Jo: Let’s Talk About Intimacy With A Stoma
Intimacy is a big part of people’s lives and when you’ve undergone such a big life change, sometimes it can be hard to pick back up again. We asked Jo, who had a colostomy in her teenage years, to tell us her take on intimacy and give some advice.
"As the late great Elvis Presley once sang “Are you lonesome tonight?” – of course he wasn’t singing about having a stoma, but for some, he might as well have been, but it doesn’t have to be that way and here’s how.
Rejection is a bitter pill to swallow, and that’s true for everyone, but for those of us who have already endured so much – it can feel too big of a risk to take.
Whether we talk about it or not, physical relations can form a big part of anyone’s relationship and if that breaks down it can be difficult to know how to put it right, however, the ability to talk about it has got to be a great start.
Our bodies can look different and feel different. They may have become a mix of new accessories and/or evidence of the battle scars that document the most arduous of journeys and it’s difficult to wonder where the beauty of it could ever be seen again, after all, it had already let us down, failing to function as it should, so how can we skip to brighter days ahead?
Thinking about discussing our sexual needs can often be far more daunting than actually having that conversation. Communication is always key and just because you have a bag doesn’t mean that you have become automatically excluded from intimacy, in fact, that couldn’t be further from the truth especially as, for a lot of people, having a stoma can give back your health or at the very least a considerable improvement on the alternative, so why can’t the rest of our lives continue where they left off? The truth is – they can.
Not everyone knows their partners or perspective partner intimate thoughts and desires, and many won’t share those thoughts until the moment of intimacy, but, that’s OK because you know what your own thoughts are towards intimacy and that’s got to be a great starting point.
Intimacy, whether you use a toilet or use a bag, can have a profound effect on how we see ourselves. For many of us we don’t feel sexy, that doesn’t mean to say that in the eyes of another we don’t still ‘float boats’! Of course we can. Some people are purely aesthetic and for others it’s about the emotional connection but which ever one of those your relationship or sexual encounters falls under, there is plenty you can do to help you feel sexy and if you feel sexy, you’ll be sexy!
Communication is always going to be the best option here because opening up to your partner and finding out what their thoughts are can only be a good thing because that’s what a healthy sex life prospers on in any couple, what will be worrying you might not have even crossed your partners mind and so talking openly and honestly can define whether you need to make adjustments by meeting half way or whether it’s just business as usual.
However, if the most confident and secure of us can still suffer with embarrassment and body conscious thoughts, then, everyone else will need pointing in the right direction.
From my own experience and from those that I’ve listened to within the stoma community it seems that during intimate moments we can feel like we’ve got this huge arrow pointing at out tummies saying “Hey! Look at me, not them!” and they’ll be times where you wish it was invisible. My advice has always been to use underwear to your advantage, there is a huge market of sexy underwear and investing in some will not only make you feel fabulous, but if you get the right outfit, the bag will be out of the way and for as long as it takes, the bag won’t be part of your experience. The basque style outfits allow easy access so that they don’t need to be taken off to enjoy sexual relations with your partner but provide that all important distraction. Men don’t need to feel left out this conversation, there are tight fitting vest tops that can be worn whilst still enjoying the skin on skin contact that a lot of us crave. Sharing your thoughts in forums or reading the comments in them will all help to find tips and details of companies that we never knew existed – but they do!
Having a stoma means that resourcefulness and versatility become your best friends, hang on to that thought and know that there isn’t much that can’t be resolved without these two huge characteristics especially as the world of intimacy contains an abundance of these attributes, all in a bid to keep on reinventing sexual enjoyment, so, consider yourself already a step ahead of the times.
This advice is designed to help you create your new normal because it is important that we acknowledge who we are and what we want from life and be the lead in our own destiny. No one has the right to ‘accept’ anything about the way you look or who you are, that right is yours and yours alone and those words are attributed to my Husband who instilled this into me from day one of us. To ensure our own happiness we must accept our new normal whatever age it came about and there has been a running theme throughout this whole blog and that is the word ‘start’, we can start to accept ourselves, we can start to love our bodies and we can start to accept our right to enjoy this life."
If you're looking more for advice on living with a stoma, we've got a range of resources you can download and keep.
Jo is a user of the Vyne home delivery service and was compensated for writing this content.