This is a more personal post than my usual offering. The last 6 weeks have tested me beyond measure. So as the essence of this blog is using writing to enhance mental well-being then write about it I shall.
On the 2nd June I underwent major pelvic reconstructive surgery. The result of this surgery was that a large amount of my intestine was removed leaving me with a permanent ileostomy. An ileostomy is where the small intestine is diverted through an opening in the abdomen. Waste (or poo) is then collected into a bag placed over the ileostomy.
This was a planned surgery, however I think I was slightly naive as to just how tough mentally and physically it would be. Unfortunately there were post operative complications due to blood loss, low blood pressure and infection. I was in intensive care for a while and 6 weeks on I feel that my recovery is only just beginning.
Tears and isolation!
Due to covid I was unable to have visitors for the first 7 days and after that only 1 person could visit. This is exceptionally testing when the presence of loved ones is vital for comfort and strength.
Although the restrictions were completely necessary, they made the experience quite a lonely and at times frightening one. It is a vulnerable place to reside, in a hospital bed, weak and in pain. For a person who likes to be in control, relying on the expertise of others to keep me alive was a real emotional challenge. I cried like a lost child, a lot! It isn’t a place I would return to in a hurry.
Time heals all wounds?
As much as I want to put it all behind me and forget it really isn’t that simple. For a start I have a permanent reminder of a bag attached to my tummy. That in itself takes some getting used to. Also there is the exhaustion that follows major surgery, building my stamina back up is going to take a while. It is all quite raw, mentally and physically.
Time isn’t the best healer. You are.Nandini
I accept that with time I will heal. The physical scars will become part of my story and the trauma will fade enough to manage. However it is important I do all I can to ease myself get through this turbulent season. Which means, self-care, compassion, time and lots more self-care. Oh and did I mention self-care??
Does self care really help?
There are so many positives in offering ourselves care it would be impossible to list them all. Here are a few of the benefits to whet your appetite! Please feel free to download my self-care flash-cards at the end of this post to get you started or enhance your existing journey of nurture and love.
We all need and deserve it!
Physical health improves
Respecting our bodies by supplying a healthy diet, exercise and sleep are fundamental acts of self care. Giving our systems the best of the best helps them to flourish. The human body is truly a marvel and definitely worthy of love and care.
Enhances emotional well-being
Even the smallest acts such as making your bed in the morning and practicing good sleep hygiene can make us feel happier. Self compassion can help to boost our self-esteem too and is a great habit to learn and incorporate into our lives. Every small expression of self care can lift mood so turning these acts into habits is absolutely worthwhile! You can read more about the value showing self compassion in my Dear Jenny blog.
Reminds us of our worth
Our thoughts can be critical and harsh, particularly with low mood. By practicing self care we can introduce a new belief system that tells us we are important and deserve care, respect and love. The more we offer ourselves care the more our self worth will grow. Reaching out to loved ones for support is an act of self care that should never be underestimated. I find asking for help incredibly difficult but I am getting better at it. Accepting genuine care and support from others is uplifting to all involved.
It is empowering
Feelings of powerlessness are a common aspect of depression so making positive choices around our self care gives us back some control. When we feel in charge our resilience and self esteem improve. This is a powerful gift and it is well within our reach.