Tuesday, February 28, 2012
When I was leaving school for the summer last year, I distinctly remembering feeling more beautiful than I had ever. Not in some vain/external way, but as I looked in the mirror, I just felt whole and complete and like everything was right. And mostly, I feel that way all the time - I don’t blink at my ostomy, I expect it on my belly.
And for a long time - until last night - I thought that I was fighting a stigma. And that was heavy enough, let alone what I discovered last night.
The scene goes as follows: I had just left my evening class, and was waiting for the subway when I heard my name and turned to see my professor from that class behind me. Of course we started talking and I asked him a question. It’s my creative writing class, and for my final submission, I’m writing a story about a girl with an ostomy (a story I’ve been wanting to write for a while). I asked if I should tell the class about what it is, to which he quickly said no, I countered that I didn’t want to spend time in the story explaining the medical technicalities. We boarded the subway, continuing to talk, and I could tell by his kind, albeit blank, stare that the poor man had no idea what I was talking about. “Do you know what an ostomy is?” I asked gently. He grinned, “No.”
Ah, the weight of the world! We seemed to be tasked with educating and fighting a stigma. I explained it to him, quietly hoping that the bystanders on the subway might be listening and getting educated too, and there were certain keywords that got a visceral reaction out of him, i.e. ‘intestine’, ‘no colon’. I was happy to explain it, but felt deflated at his ignorance.
Today the lull in understanding and insecurity deepened slightly. First, I was sitting in class next to a guy friend when my ostomy decided to sing a bit (aka make random, gurgling noises) and I could see his head swivel in my direction. Oh dear, I thought. He didn’t ask what it was, nor did I lend an explanation - suddenly unsure that ‘Oh, it’s just my ostomy’ would be a meaningless statement. Secondly, I was helping out with a group on campus and I really needed to empty my bag, I could feel it ballooning under my leggings. I was sure that others could tell and tried to hold my hands in front of myself, just in case.
It was the same when I had Crohn’s. There were times when I didn’t need to tell those around me - when I was feeling well - and then times when I was sick and running to the bathroom fifty times a day when an explanation was needed. The line between knowing and ignorance, telling and silence, hope and despair sometimes seem blurry and unmarked.
At the end of the day - I don’t care what others think. I love my ostomy, I love my body, and I wouldn’t change it for the world. But I’m also 20 years old and in college and I fumble with the idea of how to tell a guy - or anyone for that matter - about my ostomy without being too detailed. I know it depends on who it is, what the context is, what our history is, etc and so forth, but still - the question bounces around in my mind.
A blip is just a blip, a bag is just a bag, and life, well, all we can do is live it.