I was hoping that I would never have to make this post, but it’s officially been two years with a feeding tube. I’ve talked about how frustrating living with a tube can be and also how it is a life-saving medical device that provides me with hydration, medication, and nutrition. But, I haven’t discussed how having a feeding tube affects me in social settings.
Now that I am in college, I’m interacting with a lot of new people, and I’ve noticed a big difference in the way I am treated when the feeding tube is showing vs. when it’s hidden. More people walk up to me and interact when the tube isn’t showing. This is not ideal, but it’s reality. Unfortunately, I have to run my feeds to get nutrients, so the tube is usually the first thing people see.
There is so much more to me and my personality than just my feeding tube and disability. When getting to know people, I’d much rather them see me as a student who loves science and the beach than “the tube girl.”
The majority of the time that I have had a feeding tube has been while bed-bound, so being a student and out and about with a fanny pack strapped to me and a tube hanging out of my stomach is foreign.
Social settings revolve around food more often than not which once again puts me in an odd predicament. When I am trying to make friends they usually want to grab coffee or go to dinner which makes things awkward for me. I could explain that my stomach doesn’t work properly and feel pitied and broken, or simply go and order nothing and get concerned questions.
To put it simply, I’m still figuring out how to feel confident and be social with a feeding tube. I know deep down that it is nothing to hide or be embarrassed by. While grateful for my tube, but I’ll be so happy the day that I no longer need a feeding tube to survive.