Adjusting to a colostomy is tough. For me, it was like a horrible dream. But with a positive mindset, I soon adjusted to my new life.
After your colostomy surgery, your emotions are probably all over the place; it will be a difficult time for you. You may feel a sense of hopelessness at this seemingly horrendous situation and the emotional stress will be compounded with the realization of having to live a life, temporarily or permanently without having control over defecating.
This is exactly how I felt for the first couple of weeks. Dejected, sad, and weepy. These feelings are normal and should be expected.
Depending on age, occupation, lifestyle, profession, and a few other factors, ostomates will react to the condition in different ways, but generally, the thoughts that go through our minds are fundamentally the same.
You are not alone.
How it Affects Each of Us Emotionally
Some ostomates keep their feelings to themselves and appear withdrawn from everyone and everything that used to be of interest to them, but others are quite open-minded about their condition. They have no reservations about expressing their feelings and concerns with members of their family and friends.
It is important that you first try to accept the fact as soon as is possible and the earlier you come to terms with having to live with a stoma, whether temporarily or permanently, the better it is for your state of mind.
It is very important that you avoid feeling or doing these following things:
- Feeling like the whole world knows your condition.
- Withdraw into yourself.
- Bottle up your emotions.
- Become self-conscious.
- Become anti-social.
- Change your lifestyle.
- Feel a sense of shame.
- Worry about what people say.
- Stop your recreational activities.
- Change your fashion style.
Help and Support for Ostomates
Yes, courage takes guts, but the good thing to know is that no colostomy patient has to deal with this alone.
Group support is always available from Stoma (Ostomy) Associations in your region. If you are a colostomy patient or a carer for an ostomate, if you need a list of contacts, ask your Stoma Nurse, or seek additional information online.
If you have worries, fears, questions, or just a shoulder to lean on once in a while, get your thought out into the open. You can talk to your Stoma Nurse, fellow ostomates online, or join an ostomy patients’ forums. Talking about your colostomy and discussing it with like minds will help assuage your negative feelings and calm your mind.
With time, once you’ve mastered how to manage your stoma, you will be more relaxed about it. And even if you still feel uncomfortable to be around people, fearing they’ll know, you will eventually find that you’ve got nothing to worry about. People never notice. Once you recognise the few common problems that may occur and learn how to avoid or reduce them to the barest minimum, you’ll be more than fine.
Online communities are the best places to be and interact if you are emotionally affected by having to live with a stoma. It's only on such forums that you get to share thoughts and experiences with fellow ostomates. This form of interaction will enlighten you to the fact that you are not the only one going through this emotional crisis.
Importance of Making Emotional Progress after a Colostomy
As an ostomy patient, not making emotional progress will affect your quality of life negatively, and you don’t want that. If you feel absolutely helpless, seek advice from the professionals (doctor or stoma nurse) or join an ostomy support group. Information on finding and getting advice can be provided by your Stoma Care Nurse who most probably may be the first person to point out these issues.
Most likely, there will also be care and understanding from family and friends that know about your condition. However, the most important thing is to be positive about your stoma.
Have a sense of realism; it will go a long way in helping you manage your condition and accept stoma care as a part of your regular routine and lifestyle.
Having a stoma is not a hindrance in any way whatsoever, and it, therefore, should not be seen as an obstacle in either your personal or professional life. Just learn to be resilient.
So, look on the bright side. That's what I did. And I must confess that I had a lot of inspiration spiced with some humour from this book I'd Like to Buy a Bowel, Please!
It helped me tremendously, and it may help you overcome your emotions too.
Living with a Stoma? Don't Be a Slave to Your Emotions
Within the first few weeks of your surgical procedure, you should have accepted your condition. Okay, maybe this is easier said than done and varies from one patient to the other, but it is true, you will, eventually.
You may still be in the process of learning how to effectively manage a stoma, and how to recognize the workings of your digestive system, depending on your type of diet, but then that's normal.
One thing about a stoma is that you’ll never have that feeling of ‘wanting to go’. The stoma seems to have a mind of its own and empties your waste as, and when it pleases and that can be worrying. But you will soon get accustomed to it.
And though managing your ostomy will be confusing at first, and you will have many questions and issues arising like:
- What’s the fastest way to empty or change a colostomy bag without making a mess?
- Can I travel without worrying about unpleasant incidences?
- How do I prevent bag ballooning?
- How will I manage gas build-up in my colostomy bag?
- How do I guard against leaks?
- Will I be able to swim with a stoma?
Dealing with such physical issues will become easier once you have come to terms with the condition. Coping with the condition demands patience and the determination to look on the bright side of things.
Remember, it could be worse. You may have died in the operating room but now, you are lucky to have the chance of living a good life.
Think about this. If you weren't fortunate enough to have good medical care, what would have happened and without your colostomy surgery, what would have been your chances of survival? Perhaps, it will be very slim.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2010 Alobeda