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since May 2004

When Gary had surgery for an ileostomy, I was told that he would grieve for the loss of his bowel. Ostomy surgery - even if the surgery is wanted and improves the quality of life - often results in depression at some stage.

How Can Your Surgery Affect You?

Each person is unique and deals with the circumstances surrounding ostomy surgery in a different way. You need to analyze your own situation to determine how to best live with your illness. Because having ostomy surgery affects different people in a number of ways, you may experience some or many of the following concerns:

Interference with daily activities
Interference with your physical functioning
Changes in your lifestyle and/or personality
Emotional reactions (such as depression, anger, anxiety, helplessness, or guilt)
Changes in relationships with family members
Alterations in your social life
Accommodations to your vocational life
Interference with your sleep
Feelings that you have less control.

What Can You Do?

Your ultimate goal is to take charge and live a happier life - despite having an ostomy. Here are a few strategies that can help you to better handle your ostomy and improve your overall health, happiness and productivity.

1. Be a person, not a patient. Make this the foundation of your thinking. You are a person who has had ostomy surgery, not an ill person. The only time youíre a patient is when youíre in the doctorís office or the hospital. The way you see yourself living with an ostomy is an essential part of coping successfully.

2. Understand the unique way that your ostomy affects you and your life. Identify the ways that your ostomy causes problems for you. Are you experiencing any problems with the pouching system, leakage, odor, skin breakdown? How does having an ostomy affect others around you? Does it limit your activities? There are many other factors that may affect you. Youíll want to identify them and then determine how youíre going to deal with them.

3. Set overall goals for improving your life. Youíll find that your efforts can include many of the following:

Improving your ability to adapt to your situation
Improving your coping style
Setting reasonable, realistic and achievable goals
Aiming to regain control of your life
Improving day-to-day functioning
Improving your perspective on any problems you may be facing
Being more assertive and taking an active part of your health self-care (including dealing with medical personnel)
Accepting and improving your ability to deal with the emotional consequences of your ostomy
Increasing your ability to handle negative emotions
Focusing more on your strengths and diminishing the impact of any weaknesses or limitations imposed by having an ostomy
Doing things that you like and spending less time with things that you dislike
Enhancing positive relationships
Improving participation in your social network
Improving your life satisfaction and quality of life.

4. Pinpoint what you need to help improve your life. Think about all the difficulties you are having living with your ostomy. Write these down on the left side of a folded piece of paper. On the right side next to each item, write down things you can do to improve each one. Note as many alternatives as you can. Ask others for additional ideas, especially if youíre not sure what to do about certain things. Keep adding to your list, and plan how you will use these ideas to improve your life.

5. Anticipate the negative. There are negative things can happen during your life with an ostomy (e.g., leakage, skin irritation, depression, fear, sexual concerns). But, some of these could also happen if you didnít have an ostomy! The more you anticipate and prepare-the better you will cope.
Taken from: Coping With An Ostomy