I suppose sometimes in life it’s easy to take things for granted. To get lost in your own world. I mean, why shouldn’t you? It’s your life after all. You just float along, wrapped up in a tight cocoon of self-importance and a belief in your own superiority, aiming to please yourself each and every day. Although it sounds negative, I believe it’s actually a good thing in many ways. It is what drives us to do better, to succeed, to win and to enhance our lives in some way or another. I imagine this selfishness is what has driven many, if not all, the most successful people we know or have heard of throughout history. Now if you are anything like me, you’ll probably be guilty of this too from time to time. And if you haven’t noticed it before, then you are probably more tightly wrapped up in that cocoon than you realise. Regardless of that, I would like to think you will probably be able to relate to this pretty well.
When I was growing up, maybe not as much a child, but certainly as an early teenager from the ages of 14 and up, I remember feeling an enormous pressure to look or be a certain way. Society tells us that we must have good skin and perfect teeth. We must go to the gym regularly and eat healthy meals, as obviously body fat is a big no-no. We must have the latest brand name plastered across our T-shirts and on-trend trainers. And if you don’t, then you should be embarrassed and banished to the realms of the un-cool or socially awkward. Sound familiar? Well, I think that at least for me these pressures got even worse as I grew older. I can remember quite distinctly as I entered my late teens and early twenties these societal demands grew stronger, drastically more expensive and quite frankly much harder to achieve. It went from clothes, trainers and the type of music I chose to listen to, to cars, property and luxury holidays. There was a sudden shame placed upon still living at home with your parents or being unable to drive or not owning a car or whether or not you can afford to go to Ibiza and buy €15 bottles of water.
I feel as the years went on the momentous rise in social media had a massive effect on this. If I were to say most people I know spend almost all day on social media, I would probably be understating the issue. In fact in the first 20 minutes of writing this opening few paragraphs I have already checked my phone three times. The problem is that it can cause us to disconnect from the people and events around us and consistently creates perceptions of what life should be like or how it is for other people and it makes us obsessed about material things. Again, similar to our naturally selfish desires it is not necessarily a bad thing. If it inspires you to train harder or work harder or educate yourself more, then I am all for it. However, there is a fine line between a hunger for more and an underappreciation of what you already have or what’s really needed. The problem is most people only learn this the hard way and I was unfortunate enough to be one of them.
At around the age of 21 I started getting quite ill. It mostly consisted of really strong stomach cramps and quite severe bloating. This led to multiple visits to the doctor and hospital on a regular basis. Then at the prime age of 24 years old after two or three years of progressively feeling unwell, my problems finally came to a head and my world was turned upside down. I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. If you have never heard of this condition before don’t worry because neither had I. I spent a lot of time researching the disease and educated myself as much as I could. My only problem was that most of the information I read online was based on medical facts. Although there are forums where people can speak about their condition, I never really found anything that truly told the story of what it was like to live with this horrible condition. Suddenly all of my material desires faded away. Everything I used to believe about life changed. I quickly realised just how little importance anything in life has if you haven’t got your health.
I decided to write this book to share my experience and to give hope to anybody else going through this or something similar – there is a light at the end of the tunnel. This is the story of my journey through sickness, diagnosis and treatment to a new-found wisdom and understanding of life that I will otherwise never have experienced, from my lowest point all the way to where I am today. There is always more than meets the eye.