First things first, become comfortable with your own body
Learn to appreciate, be grateful for and ultimately love our stomas which, for many of us, have saved our lives. It’s one thing being able to stand in front of the mirror alone in your bedroom and be happy with your stoma bearing body, but holding on to that feeling once you step into a society that is full of opinions is not always an easy feat.
I’ve come across some people who aren’t sure how to react because they are desperately trying not to offend me. I feel for these people because it’s really difficult to be politically correct nowadays… I don’t even know how to talk about myself in a politically correct manner! So I just try to be casual and open to help them become more comfortable talking to me about my stoma. In doing this, I hope it will make them feel more comfortable talking about disability with others in the future.
How to stop caring about negative opinions
But what happens when somebody else’s opinion about your stoma doesn’t make you feel good about yourself? How can we make it so that their opinions hold less gravity and less importance in our minds? One way is to understand where their opinions are coming from.
Upon learning that I have a stoma, people have reacted in different ways – shock, disgust, sympathy, disbelief, amazement, confusion; I’ve faced it all. These reactions do not faze me anymore because I’ve learnt to understand where they originate from. People fear the unknown, and when people do not understand what it’s actually like to live with a stoma, they imagine a horrifying reality. We know that it’s not horrifying, so why listen to someone who doesn’t have any experience of what it’s like? Do not let someone else’s insecurities become your own.
Resisting stoma negativity in the IBD community
You might be surprised to hear that I’ve had to exercise some effort in disregarding the opinions of people within the IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease) community. For some people with IBD, a stoma is the absolute worst case scenario. Again this opinion is derived from fear, but this time it’s fear that they might need an ostomy themselves someday. Of course, I sincerely hope that they don’t; not because having an ostomy is a bad thing, but because I wish them good health.
A lady once told me how relieved she was to wake up from surgery without a bag, and how escaping an ostomy was the best thing that ever happened to her. A friend of mine overheard the conversation and pulled me aside... “Don’t listen to her” he said. I was confused. “There’s nothing wrong with having a stoma. You just remember that.” Only then did I clock on but, to be honest, I was just glad she was feeling better. Her fear of an ostomy did not affect me because I knew I had more experience on the matter, I already knew there was nothing wrong with having a stoma, so why would I give her opinions importance over mine?
I would like leave you with this thought: You are the world’s leading expert in the field of your own body. Once you’ve figured out how wonderful it is, why listen to anybody else?