.
Trying to keep on top of my mental health, to stop things before they start, is incredibly exhausting. The only other way I can think of trying to counteract it is by making a conscious effort when I’m down to change my bag more often, however that comes with its own skin issues - mainly eczema. Also, I have a moral standpoint of trying not to take the mick out of the NHS by using more items than really needed through frequent changing. So this kind of approach can actually make me feel even worse.
Does anyone else struggle with keeping on top of their ostomy care when their mental health is questionable? If so, how do you overcome it? Post your suggestions in the comments section below.