How My Ostomy Gave Me Purpose
In a world with over 7.5 billion people, it is hard not to feel insignificant. From the time I was a small child, I always had this burning desire to do something great with my life but never really knew what that meant or how to achieve it. Once I entered my teenage years, somehow I convinced myself that greatness and success were linked and, in order to be great, I must have a successful career. From that moment on, I became obsessed with that idea and my entire life revolved around that one thought. Every time I did school work, volunteered, or went to work, I wondered how this would better my resume or how it would impact my university/scholarship applications. Now, don’t get me wrong, it is very important for young people to think about their future and take pride in their education. However, these concepts became my identity and, in my mind, I was nothing without them.
At the age of 19, when I was in my second year university, my health took a drastic turn and, seemingly overnight, my life was turned upside down. In just a few months, I went from being a vibrant, healthy young woman, with her whole life ahead of her, to a fragile, sick person who was chained to the toilet. I was in constant pain, my weight began to drop rapidly, and I could actually feel my body weakening. It didn’t take me very long to lose the ability to do most things and eventually, at the age of 20, I became home bound due to intestinal mobility complications. Due to the complexity of my diagnosis and a preexisting autoimmune disease making it impossible to find any viable treatment options, I ended up being home bound for nearly 4 years! In those 1356 days stuck inside my house, I became a shell of the person I once was and I essentially lost everything. I could barely take care of myself, all of friends, and even some family, turned their backs on me, I was unable to work, I was forced to drop out of university, and worst of all, I lost my identity. I felt absolutely worthless! Who was I now? Everyone I knew was moving on with their life, embarking on amazing adventures and achieving various forms of success, while I was living the same miserable day over and over.
It wasn’t until I knew I was getting an ostomy that my perspective started to change. Now that I knew I was getting a second chance at life, I was back to the ever consuming thought about how to make my life meaningful. I was going to have a pouch full of poop strapped to my stomach and a piece of colon sticking out of me, therefore, I couldn’t just write off my health issues as a blip of bad luck and return to my old way of living. I was chronically ill; that meant I would have to be more mindful of my health, I wouldn’t be able to push my body the way I used to, and if I did, I would suffer the consequences of not taking care of myself. Considering I was still home bound prior to ostomy surgery, I had a lot of time to think. The thought nagged me for months: “what am I going to do now?” I never really found an answer to that question until after I recovered from surgery. As I started to regain my freedom, health, and independence, I noticed I had gained a unique perspective from my struggles. I know it sounds a little cliché but I realized that life is too short! I know this saying gets throw around a lot but I believe, in my heart of hearts, that it is almost impossible to truly grasp the full value of life until you are faced with the idea that your life might be over before you’ve reached the legal drinking age in America.
We are taught at such a young age about the “do’s” and “don’ts” by societies standards, what it means to be successful, and what sort of achievements we should have made by a certain age. Go to college, get a job, get married, have two kids; lather, rinse and repeat. The problem is, life isn’t that linear and a majority of people will experience obstacles that prevent them from achieving what they what, or what they are told they should want. I didn’t fail, I overcame! I conquered! I finally got it. I finally understand. Success and greatness was never about social status, money, careers, or grades; having a life in itself is meaningful and gives me purpose! Life gives us all a purpose!