A few weeks ago I decided to literally bare all and tell the authentic truth about my battle with ulcerative colitis, life saving operations and living with an ileostomy bag.
I’m pleased to say it’s now had over 900k views. But why did I do it? After all, I didn’t have to – it was a hidden illness, and I could have gone through life keeping it a secret
The truth is that earlier this year I felt really low. I was at points – completely miserable. And I couldn’t work out why. I had got my life back, I was grateful to be alive. I had completed that journey of piano from scratch, being fully booked as a coach and living my life purpose. I couldn’t understand why something just felt wrong.
I decided to seek professional advice and talk to someone. I saw this as a strength, not a weakness. If I have the self awareness to know that I need help, then I’m happy to do something about it.
I told the therapist my full story and he said to me, ‘So you’ve been through all that, and you’re basically keeping that under wraps and not telling anyone’ He continued ‘You’ve been through the most transformative time in your life, you have a lot of things you’ve learnt from that time, and you’re keeping that all locked in so it’s no wonder you feel an internal conflict’
It hit me like a ton of bricks, with the realisation that not only was I still very uncomfortable and defensive about talking about the subject, but that I had not been showing up in the world in a true authentic way. I tried to just pretend my past didn’t happen to me, instead of having positive meaning to my story and using my story for the greater good.
He congratulated me on my career success but said to me I was ‘way too orientated outwards thinking external success would heal what’s inside me’ and he was absolutely right, no amount of external success will ever fix you internally. That was a huge awakening for me.
He quoted me the quote they use for alcoholics anonymous ‘You’re only as sick as your secrets’ and sent me off with a book recommendation of Brene Browns ‘Power of Vulnerability’
I contemplated what he’d said for the weeks and months to come, and I couldn’t believe how true everything was.
My story had become a burden of secrecy. I had a sense of ‘shame’ around it all. I would show up in the world and meet new people, really just as a ‘character’ and not my true authentic self. And it was really tiring.
The politically correct thing to say would be ‘I did it all to inspire others’ but that’s not true. It was probably a 50-50 combo of doing it for others and doing it for me.
In the end though these things are not separate. Instead, they work together in a full circle and come back around to always heighten each-other in a positive way.
By bringing meaning to others, it in turn gives you fulfilment. And by sharing your true story it in turn helps others. It’s a beautiful full circle.
I’m glad I did it. I feel like everything that came out of it was a positive. I can’t tell you how emotional I was reading every one of the thousands of comments and inboxes I received. It was truly amazing to know that I could help other people with their journey.
I received so many beautiful messages from people saying things like ‘I’ve had the ileostomy bag, and been really lacking confidence in my life – you’ve shown me I can still go out and live my best life’ or ‘I have been told that I am going to have to have the ileostomy bag, and I was dreading it, but after seeing your video, I know I will be ok now’
My story that I had kept secret was now bigger than myself. It had now been used for the greater good and brought meaning to others. I feel a weird sense of calmness and meaning that maybe now it was all meant to be. Maybe I was meant to have the ileostomy bag all along so that I could share this story.
And if you’re reading this wondering if you should share your truth, I would say, yes, but you don’t have to do it the way I did. It’s a game of incredible self awareness and what’s right for you. It could be blogging about it, telling more close friends, discussing your truth on an online forum connecting with others, writing in a private journal, maybe publish a real book, or social media. It’s whatever you feel comfortable with and whatever is best for you. If in doubt, get advice from a professional and take small steps first.
But just make sure you’re not storing up your truth in a way that is detrimental to your life.
I hope my story inspired you on some level. You don’t have to have ulcerative colitis to understand it. I hope that it’s a story of overcoming adversity which we can, or will, all relate to at some-point.
Even if I don’t know you, or we will never meet, I hope that in some small way I have made your life a bit better.
17th October 2019
Christopher David Mitchell