It was in the hospital, right before my first surgery that I was first really faced with the idea of telling my story. The doctor had just explained my surgery—how they would remove my entire colon and temporarily replace that system with an external pouch called an ostomy. One of my first thoughts was: I don’t want anyone to know about this. It was scary and unknown and honestly sounded kind of weird. I was ok with people knowing I had surgery, but I didn’t really want them to fully understand what that meant. That now I had this weird piece of intestine coming out of my body (sorry, too graphic?) and an external pouch for collecting waste (I’m sorry, this is really graphic).
I’ve always been a writer and storyteller. I love to share my experiences and to process the world through words. But I imagined my story would be a clever novel that veiled my reality in a thin layer of fiction—a novel about love and identity and growing up. I certainly didn’t imagine that it would be about surgeries, autoimmune diseases with awkward symptoms, or ostomies that according to pop culture belong in hospitals and retirement homes.
It’s been quite a few years since that first thought and I’ve come a long way. I have been immensely encouraged by other people who had gone through similar experiences and were open and honest and raw. I’ve had time to deal with what happened and to come to terms with my ever-changing anatomy. Along the way I learned that telling my story is powerful, healing, and inspiring.
Last summer as I stood on the beach in Mexico with my husband in a two-piece(!) swimsuit with (some) of my scars visible, I thought yes. This is it. I want to tell stories and to help other women tell theirs—the scars, the triumphs, the tears, the joys. Because whether they’re with words, photos, designs, or songs, these stories are worth telling.
Your stories don’t need to be heroic or terrible or amazing. They just need to be yours. Here are 3 compelling reasons why you should share your story. Whatever that story may look like.
- To process experiences. Life is messy. And hard. And beautiful. Telling your story is such an impactful and healing way to process your emotions, and to work through your experiences. It’s a way to come to terms with your choices or circumstances, and find a way to move forward.
- As an act of worship. I took a class last year with Ann Swindell on The Influence Network and she said something about writing that really stuck with me. “If you spent your whole life writing and the only person to ever see it was God, would that be enough?” This is such a radical way to think about the act of creating. Whether you send your story out into the world or not, think about how that process can be an act of worship. Praising God for the places he has led your life, and praying for his guidance in working through that.
- To inspire and encourage others. This seems like the most obvious effect of sharing your story, but it’s such a powerful one. Through reading other women’s accounts of living with an ostomy or adjusting to a J-Pouch (my current anatomical reconfiguration) or just dealing with unexpected hardships, I was able to come to terms with my life. I’ve been pointed away from myself and towards God by the moving records of faithful women. I found strength and encouragement in the words of others, and it’s something that inspires me to keep writing, to keep sharing.
Sometimes sharing your story is hard, but that messy process is worth the prize. Have you found healing in sharing your experiences, or been inspired by reading someone else’s?