By Elaine O’Rourke
Will anyone ever want to be intimate with me now that I have an ostomy? Will I ever have sex again? Will anyone ever love me? These were the questions that constantly went through my mind as a 35-year-old single woman with an ileostomy.
The fear of rejection was huge. How do you even tell someone you have an ostomy? Most people don’t know what it is and just meeting people is already hard enough! If I was freaking out and horrified about the look of it, then surely someone else would.
Believe me, it took a long while for me to accept myself fully and to overcome the legitimate fears of rejection. In fact, it wasn’t until I was back in the “single world” after a seven-year relationship, that I finally began to figure out why I was so afraid of intimacy and sex. Even though that long-term partner was extremely accepting of me and my ostomy, it was time for me to work through each aspect of my fears as I got honest with myself.
I began pondering the questions “What is intimacy? If I am willing to let someone see me fully as who I really am, then what does that entail?”
It’s about being vulnerable, authentic, truthful, resilient, able to feel, to communicate effectively with ourselves and others, to connect, share, and knowing our self-worth.
This is asking us to face and feel our insecurities, doubts, worries, fears, to examine what is behind our judgments, criticisms, self-confidence, and rejection.
WOW, that’s a lot to delve into! In my program “Surviving to Thriving: Overcoming Ostomy Challenges so you can Live a FulFilling Life” I dedicate a whole module to this deeply layered subject.
REJECTION IS COMMON FOR EVERYONE
The feelings of rejection are something that everyone experiences, with or without an ostomy. As humans we want to feel included and when we aren’t included it feels like NO, you’re not good enough, you’re not worthy, it feels like you’re being left out, isolated. You take it so personally! But it’s not possible to get a YES to everything and everyone all the time. That’s unreasonable, right? After all, don’t you have to say no sometimes?
WHAT YOU CAN LEARN FROM REJECTION
Rejection can be that the other person is not available to you at that given time. Quite frankly, the reasons don’t matter. We are all entitled to our opinions and feelings but we are not responsible for how someone else feels nor can we control their response. If someone doesn’t accept you with your ostomy, then chances are they are not the right fit. All you can be is informative. You impart the information and then it’s out of your hands. How liberating!
What insecurities are the feelings of rejection bringing to the surface for you?
When you keep yourself small, hidden, isolated, or when you feed into a story that “no-one will ever accept me or want to be with me,” then you are giving away your power. You are judging, criticizing and rejecting yourself. You have written a story based on your fears, insecurities, and lack of self-worth.
When you are standing-up as an empowered human then you are being truthful and naturally resilient.
So you have a choice to write a story that reads something like, “My body is functioning differently from others, which makes me unique. Some people may not be able to deal with that and those people are entitled to feel what they want to feel. But, there are plenty of people who will celebrate my uniqueness and think that I am amazing and will think even more of me because of my ostomy.” This is now empowering and letting yourself shine.
What is your new empowering story?
STEPS TO EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION
Effective communication is the key within any relationship! Yet, it can be so difficult to communicate clearly. You wonder when is the right time to ask something or you tiptoe around the problem. I have found the best way is to say something from a place of kindness and compassion. Be true to yourself.
If you are in a relationship with someone, then it is imperative to be able to talk openly about your ostomy. You need to be able to express how you are REALLY feeling about everything, not just how you feel about sex. Let your partner know how you are coping. It’s OK to show vulnerabilities.
It can also be really difficult on your partner. If your partner has been with you through your experience of getting an ostomy or witnessing you go through so much pain, then they need to voice how they are feeling and how they are dealing.
Chances are a lot of the attention has been on you so it’s important to nurture your partner too. To work through the questions they have. To be able to openly discuss if they are having problems looking at you now and accepting you. They might be feeling helpless and nervous too. Take your time to get to know each other again. Become familiar with how your bodies work together now. Be patient with each other. And make it fun.
That is also true when starting out in a new relationship. Remember the more comfortable you are about your body, the more comfortable your partner will be. Don’t underestimate the power of hugging, gentle touch and a good making-out kissing session!
Chances are that Things feel different or your sex drive may be affected depending on the type of surgery you’ve had. There is a great sexuality guide provided by UOAA which explains the types of surgeries, and how they affect sexual function and the emotional component as well.
How can you treat yourself with more love and compassion especially with the hype of Valentine’s Day everywhere?
Try these affirmations to get you started:
“I am open to accepting and loving myself with my ostomy”
“I choose to be kinder to myself as my body has been through so much”
Make sure to grab your FREE GUIDE: ‘3 simple ways to eliminate fears about your ostomy” by visiting Elaine’s website www.ElaineOrourke.com
Elaine O’Rourke is the creator of the online program “Surviving To Thriving: Overcoming Ostomy Challenges So You Can Live a FulFilling Life”. She is a certified Yoga Therapist & Teacher since 2003, Sound Healer, EFT & Reiki Practitioner, Recording Artist and International Retreat Leader. Her lighthearted and fun personality shines through her teachings/programs as she loves to inspire others. She is a contributing writer to the national Phoenix Magazine and UOAA, presenter at the UOAA National Conference and motivational speaker at Girls with Guts retreat.