Today (6th February 2020) is Time to Talk Day in the UK, a day to encourage everyone to talk about mental health to help and change lives. Keith has written his next blog post about the importance of supporting each other through illness and post-surgery, specifically post ostomy-surgery. For anyone looking to reach out and speak to someone, there are plenty of resources available. Not only does Keith offer his personal contact below, but at the end of the post you will find names and websites of different organisations available to you. Remember, you are never alone. #TimeToTalk
After having my successful ileostomy operation in 2012, I have been so grateful to have my life back. I went through some very dark times that even affected my relationships with people close to me, to be back to my old self was such a relief. Even with a new regime to cope with, life was sweet again. When I was in hospital, I decided that it would be my mission to offer help and support to others whenever I could, to show people that having a stoma is certainly not the end of the world.
It’s challenging enough for someone whose operation is planned to come to terms with living with a stoma, so imagine what it must be like when you go into hospital for an operation for something completely unrelated and you wake up with one. It must be very frightening. Firstly, you and your family may well not even know what a stoma is, what it does, or why it’s there. Now you are not just recovering from a major operation, but you are additionally stressed by the millions of questions you want to ask someone. Far fetched? Well this happened only last week to someone I know.
Obviously the first port of call is the hospital staff, particularly the stoma nurses, who can teach you the practicalities of living with a stoma- how to care for it, how to change bags etc. The stoma nurses will of course also provide emotional support, however the psychological and emotional issues are often more difficult to address, this is where people like me can help. I am always willing to have those more difficult conversations with people if they want to talk. I know there are many people who never come to terms with living with an ostomy, just as there are others, myself included, who have embraced life with my stoma. After all, my stoma saved my life, as it probably has with a majority of the ostomate community. Ultimately, I feel we would all choose life – I know I would.
Every person’s ostomy journey is different and personal to them. What works for one person may not work for another but the important thing is that we are there for each other; we are a strong community and we are willing to step up to help others if they need us. I have been privileged to have met new ostomates in different ways. Some prefer to communicate via email or social media, but others prefer a chat on the phone or face to face. I have chatted several times to people over a coffee in the local coffee shop if that’s comfortable for them.
Often taking that first step is daunting, even for the most confident person. If you feel you would like to approach someone you trust to have a chat and hopefully get some answers, here are my few top tips to help you get the most out of the occasion.
- Keep a notebook handy to jot down any questions or queries as they arise. You can then add further notes or details if and when you meet. It helps if you are focused and you are less likely to forget what you wanted to talk about. There might be online groups/ forums that would suit you, magazines and publications that would help bring you into a community and websites you could visit to find a range of products to help you live comfortably with your stoma. Details can be recorded in the notebook for you to refer back to when you feel ready.
- Be as open and honest as you can. There really is no taboo with having an ostomy and there are many, many people willing to listen to you and give advice or support.
- Meet somewhere neutral where you feel safe and secure. This might be in a local cafe or via phone or email. If you feel safe and secure, you will be more confident to ask your question.
- Listen- take time to reflect and always look for the positive. Believe me, there are plenty of people who look on the negative side of things; yes, it isn’t always plain sailing, but if your operation has saved your life, you should be celebrating and learning to live a full life again, not dwelling on setbacks and negativity.
- Keep in touch with people. Who knows, one day you might be the person that someone reaches out to.
So if you know anyone who needs help, or who would appreciate a chat, please get in touch, my details are below. After all, who knows a stoma better than someone who lives with one? My message to everyone reading this is try to stay positive, life is for living not for hiding away.
Take care all.
Facebook: Keith Thomas | Twitter/Instagram: @keiththom2014 | Email: [email protected]
We hope you have enjoyed this latest “Keith’s Corner”. Please remember you are not alone in your mental health, there are lots of charities, organisations and people available for you to talk to, such as (just click the names to be taken to their website):
- Mind, The Mental Health Charity
- Macmillan Cancer Support
- Colostomy UK
- Ileostomy Association
- Urostomy Association
- Crohn’s and Colitis UK
Or of course we are always here to lend and ear and have a chat, give us a call on 0800 220 300 / 0800 028 6848 N.Ireland if you ever need anything.
For more information or for how you can get involved this #TimeToTalk day, please click here to be taken to the Time to Change website. Let’s open up about Mental Health and show each other kindness and support.
If you would like to learn more about our #BeTheChange campaign or get involved click here.
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