When making changes in life, it’s easy to quickly forget about how things used to be so I’m making an effort to remember how things used to be in order to make an informed decision in the future whether I continue to irrigate.

Since having my new bum fitted, I have struggled in a number of different ways including dealing with how I feel about making the decision in the first place. One of the reasons for this could be a lack of appreciating where I once was with Crohn’s and how bad things were. By not appreciating just how difficult life was becoming it’s proved difficult to appreciate where I am right now.

Having made another big decision (albeit not as life-changing) to start colostomy irrigation, I’m conscious about making an effort to remember the difficulties I was experiencing whilst wearing the bag.

First irrigation so had to improvise with a coat hanger.

I’ve only had three irrigations so it’s extremely early in the process and I’m committed to trialling it for a few months to see if it’s for me but in order to realise the benefits of irrigating I need to look at the issues I was experiencing. Without doing this exercise I hope to fully appreciate how it could be helping me.

How the Bag Used to Control Me

Prior to irrigating, i.e. the beginning of this week, I would wake up during the night and one of the first things I would do would be to feel whether there was anything in the bag. Not very often would it be empty but the amount of waste in the bag would vary. Depending on how much would be in there I would have to make a decision on whether I needed to change it.

The decision could be based on pure laziness of not wanting to get out of bed in the middle of the night to change it, to worrying that if I changed it it would fill up again so leaving it to try and time the change right.

Ballooning bag

Quite often the bag would balloon with wind and I’d be faced with another dilemma about how to deal with it. And on rare occasions the bag would fill up whilst sleeping, pancake and then leak. Whether that would soil the bed would depend on how much was produced.

If I got through the night ok, I’d always change the bag but fairly frequently the bag would start to fill up in the two hours between leaving the house, going for a coffee, visiting the nurse for a dressing change and commuting to work. In that 2 hours I would be faced with the decision of whether I change it, and hope it doesn’t fill up again, or hold on and wait until I got to work and change it there. This was like taking a calculated risk which could backfire (what if smells started emanating from it on the train). Having the bag filling up in that 2 hour window meant I was constantly monitoring it and therefore constantly thinking about it.

When leaving work and heading somewhere like the gym, cinema or out with friends, I would change the bag, even if there was a small amount in there. This was never an issue and I didn’t mind doing it, but it would be nice not having to do it.

Woah, There’s a Lot Going on There

Only after writing those things down do I realise that there was a lot of things that was making the whole experience of having a colostomy bag unpleasant. It was becoming a huge feature of my life – 24 hours a day! I would either be constantly thinking about it, or trying to make decisions on what to do with it if there was wind or waste in the bag. The goal of having the bag was to not think about it.

Reflecting On My Concerns With Irrigating

Prior to embarking on the colostomy irrigation journey, I was almost exclusively focused on the effort involved in performing the irrigation rather than thinking about all of the negative aspects of having the colostomy bag that I was experiencing being resolved. Only when I took time to reflect on all the bad things that I was experiencing did I realise that it was in control of my life. I was almost a slave to the bag.

So Far, So Good

I’ve quickly realised that it’s quicker then I thought. When times were quoted about how long it would take, I presumed that was the actual process of the water going in and coming out but it involves the setup and cleaning up afterwards. I’m still very new to this but the entire process is taking 35 minutes and I can still do other parts of my morning routine when I’m waiting for the water to come out.

Back in Control

After just three irrigations, and realising how things have quickly changed, right now I can’t see why I wouldn’t continue to irrigate. By irrigating I have regained control!

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Diagnosed with IBD in 2002, I have experienced the usual ups and downs of having a chronic disease and tried numerous medications but the time finally came in 2018 to elect to have surgery to improve my life. I had the surgery in 2019 and this is my journey having a 'New Bum'.

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