As a child I knew I was different, growing up knowing I was gay caused me many problems including serious depression and self-hatred. I grew up in a very stereotypical small northern town, people lived a very ‘normal’ life: marriage, two kids, very working class and down the pub three nights a week. I wasn’t ‘that’ guy, I hated normal. I knew I wanted more and I wanted to live my life being true to who I was as an openly gay man. I wanted to feel safe, loved and accepted.
From a child I craved love – an emotion we all desire, but finding it can be pretty tough. Love can be beautiful, rewarding and satisfying, but it can also be incredibly challenging.
It’s only natural to want to find that person to spend the rest of our lives with, that true, unconditional love with no judgement, no ulterior motives, no personal agenda – they want you, stoma and all.
I’ve had four serious relationships prior to the amazing one I’m in now. I know I’m going to marry this man, and we’ll live the rest of our lives side by side. I have no doubt Simon is my true love, it’s effortless, rewarding, fun, sexual and the most loving connection I’ve experienced and this is due to us both being ready.
It wasn’t easy to achieve this though; I feel like I’ve been through hell and back to get to this point. I’ve had awful dates, there’s been shocking decisions and a huge amount of bad luck, and my confidence was really low – even before bowel surgery! So, imagine what it was like when I awoke to find a bag stuck on my front. I was a very broken man laid in tears in a hospital bed thinking no one would ever want me now.
The stoma surgery was immensely tough to handle, and I very rapidly lost most my muscle mass, the weight dropped off and I become a shadow of my former self.
In my last blog you’ll have read that I moved to London and experienced being a gay man living in a culture and city full of judgmental, self-righteous, toxic, validation-seeking desperate guys. The pressures to look amazing, never show weakness and always be better than everyone else is unreal, London is the worst environment I’ve ever known so of course you build a huge layer of muscle, try and look your best and hope to get the right attention to trudge through the masses to find a man you can love and who loves you back.
I find London similar to a Venus flytrap, it looks all sweet and attractive, but it sucks people in and spits them out as lonely, over-worked, trapped and stressed. Even if you make a six-figure salary it doesn’t mean life is easy, it’s yet another form of pressure.
Luckily my last main relationship lasted over nine years. Most of the time it was very good, but these pressures really damaged our connection, we grew apart and chose to spilt-up. That was five years ago and it was the best choice long-term. We are fortunately close friends now. I tried to date afterwards and had a little relationship for a few months, but I just wasn’t ready, too many insecurities and negative people around me, I hadn’t emotionally matured enough or got over my ex.
As time went on, I became happier in myself, my self-worth started to increase, the influence of external factors were well managed, I wasn’t desperate for someone to make me happy, I knew that I would have to properly love myself before I could love anyone else or I would attract the wrong person who I would count on to make me happy.
It was a freak accident that left me fighting for my life, a ruptured bowel quickly started to poison my body and within 12 hours I was on the operating table undergoing major bowel surgery.
I was told I would come out of surgery with a stoma. I had no real idea what a stoma was, but I knew it was a necessary evil to save my life. As you can imagine that last thing on my mind at that point was finding the love of my life, however very quickly after the op the realisation hit hard, why the hell would anyone ever want a relationship with someone who has a stoma?
Why would anyone want me now I have a stoma?
As we all know there is no real beauty in a stoma, it’s some odd shaped red thing that dangles in and out of your belly, its smells, it’s covered in shit and we have to wear a pouch to catch the poop. Personally I think it’s ugly, why would anyone want to be with someone who can’t control when they poop? It gets in the way of everything and that’s before we even get on to the pain and anxiety fuelled by the discomfort it can cause.
However, I’ve never experienced negativity about my stoma from others, I’ve never been judged by anyone else for it which made me realise it was me who had the problem.
My self- perception was causing the issues. It was all about how I perceived myself, I wasn’t the gay perfection everyone expected, the pressures I’d put on myself for years were my own downfall.
Very quickly I began to get a grip, I had a choice to either let the stoma beat me or use it to my advantage, learning and growing from every experience I endured, from changing the stoma in a tiny toilet in some restaurant to having sex with a bag hanging off my front. No judgement from my boyfriend, just love. And that love came because I started to love myself. Yeah, having a stoma is a pain, but it doesn’t define who we are.
When you truly love someone, you love every cell in their body, every little bit unconditionally, from there daft tantrums to the way they make scrambled eggs.
Simon is the only person apart from the medical team to see my stoma (Flipper) and it is what it is.
Self-awareness and self-perception play a huge part in helping our self-worth. Understanding yourself and your impact on others will help you manage so many different situations including dealing with horrendous surgeries or trauma. Developing these skills takes time, it’s not natural for most and getting to this level takes a lot of self-reflection and personal learning.
It takes years of experience, lots of challenging times and a few difficult situations to enable you to really understand how to deal with the shit life throws at us. Every experience contributes to who we are today.
When you finally realise how special you are, you will find love. It will happen, no searching, no desperation… manage your insecurities and love will come to you. Remember having a stoma helps build you as a person, it does not dictate what you are!
“Remember, having a stoma helps build you as a person, it does not dictate what you are!”@swfitnesslondon