Embracing life as an ostomate can be a challenging journey, both physically and emotionally. It is important to prioritise your mental health while navigating the changes that come with having a stoma, whether it be a colostomy or ileostomy.

The emotional impact of living with a stoma should not be underestimated, it is completely normal to experience a range of emotions such as anxiety, frustration, or even grief for the body you once had. Remember that you are not alone in this journey and there are resources available to support you.

Isolation was my biggest fear when I came out of the hospital suffering from a variety of physical and mental health issues. The population in the UK is over 59 million and there are around 167,000 people with a stoma. That means there are 1 in every 335 people living with a stoma (according to the British Journal of Nursing). As I live in a small town in Hertfordshire it is rare to come across someone that has a stoma in your normal day-to-day life. The feeling of dread and anxiety hampered my ability of rational thinking and quickly spiralled into a deep depression.

But this feeling of foreboding did not last long, as I found a community on social media who had embraced life with a stoma. I came across accounts of confident and inspirational Ostomate influencers. I reached out to a handful of influencers, and to my delight, some had replied. And after contacting Respond Healthcare, following my initial order, I was invited to their Ambassador event in Cardiff, where I found a supportive group of friends who knew all to well the difficulties of being a Ostomate. It felt as if Dorothy was finally home.

This is why I wholeheartedly recommend talking about your mental health. We – the Respond Ambassadors – are not trained in a professional capacity, but we do try our best to help in any way we can. As intimidating as some of the Ambassadors may seem, I can promise you they do not bite.

Nurturing your mental health as an ostomate involves finding healthy coping mechanisms that work for you. This may include seeking support from loved ones and joining support groups or online communities specifically for ostomates. There is a vast number of resources on the Respond Healthcare website, they include:

  • A Community Nurse team – complimenting your own Stoma Nurse
  • Independent advice on improving your quality of life
  • A knowledge bank to help you find answers to all your questions
  • Blog posts featuring articles written by the Ambassadors discussing the day-to-day challenges including hints and tips
  • Events and open days nationwide and throughout the year
  • An enormous range of products to help you feel confident and comfortable

It is also important to remember that having a stoma does not define you. Embracing life as an ostomate means embracing all aspects of yourself and continuing to pursue your passions and goals. Your stoma is just one part of who you are, and it should not hold you back from living a fulfilling life.

By taking care of your mental health and embracing life as an ostomate, you can find strength, resilience, and the ability to thrive, despite the challenges that may arise. Remember to be kind to yourself throughout this journey and reach out for help when needed. You deserve happiness and fulfilment, and we are here to help you along the way.