It's a shame...
It’s an emotion that we don’t talk about a lot. When I think back to nursery school we learned the song “If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands”, Oscar the Grouch taught us about being mad and there were lots of stories about being sad and crying. Shame was not in the top 10 list of emotions. What would the corresponding action be? Hide in the corner and get depressed?
While writing my memoir, I thought a lot about the feelings of shame I had as a child and young adult in relation to my ileostomy. The author Brené Brown encapsulated it very well when she wrote, “shame is easily understood as the fear of disconnection. Is there something about me that, if they know it or see it, I won’t be worthy of connection?” She also suggests that it is very hard for shame and empathy to co-exist. As I wrote my book, it became apparent to me that it was the fear of disconnect from my peers that drove me to be secretive about the bag on my abdomen. Shame didn’t rule my life, but it was always lingering in the background with regards to the function of my bag. The shame I felt was diluted by the empathy, acceptance and understanding I received from my family and the few friends I did take into my confidence. As I matured and grew more confident and trusting, the secrecy that had limited me in my earlier life was replaced with more and more openness. By being more open, I was rewarded with more understanding, and felt less ashamed.
I’ve had my ostomy for 40 years now and don’t worry about people’s reaction to my bag anymore.
It’s a pity I didn’t figure it out sooner, but it’s hard to blame my younger self, and I think I did what I needed to do at the time. The shame game is no fun and I don’t want to play it anymore.
p.s. if you want to see images of a young lovely with an ostomy, visit https://uncoverostomy.org/ A whole other blog post is needed to explain about how gobsmacked I felt when I found this website a year and a half ago!