You’ve got to Get In to Get Out—How Facing my Fears has Helped Me Heal.


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For 15 years, I have been shying away from sharing my story.

In 2003, I was diagnosed with an advanced form of a rare chronic disease called syringomyelia, in which the grey matter of the spinal cord erodes, creating a fluid-filled cavity within the spinal cord, known as a syrinx. I was told that there was a good chance I would die on the operating table. There was also a good chance I would never be able to walk again. Even if I survived the necessary surgery and could walk, I would still be living with this disease.

At 31 years old, that news was a lot to take in. Thanks to the deep spiritual work I have done over the past 15 years, I am able to see my disease as my gift, as my greatest teacher. A painful teacher, yes, but the most important teacher in my life.

Almost anyone I meet on the street that I share just a piece of my story with says, “Curtis, you have to share your story.” I knew I had to, but recurring anxiety and depression stopped me. I knew I needed a nudge to move forward. I needed help.

And, as synchronicity would have it, Heather Box and the Million Person Project appeared before me one day and presented the opportunity to attend a six-month story coaching program. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the $3,000 required to attend. I was surviving on social security, and all of my funds and attention had been going toward alleviating the symptoms of my disease. I was merely surviving day-to-day. I already had a stack of medical bills I could not afford to pay. And then of course, there was my pride, something I knew I needed to reel back in.

The solution was to ask for help and to be vulnerable—two things I really didn’t want to do because they made me uncomfortable. Along with Heather’s suggestion, my intuition told me to start a GoFundMe campaign. I could engage my precious collection of social media contacts to help me fund my participation in the program.

I don’t think there was a greater fear within me. It felt so uncomfortable to reach out in that regard, and I imagined there would be no turning back once the action was taken. I wondered if this was indeed the time for such a drastic action. I never thought in a million years that I would do a crowd-funding campaign. Perhaps if I was stranded in some foreign country and it was life or death and there was no other possibility, I might have considered it, begrudgingly. Yet now was the time to take this leap of faith.

So I took the leap, organized the crowd-funding campaign successfully, and am currently receiving training. By launching the campaign and sitting in the vulnerability of asking others for help, I realized and integrated an important life lesson:

You’ve got to get in to get out.

This is the healer’s understanding, a practice I embrace and integrate on my journey: going into the fear and pain in order to get to the other side.

We need to learn to stay with what disturbs us, and learn to move toward it. This is usually a sign of the deeper work we need to do for our growth, for our healing, for the change we so desperately seek to experience within ourselves and in the world around us.

Culturally and socially, we tend to avoid this work, for this is where the shadow lurks. It can be a rather uncomfortable, volatile, and reactive energy to work with, but it is within this work we often find the most transformative and sometimes miraculous types of healing and transformation.

In the Kalama Sutta, Buddha teaches us not to take anyone’s word at face value. He emphasizes the importance of taking action on what you find worthy and determining its efficacy amidst your own experience.

There are so many things that inhibit us. Perhaps it’s a conversation with someone you have been avoiding, where communicating a need and expressing a vulnerability is something you have been shirking. Perhaps it’s taking a chance on something that frightens you, or maybe it’s showing up for something that is unsettling. It could take the form of asking for a raise, signing up for an audition, asking someone out on a date, jumping out of plane, being in a room with spiders—whatever it may be, we all have fears.

Learning to go into these feelings when the opportunity presents itself, to stay with them and take inspired action while having them serve as a guide can lead to a different outcome. It can lead to a different way of being and the deep healing we all seek.

As I heard a friend and teacher, Rick Jarow, recently say, “Dare to to see problems as stepping stones to more dynamic solutions.”

Having different experiences and experiencing different outcomes with the discomfort we feel is where the power of this wisdom and transformation may prove itself.

For me, doing this crowd-funding campaign and sharing my story has been an important step in integrating a healing perspective and moving toward the fear I feel, rather than away from it.

What is that step for you? What fear can you move toward today?


Author: Curtis John Mitchell
Image: Elephant Journal on Instagram
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Copy & Social Editor: Nicole Cameron


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Curtis John Mitchell

Curtis John Mitchell is a wounded healer, Shamanic practitioner, a Mahasati Meditation practitioner, and a life coach. He holds certifications as a Talat Healing practitioner and Reiki Master and teacher, as well as a psychology degree from Syracuse University. He has studied the Alexander Technique for many years amidst many other healing modalities in his 15-year quest to alleviate personal suffering. Connect with him on Instagram.

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Curtis John Mitchell Jun 1, 2018 5:15am

Indeed it does Vonalis Pina Vonni, and you're welcome!! :)

Curtis John Mitchell Jun 1, 2018 5:07am

You're Welcome Louisa Wu!! :)

Vonalis Pina Vonni May 25, 2018 8:31pm

It takes a village to heal, it takes courage, it takes constant checkin in so that we don’t put ourselves in the victim role. Your story gives strength to us as we walk our own healing path. Thank you for putting it out there, thank you for walking the path.

Louisa Wu May 23, 2018 6:49pm

Thank you for sharing your story with us! So powerful. And we can definitely learn more about how to move through our fears.

Curtis John Mitchell May 5, 2018 5:52pm

You're welcome brother, and thank you!

Curtis John Mitchell May 5, 2018 3:04am

Thank you Sharon!

Sharon Alberti Ballard May 4, 2018 11:03pm

Well written! Some people say, "Face your fears." I say, "Punch it in its face!" I'm not agressive, but I am strong, like you. Congratulations. Love your photo and beautiful background! God bless.

Tim Love Lee May 4, 2018 2:20am

Amen brother Curtis, and thanks for the reminder ! So easy for me to side step the things that really frighten me....

Curtis John Mitchell May 3, 2018 11:11pm

You’re welcome Heather. 😊🙏🏻 And you were right, the truth really will set us free!

Heather Box May 3, 2018 3:35pm

Thank you for sharing Curtis. Your story is healing to me!!

Curtis John Mitchell May 2, 2018 10:35pm

You’re welcome Lena. Thank you 🙏🏻❤️

Lena Marchese May 2, 2018 7:58pm

Beautiful words. Very much needed. Thank you so much <3

Curtis John Mitchell May 2, 2018 8:14am

Your welcome Katharina. Yes! Healing in a truly amazing way amidst it all. 🙏🏻

Katharina Kneip May 2, 2018 5:02am

Soo true...going into the fear and pain to get to the other side and embracing all of the journey including the shaddows! Thank you for inspiring....hope you are healing!g🙏

Curtis John Mitchell May 1, 2018 9:12pm

Thank you for receiving me in this way Lucia. I meant so very much to inspire you today!!

Curtis John Mitchell May 1, 2018 9:11pm

Thank you Robina Riccitiello. I'm really looking forward to sharing the next pieces with you. Its becoming such an exciting story of the healing one finds within.

Curtis John Mitchell May 1, 2018 9:09pm

Thank you Laya Raznick. I love the quote, such perfect wisdom!

Curtis John Mitchell May 1, 2018 9:07pm

You're welcome Sofia Pereira. Thank you for inspiring me me with yours, I am still so inspired in the best of ways by your Ted Talk!

Lucia Rodriguez May 1, 2018 8:49pm

What you share helps me a lot. Learning to face fear... what you wrote inspires me. Thanks!

Robina Riccitiello May 1, 2018 5:30pm

Thanks for sharing this. I'm really inspired by your honesty and your willingness to share your story. I want to hear more. I hope you'll write again soon and tell us more about your work.

Laya Raznick May 1, 2018 4:55pm

"That's not a door, it's a window!" Thanks for your story Curtis John Mitchell

Sofia Pereira May 1, 2018 4:26pm

Thank you for sharing your journey with us!