Survival instincts.

“When the body goes through what you’ve been through, there is a place it goes to that means no one can get in. You surround yourself with yourself and don’t let anyone else in. It’s a survival instinct the body uses when you’ve been put through such stress.”

This is what I was told happens after a surgical procedure like the one I’ve just been through. I went to a very dark place. I felt no love, no joy, no excitement. It was a short time, but it will be an extremely raw memory for quite some time. You see, I’ve just had my stoma reversed. This involves a surgery that re-opens my original scar down my stomach. The surgeons take my stoma (the end of my small intestine) and join it together with my large intestine. I decided to have an epidural, which would numb my stomach and allow me to be out of pain, but still quite coherent. However, as the rest of my body was untouched by the painkillers, I could feel everything. This would have been alright had I been pain free, but I began to experience referred pain in my ribs and shoulders. Referred pain occurs after the diaphragm has been irritated, a possible bit of blood or air has escaped and causes excruciating pain in the shoulders. This is because when the body is being formed in the uterus, the diaphragm and the shoulders are created at the same time. Therefore the pain experienced in the diaphragm is felt in the shoulders. I can tell you now, I have an extremely high pain threshold. I’ve taught myself to breathe through painful experiences and mentally take myself somewhere else. But this referred pain is so brutally agonising that I couldn’t cope. Each intake of breathe had me screaming my heart out, verbally inflicting my agony on anyone who was listening. It was so exhausting that it left me invalid for the rest of the day. I struggled to keep my eyes open, I couldn’t talk, walk or interact with anyone. It completely consumed me. The doctors decided to put me on morphine to combat the pain, but morphine is a very sinister drug. It slithers through your body, wrapping its morbid, slender fingers tightly around any ounce of normality left inside of you. It is a killer disguised in drug formation, ready and waiting to enter your nervous system, slowly suffocating your senses. One. By. One. For me, pride was the first to go. I no longer cared if I fell asleep whilst someone was talking to me, I had collapsed in on myself, not hearing the people around me. It was clouding my vision, my never ending sense of positivity. Second to pride was my trust. I was beginning not to trust the people around me. When the nurses tried to get me to sit in my chair, I didn’t trust that they would look after me. I didn’t trust that the doctors believed the pain I was in. But the worst thing was, I no longer trusted my body. I didn’t trust it to accept the reversal. I didn’t trust it to continue breathing by itself. I was battling my way through an internal war which was both physically and mentally exhausting. Last to leave was my sense of hope. My hope for a normal life began to trickle through my fingers. I blamed my body for failing me, I blamed my doctors for not spotting Crohns quicker and I blamed myself for whatever I had done to deserve this hell. The morphine was succeeding in it’s quest to completely quell my hunger for life. But after one particularly awful afternoon, something clicked…and it wasn’t my morphine button. I decided that I’d had enough, I put aside the morphine button and fell asleep. In the morning when I woke up sore, instead of reaching for the drugs, I got myself up and walked to the toilets. It was painful, yes. But I could feel the suffocating sensation starting to subside. I started on my breathing techniques; in, out, in, out. Gradually, things became less terrifying. I began taking baby steps, at first it was walking to the toilet by myself, then having a shower standing up, and then finally! The grand awakening of my anus…my first poo! Albeit it was a little painful, odd and ground shudderingly noisy; the smile was on my face for hours. I felt I’d climbed a mountain and accomplished the biggest challenge of all, I was one step away from shuffling through the corridors at my top speed of 0.1mph, wheeling along my drip stand and screaming at the top of my lungs, “I’ve just done a poo!” Things were finally going my way and I felt my usual sense of hope, pride and trust returning. My motto was fresh on my mind and I was determined to get myself fit and healthy and start living my life again. After a week of being in hospital, I was allowed home. Now I’m resting, writing and breathing. I’m living. things are going to take time, I’ve been thrown back a couple of steps, but soon I’ll be sprinting ahead, taking the world by storm. It’s lovely going to the toilet again, and ironically my first fart was like a breathe of fresh air. I keep touching my stomach to check if I need to empty my bag, but I don’t ever want that to stop, each time I touch my stomach is a reminder of what I’ve overcome, and I am so, so proud.

“there on my stomach is a map of the roads that I have travelled. Like wrinkles upon a smiling face, they tell a tale of a life. A life of joy, and a life of laughter. But most of all a life well lived.”