*Trigger warning: contains reference to suicide*
I have recently been admitted to hospital and for a change it wasn’t a medical ward it's for my mental health and I thought it might be interesting to share my experiences with staff who aren’t expected to know about stoma's. However I thought I would also talk a bit about hospitals in lockdown and why your mental health is important to keep on top of.
I have always suffered with mental health problems and I have been through various therapies and tried various medications along the way. Nothing really ever helped but that could be because I hadn’t found the right combination so please don’t think that it won’t help you; the most important thing you can do is asking for help in the first place.
My life drastically changed recently and I had been fighting with suicidal tendencies for about 2 years and on the 17th June I took an overdose. My husband found out pretty quickly which I’m not going to lie I’m still angry about as at this point in time I still feel suicidal. He rang an ambulance and said in that time I became aggressive and started having seizures, he said he was pretty scared. The last thing I remember about being at home is him giving me a tight hug telling me he loved me and I had to get better. I lost pretty much a day and woke up to puncture marks all over my arms and hands ; I was attached to a hartmans solution and had a catheter bag full of blood. Now I know I must have been out of it because I have major PTSD when it comes to needles in my hands from having many attempts for bloods and cannula’s in my hands growing up. So I would have freaked out if I was aware.
I was sectioned under act 2 of the mental health care act later that night which means I could be held for up to 28 days and transported to the local mental health hospital. This absolutely terrified me in all honesty. I’m not a danger to others just myself which the professionals said themselves. My stoma hadn’t been filling up as I hadn’t been eating. Until a covid swab came back negative (which it did and thankfully I am fully vaccinated) I was under observation which the staff changed every 2 hours as I wasn’t allowed to leave my room for infection reasons. At one point I needed to empty my bag I was mortified, I haven’t emptied my stoma in front of anyone who wasn’t a midwife or a surgical nurse before. The lady said I could draw the curtain for privacy. I thought what on earth is a curtain going to do for the odour!! I had no choice but to empty and I felt really degraded. In the first two days I had two leaks due to the acidity of my output.
Some of the staff had met people with stoma’s either in their professional or personal lives whereas others hadn’t. Same goes for the doctors but if you think about it they specialise in the mind not your body. I would have had no right to be annoyed at the constant repeating or explaining so they could understand. I’ve had some interesting questions from the patients I’ve made friends with too. For instance I was hugging one girl and my stoma chose to pass gas in its bubbly gurgling fashion and we fell about laughing as I told her technically I pumped on her! Another of my friends was concerned as I had bent forward slightly and my bowel kinked which leaves me feeling like I want to stretch out my bowel like you would your foot if it got a cramp. A medical doctor was called and in typical fashion it had eased by then but they agreed they would prescribe buscopan in case it happened again.
They also enjoyed the phrase barbie butt after I explained about how my stoma works and that my rectum has been sewn up! My stoma has started working more regularly since I started eating again mind so that’s not too bad and the medication hasn’t affected it.
I have had a few visitors and with covid obviously being a concern still, they have to sit with their masks on. All the staff obviously wear masks too which at first made it difficult to distinguish three of them and it did create some laughs which we all needed. But back to the visitors anything they bring in for me gets searched for obvious reasons but I was allowed my knitting needles and accessories which has been a great help to my mental health. The staff sit in with me and everyone else; I guess it’s to ensure they are aware of any possible triggers later on. However I got upgraded yesterday to sit in the garden bit and the staff didn’t need to sit so close. I mean I do what’s asked of me and do talk to the staff when I need to because let’s face it I can only get help if I help myself. I am also on a secure ward but from what I can gather due to covid even the medical wards are closed to open access like they would usually be and have their set visiting hours.
I’m quite thankful that even though my stoma can be a pain now and then I am competent enough to just get on with deal with it myself. I also have obviously no problem talking about my ileostomy and how I got it because so many people still don’t know what they are or feel there is some stigma attached to them.
I really hope all of that made some sense because I am truly mentally exhausted but I felt I needed to get it out somehow and if you take anything from this please don’t suffer in silence. I will also leave you with a photo of how happy I was for my hat to be brought in rather than a mopey one because honestly my hat is a part of who I am visually!
If you are in the UK and need someone to talk to, call The Samaritans on 116 123.