Mental health and wellbeing is a topic that some men find uncomfortable. It is often seen as taboo and there is a belief that men should behave in a certain way, which often doesn't involve talking about feelings. I want to spread the message that being open and honest about how we are feeling mentally is nothing to be ashamed of and shows strength and inspiration to other men who are still struggling with being open about their mental health.
Having Crohn's or Colitis is always hard to come to terms with and there's a lot to get used to. For me, coming to terms with having a stoma was very hard and it affected me mentally for a very long time. My recovery was helped by sharing my journey as I was very vocal about having my stoma, Queen It, and found a whole IBD community on social media. I am so grateful because everyone was so welcoming, although I noticed I never really saw many men with stomas on there. Of course, there were and are men with stomas, but they just weren't open about it. As I grew my platform through awareness raising and body positivity I started to receive messages from men saying how they wish they had the confidence to show their stoma, or they wish they had the confidence to show their scars from surgery and I began to realise just how hard it can be for men.
I decided I wanted to try and break the silence. I interviewed seven men with Crohn's or Colitis and all are inspirational in their own way. I hope their answers help other men who are still struggling mentally with having a stoma or are trying to find some advice before surgery from those who already have stomas.
What were your initial thoughts and feelings when you found out that stoma surgery was required/had taken place?
What was the biggest thing you had to do in order to adapt to life with a stoma?
What made you decide to be open about life with a stoma?
What's the biggest change in your life from pre-surgery to now?
What advice would you give to someone learning to live with a stoma?
What would you say to people worried about stoma surgery?
I hope this has helped to hear from these men's experiences of life with a stoma and you realise it's okay to feel a certain way about it and that it will get better. Remember, you are alive because of that little piece of your intestine on the outside of your belly.
Natalie-Amber wants you to remember that 'everybody is beautiful'. Follow her @natalie_amber1 and the men featured are happy to be contacted on their handles below.