Losing My Identity – The Physical And Mental Impact Of Stoma Surgery

Steve Modelling

When I first left hospital after surgery I didn’t know what to think about having a stoma, there were huge feelings of hatred, but also feelings of relief that I was still alive and able to function normally (to a certain degree). Without a doubt, I was thrown my biggest physical and mental challenge I’ve ever had to face.

So, let’s talk physical…

I’m a 40-year-old gay man who has been around the London/UK gay scene for a long time with a reputation for being unique, big, strong and pretty handsome (if I do say so myself… HAHA) and as we know, the world we live in is pretty shallow and judgemental, and can be a very toxic environment - especially on the gay scene. If you aren’t physically perfect, with rippling muscles and the face of a model you are judged, destroyed, put down and cast aside. This is so wrong, but with the pressure of social media and the desperation for validation, our world has become a tough place to live in for ‘normal’ people, never mind those of us with a disability or those of us who are just a bit ‘different’.

My whole life I have been objectified…

Admittedly I didn’t help by doing lots of modelling. I basically used my assets to put me on a pedestal, some say I made my own bed by being recognised only for the exterior, leaving my interior to mean nothing. Was it fair or was it just life, and I got lucky? 

Now the mental: going back to August 2019 where I was in for a shock! 

I was soon to find out the truth regarding how I really felt about who and what I was. That big, muscular, inked, cock-sure, slightly insecure guy, was about to hit the ground with a serious thud, no more desperation to be this perfect human everyone desired. I was now a human who was far from perfect, in fact I now had a stoma… that’s right I didn’t/don’t even poop normally, this part wiped the floor with anything I’ve ever been through and it still does. 

I left the hospital weighing 17kg lighter than when I went in, I had huge levels of muscle wastage and looked ill. What I ‘was’ had disappeared in just NINE days. Everything I thought I was known for, GONE. I felt like my world was nothing, the identity that had propped me up for all these years was no more. The perception of physical strength, flawlessness and power… the pressure that my own mind created because I just wanted ‘to be someone’ came to a very abrupt end... OR DID IT? 

Building a better human…

So, I am nothing, just a shell of a human. What’s left? 

Actually, a lot more than I realised, I was left with the real Stephen, always thinking I’m not good enough, I built this protective shell of muscle and covered it in tattoos which created this very strong identity that helped me plaster over some deep insecurities. That alongside the old gay/different issues I had created really helped overcome these problems.    

It’s a very humbling feeling when you lose your layer of protection, we are so dependent on what we spend years creating thinking that’s all we are known for, the size of the chest or the level of fat on our abs. I won’t lie and say it doesn’t matter to me it really does, I am obsessed with training and building my body but the difference is I now do it because it’s my physical therapy, it’s my time, my zone, my passion. 

Training for me is about connecting with my body. 

For years I was so disconnected, but since having a stoma the barrier dropped. There is no internal-external disconnection when you have a stoma, it’s raw and there is no hiding from the fact. 

So back to what’s on the inside …. I’m pretty shocked/happy at my mental resilience throughout this whole journey. No lies - there are times when it really gets me down - having your bum hole coming out your front can be pretty overwhelming but honestly, it’s fine to be overwhelmed. We are only human, which is something I often forget, placing huge levels of pressure on myself - especially physically. 

It was sort of a breakthrough when I realised that I has become the person I strived to be… 

The caring, loving, passionate, driven person who is outstanding at his work helping strengthen others physically, but primarily mentally. Building bigger, better, stronger people, helping them gain confidence and increase their self-esteem. 

I am also amazed at how I’ve dealt with all the challenges I have faced over the years, constantly learning and growing through every experience, occasionally making mistakes due to life’s constant battles but every time a small step forward.

What I talk about is empowering the strength within, being the person you really are, not the person you want others to perceive. 

Remember: beauty is subjective. Whilst you may not see yourself as perfect, someone else may find you exactly that. The most attractive feature of anyone is the strength of their heart and the power of their mind. Emotional intelligence and self-awareness is worth more than we could ever bench or squat. 

One of the reasons I’m so passionate about my work isn’t because I want to see people reach their personal best, but because I want to see them give it their all. Admittedly a lot of protein does help, but it’s the mind that will dictate that achievement. 

It really is time to focus on our core values - on what makes us who we really are and how we impact the world we live in. 

If you are also interested in recovering your physical fitness after stoma surgery, but not sure how best to get started, you may be interested in the advice on our Physical Activity With A Stoma page. As Stephen points out, mental health is just as important as physical health – we have a range of articles from our bloggers about this topic which you may find useful. 

by Steve White

Steve White

About the author

Hey guys, I’m Steve - a Northern lad who moved to London to start a career as a Personal Trainer. An accident led to my temporary stoma and I had quite a traumatic time, but I'm doing what I can to help others. An important fact about me is that I am blessed to have the most adorable, loving cockapoo called Sally. Follow me on Twitter @SWfitnesslondon or find me on Instagram.

Recent Comments

  • Allan

    Love your honesty and thanks for sharing your story
    I’ve had my colostomy bag now for 17 years
    Unfortunately after surgery it couldn’t be reversed so permanent
    As a gay man, formally married to a woman for 17 years with 2 adult children and 4 beautiful grandkids. I have been lucky to meet some men who see me for the person I am rather than my bag
    Every day I wish I didn’t have it but I’m lucky to survive cancer
    So Steve your article has made me feel sad but happy to hear your victory
    Thank you

  • Andi

    What an inspiration and interesting life! I take my hat off to you. And still sexy as hell xx

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