Thinking Back: Dating with an Ostomy as a Teenager
It shouldn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that when a person has any type of ostomy, dating can be a bit of a challenge.
It depends on the individuals age, their level of comfort/acceptance with their body, the person they have the attraction to, what a person is looking to get out of that first date, etc.
First ileostomy as a teenager
I was 16 years old when I had my first ileostomy and I accepted it for about a year. And then reality hit me: THIS WAS FOREVER! I was a teenage girl who had to live with a stoma and an ostomy appliance for the rest of my life. To say it tore me apart emotionally would be a huge understatement... but that is another discussion altogether.
The point of me even mentioning that is to point out that I did everything to avoid letting someone I was interested in know my “dirty little secret.” I was so ashamed and for some reason, it was just ingrained in me that if anyone found out the truth, I would have no friends and no one would ever look at me in a romantic sort of way. Ever.
Keeping surgeries private from others
Thinking back, I realize how wrong I was. I didn’t give others enough credit. I was so focused on being different and how gross I felt that I lost sight of the fact that I was still me. Everything about my existence at that time seemed to revolve around my secret.
I was so hell-bent on being private about the details of my surgeries that it forced me to become someone I wasn’t. It forced me to become this phony person who never felt good enough, who felt the need to constantly please people, who had absolutely no self-confidence, and who had no idea what a real relationship should be.
Feeling unattractive with an ostomy
I was so obsessed (literally, there was no other word to describe me during this time) with getting rid of this thing on my stomach that I poured my heart and soul into focusing on alternative surgeries that would allow me to be with a guy and have him find me attractive and be able to wear clothes that everyone else could.
My obsession led to me having five kock pouch operations (also known as a continent ileostomy.) When I had a kock pouch, only a small bandage was needed over what looked like an inverted stoma. I put a catheter into the stoma which allowed stool to come out of the body. No one had to know anything other than that I had surgery.
I am not going to lie... having a kock pouch allowed me to feel FREE. Free from the inner torture that ensued me for years of living with a traditional ileostomy.
But it still wasn’t fixing the problem. The issue was me and how uncomfortable I was in my own skin. External appliance or no external appliance; I still wasn’t okay with my situation. I still never accepted it. It wasn’t until I connected with other people who I felt understood what I was going through, that things began to turn around for me.
Learning to accept myself with IBD and an ostomy
I also was never going to be in a positive relationship if I couldn’t fully be myself. In order for that to have occurred, I needed to have fully accepted myself... which is a hard thing to do when you have inflammatory bowel disease and/or an ostomy.
When I actually did share some details about my ostomy to a guy, I was never once met with negative remarks. I know I am lucky and there are a lot of terrible, shallow people out there but guess what?! That person is not for you... and that is okay.
It took me a long time to realize that once you are okay with the person you are, you will find the right person. You also won’t care (as much) if someone is not alright with your health situation.
It is still hurtful, don’t get me wrong, but the more experiences you go through, the more you realize that life is legitimately too short to waste time on people who either don’t deserve you, don’t understand you, or who aren’t going to be a positive influence in your life.