Chapter 14: Relationships
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Your operation may successfully cure your physical problems, but it is fair to say you will not find the emotional side of things easy at first.
This is a troublesome area for just about every Colostomist, after all we all worry about how we'll be accepted by our loved ones - present or future.
Your local support group member will be an invaluable support to you during the early stages of you Stoma life. Hearing that what you are going through is not unique, that they have overcome the emotional hurdles and that you will to, will be a big help.
But without a doubt your biggest shoulder to cry on will be your immediate family or your partner. They are going through this operation with you, and will be just as worried as you ever will be. For the younger Colostomist your parents or guardians are your best allies.
Try to talk about any problems you have with them, they may not be able to answer the questions for you but just talking the problems through will take a load off your mind.
Strong emotional worries may well lead to tears, dont bottle them up. Let them flow freely and afterwards you will feel better for it.
If you don't live with your parents anymore and have left home, discuss the problems with your partner, or if single, with your best friend, the one with whom you would trust your life and you know will keep a secret and listen to your worries. Chances are you already have one friend singled out who you have shared the problems with your health problems with so far and know you can trust. A friend that you would do the same for.
Don't rely on just anyone as chances are they will not understand how delicate the situation is and blab it to the world.
If you live with your parents or live with your partner try to have someone from your household present when you are being taught how to change an appliance. This gives you the advantage of their support and at the same time they are learning how to change an appliance so should you be unable to manage for a period of time, say you break your hand or a few fingers, someone can give you some help to manage.
Other people will be concerned for your well being too as they will know you are going for an operation. For example work colleagues, neighbours and everyday friends. You do not have to tell them that you are having a Colostomy, it is up to you how much you fill them in on the scene.
When you meet new friends who are unaware of your previous health problems there is no need for you to tell them that you have a Colostomy, and they will be totally unaware of the fact. If you do eventually decide to tell them they will most probably be totally amazed as they never would have guessed.
But what about personal relationships? Well, there is no doubt that the new Colostomists worries about this are far less if they are already married or in a serious relationship at the time. Your partner will be there with you will be more sympathetic and caring towards you than a total stranger as they knew you before the Stoma and before you were poorly.
If you are single at the time of the operation then you have another possible psychological hurdle to climb over. The time will eventually come when you have to explain to your new love that you have a Stoma and need to wear a surgical appliance at all times. The issue cannot be dodged forever, and will more than likely be forced by a marriage proposal or leading up to a sexual relationship.
This is a decision that you have to make yourself. No matter what advice is given in books there is a time and place for everything and only your own judgement can decide when is the best time to tell your partner. However as a rough guide don't tell straight away (it's not the best chat up line in the World by any means "Hello, my name's Jason and I wear a Colostomy bag!") and don't leave it until the last minute. Your partner could be offended that you felt you couldn't trust them enough to tell them sooner when in reality you were shy about it. So don't whisper it as a sweet nothing during a heavy petting session, it'd be a pretty major turn off.
I think the best time is somewhere shortly after you've been on numerous dates, and before the relationship goes sexual. Like I said the timing is individual and best left to your own judgement but this way your partner can see that you lead a perfectly normal life with it, that it doesn't stop you from having fun and at least allows him or her to accept the fact that when you are naked in bed together you will have the appliance on and it will be visible.
My biggest fear at this point was fear of rejection. I was hardly the most self confident person on the face of the planet and was genuinely convinced that I would be rejected by the love of my life once I told her of the Stoma and the bag. Being single and unattached at the time I felt my social life would be extinct.
I told my nurse about this and she said that rejection was a possibility but when you think about it if the the person is not willing to accept you as you are because you are not quite perfect then they are not worth bothering with in the first place and you are better off without them. This is perfectly true but we also agreed that this didn't necessarily mean rejection wouldn't be a possibility, and that it wouldn't hurt.