Over time, though, he reconnected with his body, learnt to love it, and is sharing what he's learnt with others.
The early days of living with a stoma can be hard and traumatic. Many people know this.
For me, it was extremely tough both mentally and physically. One minute I was fit as a fiddle and the next, three weeks later, I was blindsided with horrific Colitis symptoms forcing life-saving ileostomy surgery.
While I’m so eternally grateful now, I was never like that at the start. I was trying to get my head around what had just happened. Typical questions like “Why me?” were common, among a few others. I was questioning where my life goes from here. "When can I get back to normal?"
Then, the challenges of being able to accept my new physical body.
Especially being a single guy in a society heavily influenced by body image. It was hard enough trying to accept myself, let alone expecting someone else to accept me too.
Over the following months I was feeling physically better; going back to doing the sports I loved, travelling more. I started grabbing back the control that at the time, I felt was taken away from me.
The true turning point, however, came a year after my operation.
I remember talking to someone at work, and I said to them “I wish you could have known me before I got sick”. Why did I say that? I think there was a part of me still trying to cling onto getting back to normal. Wanting to be myself again.
Their response changed my entire world. “I don’t want to know that person. I want to know this one”, they said.
This set me on my path. I would never get ‘back to my normal’, and you know what? That’s ok. This was now the time for me to start anew. I started to see it as a second chance to live life how I wanted to live it.
This was the lightbulb moment that finally gave me acceptance.
That proverbial movie-style epiphany. A stoma isn’t the end of the world. Far from it. It can be used as a resurgence. A reference point for where your new world began.
The next step in the process was using this to shift my mindset and see things in a more positive light. Realising that life does suck sometimes, but at this moment I’m healthy and calm. As soon as I shifted into that mindset, I was no longer bothered by the things everyday life threw at me, and I had such a better appreciation for the little things.
Don’t get me wrong, it takes time and work to maintain that mindset, but it did bring a sense of peace.
There are other tools and techniques I’ve learnt along the way that provide me a deeper connection with myself. A place where I love myself unconditionally. A love for my mind and, just as importantly, my body. Stoma bag and all.
The trick? Treating yourself like you would a date. Trust me, it works. Things like cooking a nice meal, going for a walk, going to the movies. That self-love feeling can eventually become ingrained.
So, where am I today, five years after my surgery?
I’m in the process of transitioning careers. A complete change of direction. Currently I work in the IT industry but, and this may sound corny, this five-year journey has helped me find my calling and purpose to give back to others.
I feel blessed and thankful for this experience and being able to come out the other side as happy and joyful as I’ve ever been. I’ve gained tools that can help me overcome any trauma. I can shift any limiting and negative belief.
I hope my story can inspire and motivate others.
This is why I have chosen to move into public speaking as my new career. I’m also coming towards the end of my studies to become a life coach. I will specialise in helping people overcome physical and mental trauma, and improve their relationships with themselves to discover that self-love we all deserve.
It’s been a great experience, and I can’t wait to mesh those skills with my own toolkit to help others. Overall, it’s been a whirlwind of a journey, but I truly wouldn’t change any of it for the world.