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How I coped with my new stoma and traumatic birth

When people talk to me about my traumatic birth and permanent stoma, together with the loss of my police career, I often get asked “how did you cope with everything?” . I have never really known how to answer this question, as I sometimes wonder, too. I was brought up in a family which was very much focused on just “getting on with it” – there’s no need for drama, just craic on with whatever life throws at you. But surely there must be a mindset behind this?

A Facebook memory from 9 years ago came up the other day, in which I had written that I was “reflecting on the catastrophic events of the week so far and concentrating hard on the words ‘life changed’ as opposed to ‘life ruined’ “. And that was it! Of course, I didn’t merely repeat these words, miraculously accept everything that had happened with a benign resignation and get on with my life. I still cried a lot, felt angry, felt bitter, hurt, let down and shocked. At times I also felt numb, grief stricken, lost and overwhelmed. But I do remember making conscious decisions on how I was going to approach my feelings towards my circumstance, as I knew that I had more control over my feelings than I did over the events that were happening to me.

I recall many internal conversations I had with myself, as I talked my way through what was happening, trying to make sense of the nonsensical, and to find a way through to a place of acceptance. Often I would start with a summary of what had happened.

“Ok, so you have a colostomy. That is permanent, looks most likely to be. You will probably lose your job. This is so shit. This is terrible. I don’t want to shit in a bag on my stomach. I want, more than anything, to go back to my job as a police officer, and to be going to the toilet in the same way as everyone else. But that can’t happen. So if you feel angry about the stoma, and about the loss of your job, both of which are permanent, then that anger will stay with you for as long as you have the stoma and aren’t a police officer…which is the rest of your life. And it will then be the anger and bitterness which destroys your life, and not the stoma or job loss. So really, all it means is that you have a different life than you had before. You have to find a way to live a good life with what you have, as that must surely be possible. You have to open your mind to other possibilities that are out there. So, you can either be angry, resentful and bitter, or you can accept that this is simply the way that it is, and look to see what things you still CAN do, and what you can still achieve.”

Sounds so simple, right? In the same way, I remember reading on various stoma foru