Getting An Ostomy Saved My life

Body image is a struggle that has come and gone for me throughout my life. Throughout elementary and middle school I experienced some bullying for being heavier than a lot of the other kids I went to school with. Once I got to high school, I really grew to be more confident with my body. This, of course, all changed once I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis my first year in college. Over the next few years of being on and off steroids, my weight really fluctuated and threw me for a loop. Finally, in 2018 I had my total colectomy surgery and chose my permanent ileostomy a year later.

Having the surgery and choosing to keep my ileostomy opened up a whole new world of body image struggles for me. Immediately after surgery and for a few months after, I was almost in a state of being unphased by anything as I just felt so happy to not be in constant pain anymore. My weight became pretty stable after my surgery since I was able to come off of the steroids and not be in a state of constant inflammation, but now my attention was fully on how I was perceived with an ostomy. After this honeymoon period of being rid of my Ulcerative Colitis, I started to feel ashamed of having an ostomy. I felt like I was being judged if it was showing through my clothes. This was followed by a period of me only wearing baggy clothing and having a lot of anxiety about going out unless I knew my bag was going to stay empty the whole time I was out.

This mindset of constantly trying to hide my ostomy and feeling ashamed was not healthy for me mentally and I began to realize that in the past couple of years. There were a few things that I realized would work for me and hopefully they might help out other people as well. The first thing for me was completely changing my mindset around my ostomy. I came to the realization that having an ostomy was not a punishment or some device I was stuck with for the rest of my life, it’s the medical tool that saved my life. Once I shifted my mindset about my ostomy I gained back so much confidence about it and have even said that I don’t mind my bag showing through my clothes because I’d love for someone to ask me about it so I can educate more people. The second thing I did that truly changed my life as someone with an ostomy was getting a Stealth Belt. Nothing has made a bigger impact on my body image and confidence as well as bag consistency than having a Stealth Belt.

Hopefully my story and the two tricks that I found changed my mindset and body image for the better, will help someone else who may be struggling with post-surgery body image.