Learning To Accept What Happened

Nathan November Image

Hello Ostomates!

This year is drawing to a close and I think it’s time to reflect back and appreciate where we are. Whether you are new to the world of ostomies, are yet to go through surgery or have been an ostomate for a long time now, I wanted to draw some attention to feeling comfortable with your surgery and your life moving forward. I have now had my ileostomy for 12 years and I must admit, it was my main focus for many years.

My stoma was all I thought about and it controlled my life.

I didn’t want to accept what had happened and I didn’t want people to know that I had an ileostomy. I wasn’t comfortable with my bag and it showed because I was very unhappy.

Stoma surgery is a big, life changing operation so, of course it’s hard to accept at first. Any big change is hard to accept. In the beginning, I was ashamed to have an ileostomy. It was always that question, ‘why me?’.

If this resonates with you, you’ve come to the right blog! I thought I would share some of the things that helped me accept what happened to me as well as some other tips that I’ve learnt along the way…

Firstly, I found it REALLY hard to even look at my ileostomy.

I remember when I came around after being in the intensive care unit for a week, I was finally put on a ward and I started to get my bearings back – the Stoma Care Nurses wanted me to look down and see my ileostomy and I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to accept that I now had part of my insides, attached to my outside! It took me quite a while to want to look down.

However, if you talk to my mum, she will say different! She always reminds me of when I was high on morphine in hospital, I would look down and say it looked like a tomato stuck to my stomach! This was because at first, stomas are quite large but as your body adapts, they shrink to about half the size!

Anyway, I must say the more you look at your stoma, the more comfortable you feel. So, whenever you change your bag, have a shower or get dressed, have a look and start learning to be familiar with the change in your body. You adapt quicker than you think you will!

Something that I was told from the beginning was to name my stoma.

I remember the nurses asking me straight away if I had a name for my stoma and I was always so confused by this! I know a lot of people find it much easier to name their stoma and that way they can talk about it more freely. However, for me, it was never something I wanted to do. If it works for you, by all means, go for it! Do whatever you need to do to make yourself feel more comfortable with having a stoma. For me though, this idea actually made me feel uncomfortable because I don’t name any other part of my body – so, why would I name my small intestine?

A big, big thing that helped me accept who I am was to be open and honest with myself and others.

I tried to deny that the surgery had happened to me. I tried to hide it from people and not talk about it, but I found it was like having a secret hanging over me! The moment I decided to give in to my feelings and stop hiding myself away, was when I started to accept that I have an ileostomy.

Thankfully, I have an amazing family and support network around me but even now, meeting new people – I tell them whenever I feel comfortable to bring it up in the conversation. I recently took on a new client, I go to their tattoo studio to make their website and run their social media accounts. We have built up such a friendship that the staff now all know about my stoma. They find it interesting and I like being able to educate people about what happened to me.

Social media is great too because it makes you feel less alone and in turn, helps you accept what has happened.

Social media has a lot of bad press, but for me – it has always been my way to escape and feel confident in myself! Blogs like SecuriCare and Facebook groups all really help too!

I really hope some of these things help you accept who you are. Your ileostomy does not define you, but it is a part of your story and it’s a part of you! Embrace it. Our scars are our medals – wear them with pride!

Until next time!

Nathan x

“Stoma surgery is a big, life changing operation so, of course it’s hard to accept at first.” - @thatsnathan

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by Nathan Wheeler

Nathan Wheeler

About the author

Hello - I'm Nathan Wheeler! I'm a YouTuber and I've had an ileostomy since 2007 when I was just 17, so I have a pretty good idea about how to deal with the struggles of a stoma! I want to share my experiences with you and bring a light-hearted approach to all the questions that no one wants to ask! You can follow me an Instagram and YouTube.

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