My biggest secret

 

Today I’m going to tell you my biggest secret. I’ve only ever told two people about this. My mother is one of them, and she’d rather I didn’t write about it. But I’m going to anyway. Sorry, Ma.

How it all began

When I was a baby I was in a lot of pain and my parents had to bring me to hospital to discover what was wrong with me. As it turned out, it was something the doctors called testicular torsion. I had been born with my left testicle all twisted up in a knot. The solution was to remove it.

So they did.

When I was about 13 years old and becoming more aware of all that stuff between my legs and sneaking peeks at adult movies and learning about this magical thing called sex, it started to dawn on me that perhaps I was missing something. Knowing I’d had some kind of emergency operation as a baby, I had a brief and awkward conversation with my mother one day in an effort to understand myself a bit better. She indeed confirmed that I only had one where most boys had two.

Balls.

For the next several years, I never spoke of it to anyone. I changed carefully under a towel in the school change rooms, avoided using public showers, and generally made sure nobody saw me naked. I was always terrified that someone would discover my secret, spread the word, and the whole world would laugh at me and my one lonely testicle.

The worst part was dealing with women. Just like any other heterosexual teen, I was fascinated by those exotic creatures who possessed even less testicles than I did. But whenever I had an opportunity to explore my sexual urges with a woman, I held back. I wasn’t willing to trust anyone with my secret, so sex was out.

I was handicapped. I feared getting too close to a woman, so I shied away from intimacy and failed to develop any social skills. Before I knew it I was 20 years old, had little self-esteem, and seemed destined for a life of loneliness and mediocrity. Some nights I would cry myself to sleep, cursing my luck, wondering why I had been dealt such a crappy hand.

Choosing different

I believe it was a few months before my 21st birthday that things began to change. I was never one for horoscopes, but something I read one day for Pisces in the newspaper stuck with me. The words:

There is a pot of gold at the end of your rainbow,

and soon you will find it.

That was all I needed to begin questioning my destiny. I started to wonder if I really had to resign myself to a life of shame and fear. I wondered if maybe there was something I could do about my situation.

Making it happen

I decided not to play the victim anymore. I mustered up some initiative and started brainstorming possible solutions. Cosmetic surgery was an option. I did some research and found a crowd in London who, for the small price of £5,000, were willing to cut open my scrotum, drop in golf ball-sized chunk of silicone, and stitch me back up again. They promised I’d end up looking just like a regular two-testicled tower of testosterone.

Brilliant. Sign me up.

The only problem was that I didn’t have a spare £5k lying around the place. So I spent the next several months working my ass off (Dunnes Stores, baby!) and saving every penny I could get my hands on. I remember not having a single day off for three weeks at one point. I became intensely focused on earning that £5k, looking forward to the day I could afford to have a strange Englishman take a scalpel to my privates.

That day finally came. I believe it was early in the summer of 2003 when I disappeared off to London for a few days and had the operation. Only my mother knew what was happening.

All went according to plan. They knocked me out, doubled me up, and I awoke a little while later in a hospital bed. I recall turning on the TV and watching some basketball before a nurse came in and congratulated me on my new nut.

The next day I returned to Ireland with a little more of a leftward lean. I finally felt like a real man.

No magic pill

The operation didn’t prove to be the solution to all my problems. I was disappointed to find that women still didn’t fall at my feet. I was still a college drop-out, wasting my potential working at a department store. I still didn’t really know who I was or what I wanted to do with my life.

I realized I still had work to do, addressing those deep-rooted self-esteem issues, overcoming years of self-doubt and unlearning habitual negative thought patterns.

But the operation did give me the boost I needed to get my real life underway. I had overcome a huge roadblock, and I began to understand the power I had to create my own reality. All it took was clarity, hard work and persistence.

I soon formulated a new goal to work towards. I decided I wanted to go live in New Orleans, where I could be close to my favorite basketball team and perhaps write about them. After a few years of hard work and persistence, I found myself in that reality, living that dream. Locker room access, a seat on the baseline and thousands of people flocking to the website I created. Good times.

Fast forward to today, and I have yet another goal I’m working towards. I’m setting up my own business which will allow me to do work I’m passionate about while traveling the world indefinitely. I know I can create that reality for myself, as I’ve done twice before.

Over the  years I’ve also managed to chip away at those negative thought patterns. I’ve developed real confidence and have come to trust my gut instincts. I love the person I’ve become and I grow and get to know myself better with each passing month.

What I’ve learned

Looking back, I feel grateful that I had to overcome what I did. For a decade or so I considered myself cursed, but now I look at my “disability” as a gift. Without it, I may never have had reason to dig deep and discover what I’m capable of when I put my mind to something. Not many people believe they can live their dreams, but I know I can. I’m one of the lucky few.

I tell this story now with the hope that others might benefit from hearing it. We all go through some tough times, feeling cursed, wishing things were different. But I’ve come to understand that those challenges and hardships aren’t there to break us. Rather, they exist to help us grow. They force us out of our comfort zone, and that zone expands in the process. We grow stronger, we learn what we’re truly capable of, we become better versions of ourselves.

A couple of years ago, I was still terrified that someone might find out about my secret. I was still fearful of being ridiculed. Now I don’t really care who knows. It’s not a big deal anymore. In fact, it’s a relief to let go and tell everyone. You all know me that much better now. I’m no longer hiding a part of me. It feels good to finally be myself.

A friend of mine unwittingly helped me get to this point, where I’m no longer embarrassed to tell my story. He was diagnosed with testicular cancer a few years back. He had to have one removed before the disease spread. Thankfully, the treatment worked, and he’s now cancer free. What amazed me was how he never tried to hide what happened; instead he decided to embrace the change and have fun with it. He was able to laugh at himself and his one testicle. Nobody could laugh at him, only with him.

I learned from my friend that shame and embarrassment are simply states of mind, and we don’t have to settle for them. We can choose more empowering lenses through which to view the world, and when we make that choice, the world generally responds in kind.

What’s your biggest secret?

What would happen if you were to reveal all? Would it really be that big a deal?

Probably not. I’m guessing the world would keep on spinning, and everyone would eventually get on with their lives. Maybe some folks would laugh at you or hold a grudge, but at least you’d no longer be hiding the real you. The people who really matter would respect that.

Come on. Grow a pair ;-)

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42 Comments

  1. Hey Niall,

    How does it feel to get that off your chest. Your story reminds me of an awesome book, its called Psycho Cybernetics by Maxell Maltz. Dr Maltz was a cosmetic surgeon and over the years he had many clients wanting to ‘improve’ their looks so they could feel more confident about themselves, but what Maltz found was that rarely did cosmetic surgery boost confidence. so he set to work on discovering what would so thus writing that little gem. It is deefinatly worth a read if you havent already.

    bLAZE yOUR tRAIL

  2. Monorchism… now I understand part of what makes you such a lovely person. You don’t have that excess testosterone that makes you dumb. ;) But seriously, just from everything I know about you, I’d already say you have more balls than any guy I know.

    Here’s a little secret of women… the scrotum is the ugliest thing on the human body. We try not to even look at it. And when we do, the less, the better. lol All your insecurities from the condition were for naught. The ladies wouldn’t have cared less.

  3. Great read Niall. It’s a bit sad that people go through life with ‘silly’ secrets that they care so much about, but in truth it’s not gonna matter at all to anyone else, especially friends. Only narrow minded people who like to put others down. Anyway great read. I’m wondering would you have been better in a jornalism course as opposed to multimedia. Lol

    • Thanks, Owen. You’re right: it’s really not that big a deal. I had it built up in my head for a long time, thinking the world would end if anyone found out. Glad I’m past that.

  4. Nice story Niall!

    I would just like to fly a flag for one-balled men :-)

    I had a fine one-balled boyfriend and I assure anyone reading that it was of absolutely no consequence – I’m not sure I would have noticed at all except that he pointed it out. His confident acceptance of it was just another thing that I found attractive about him.

    Of course it’s great that you found your way to this truly exciting call thanks to your monotesticular adventure – but really I think there are infinite and infinitely better ways to spend five grand!

  5. A beautifully written narrative. Your character comes out wonderfully in the telling and I’m even more glad to know you after reading it. While reading, there were two distinct thoughts that came to mind.

    First, a friend of mine developed and fought through two rounds of testicular cancer spaced 13 years apart. During the first round he underwent radiation therapy and had one testicle removed. The second round was much more life-threatening and he had to undergo a course of chemotherapy as well as have his second testicle removed. He survived as did his infectious good humor and his unique ability to embrace others with compassion instead of judgment. Every day he must rub a testosterone cream on his arm in order to maintain the hormone levels in his body, as he does not produce testosterone any longer (well, not sure if he produces absolutely zero, but little enough that he needs more). I have not doubt that my friend battled the same insecurities that you did yourself, but I believe that he knew and loved himself enough that he was able to accept the physical changes in stride. Incidentally, his first diagnosis occurred when he was only 30 years old. A very young man for this type of cancer.

    Second, I was reflecting on how much of a challenge it is to remain emotionally open to the world. It is something I struggle with personally every day and here, Niall, you have confronted this niggling little demon straight on. And the response you have had to your story is a very real one. People will often surprise you, me, and themselves with their capacity for compassion over ridicule or judgment.

    In conclusion: Go on yourself, you ballsy Irishman. :)

  6. Eddie Izzard changed my life. I saw a sketch of his about being a transvestite(TV) when I was in my teens. He hid it for so long and denied it when confronted with it. He was subjected to ridicule and beatings. One day when confronted he wearily replied – “Yes, I’m a transvestite”. People stopped bothering him – “Oh okay” and said no more.

    He laid himself bare, said to those watching – Yes this is who I am. Like me or loath me but this is who I am.

    When I became sick in early twenties I took on Eddie’s approach to my illness. I could have tried to hide away from people’s questions but my illness is so all-encompassing that I would have had to hide away from people completely. So I was open and honest.

    In that time I have had to judge what motivated peoples’ curiosity. Some people are genuinely interested and want to learn more. Others simply view you as an oddity, something to be talked about at the lunch table in work the next afternoon – I met this girl who has X and it does X to her!

    In the main, I have found my honesty has paid off. I have dispensed with shame and fear and met them head on. I have been clear in how my illness affects me, how debilitating it can be, and, most importantly for me, I have never sought sympathy.

    One of my favourite sayings throughout my twenties was “Failure is so liberating” – I have “failed” at so much of what our society holds in esteem. And yet I maintain that I am one of the luckiest people going. Hiding, fear, feeling shame – are precious energy wasted. Go forth and shout your “secrets” from the roof tops!

  7. That sure is an interesting disability. I can see where you are coming from because I experienced the same problems with regards to my autism.

    I was diagnosed with autism when I was around 13/14, but from then until 6 mouths ago (I’m 20 now), I was living in complete denial of the condition, doing everything I could to hide it. I had been largely normal up to that point, how could I possibly be autistic?

    This all changed when I realized that I had been using the condition for my own advantage the whole time. I went completely open, launching my own blog with the intention of inspiring others to do the same.

  8. It is amazing at the things we blame for holding us back, when in the end it is us actually holding ourselves back! I am sad that you had to endure that pain, but I am glad that the experience helped you to realize and grow as a person.

    Peace,

    Annie

  9. Just stumbled across this post and had to post, as a fellow one-balled man. It has affected me at some points but generally I don’t think about it. It has gotten to the point that I just laugh at it now, but I don’t actually talk about it so I’ve never been aware of anyone else having this “problem”. Good to know there are others out there, but when it comes down to it it makes little to no difference.

    Also just have to say that I don’t think you had any thing to worry about on the woman front. No girlfriend past or present were even aware until I told them, it’s apparently not that noticeable. Even when I let them know, it’s never even phased them.

    • Wow, thanks for sharing, Jason.

      You’re right, it really isn’t that big of a deal. The shame and embarrassment was all in my head. If I could go back again, knowing what I know now, I’d put that 5k to better use.

  10. I’m glad everything worked out for the best, Niall, but I have to say, I find the idea of a one-balled man extremely sexy! Funny how the things we consider defects can often be our best features.

  11. Very intriguing article!

    I absolutely admire/like your honesty and integrity :) Don’t know of any dark secrets of me yet, but you would’ve definitely made me take the jump ;) Maybe I should ‘clean out my closet’ :)

    Oh and, guys who are honest and confident, that’s what make them ++rraauwts++ And not one, two or three testicles ;)

  12. Lance Armstrong was able to do a lot without one nut. You should check out his book “Not Without My Bike,” it’s really inspiring.

  13. Hello!

    Niall, I absolutely love you! You overcame a very tough situation, learned to dig deeper, and now look what you’re doing!! :) Living your dream. Love it! And you are so fearless in your blog posts — you just don’t shy away from any topic, do you? You rock.

    Oh, hey, I wrote a book about overcoming secrets. It’s called “Love Your Skeletons” and some people out there might find it helpful — I don’t think you need it! :)

    All the best Niall! I’d love to meet you in person someday, so if/when you travel through northern Canada, you’ve got a couch here!

    Teresa

  14. My biggest secret: on the outside, very successful, went to prestigious schools, did well in terms of career.

    On the inside I’m a sac of jelly, afraid, alone, and with no self confidence.

    Reading what you’ve been through kinda puts things in perspective, although it’s still hard to put things into play in day to day life.

    Thanks for your openness and sharing so candidly.

  15. i agree with G., i think u are sexy, no matter what minuses, plus when u like somebody, really like who carres about one nut :) u are so different, and this is great.
    my secret?have no idea, i am happy my husband knows them all and that is enough, and actually in time i understood that no matter how big and shamefull is ur secret, it’s u who’s feeding it.
    still this minus one nut is almost the point where u started growing, so let,s say thx to everything that made u U.
    and by the way i am from Republic of Moldova, country next to Romania, my husband is Romanian, and we really would like to meet u in person, but now that we are in Madrid u are in Romania…oh well, who knows :) may be we will meet some day
    :)

  16. Hi Niall, I think it’s amazing how you’re willing to share this sort of information with everyone. Most people would have it done but never mention it to another person. You’ve chosen to do the opposite and I hope it inspires other people to share secrets or issues they might have bottled up.

  17. Is it terrible that I think you should of gotten two prosthetic testes so you could work the fact you got three balls into chat up lines :-)

  18. Awesome honesty Niall!

    Why not combine this with your flirting challenges? When the conversation with a woman starts to fade, just say “Enough about this conversation, have I mentioned that I used to only have one testicle”?

    That should help get things going again. lol

    Impressed with your honesty man,

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