A theme has developed in my life in recent weeks that has caused me to pause and consider something crucial: What is wrong with me?
Let me explain –
Over the years, I have spent literally thousands of dollars on motivational tapes, books, DVDs, and even in-person workshops. A majority of the time, these things were recommended by well-meaning friends who for some reason believed that I was either unhappy, or that I lacked motivation, or that this was the cure to whatever was wrong in my life. So I would read said book, watch said DVD, listen to said tapes, and walk into said workshops with an open mind, a willing heart, and the belief that my life would be improved by these gurus of goodness. Gary Smalley, Tony Robbins, Napoleon Hill, Robert Kiyosaki (of Rich Dad, Poor Dad fame), and even Richard Paul Evans (of Christmas Box fame – whom, by the way, I went to high school with). These guys (and a few women) were all highly successful, and here they were, willing to share their intimate secrets of success with me. This had to be the answer, right? After all, with millions of success stories out there, these folks must really know their stuff, right?
So having spent all this money, and time, and energy reading, and listening, and going to drafty hotel conference rooms with 500 other eager little beavers like myself, you’d think that I would have all the answers to happiness. You’d think I’d be so blissed out that absolutely NOTHING could cause me to worry, or frown, or experience unhappiness ever again. I mean, all it takes is applying what these near-immortals say to your everyday, hum-drum life and, suddenly, everything will be perfect. These fonts of knowledge know it all about success, after all, right?
Well – here’s the thing they don’t know: Me.
Recently, I found one of those great picture/quote memes on Facebook that struck a chord with me. It read “Don’t expect anyone to know your journey, especially if they’ve never walked your path.” I’ve heard something like this before, and it’s similar to the ancient cliché of “Never judge a man (or woman) until you’ve walked a mile in his moccasins.” But this is more to the point. How can these people tell me what will work for me when they don’t know me? And that goes to my well-intentioned acquaintances as well. My journey and your journey have never been the same, and they never will be. We may have similar paths at times, and we may have similar experiences, but we are uniquely different human beings, and based on that, I don’t know where you’ve been, nor do you know where I’ve been.
I’ve made no secret about many aspects of my life. I’m quite open about the fact that I struggle with bipolar disorder and chronic depression that requires I live my life in a certain way, and that I take medication to help me manage the symptoms. I used to keep this information under wraps because I was embarrassed about admitting it. But I came to understand that that’s like being embarrassed to have diabetes, or cancer. I didn’t choose to have this disorder, I certainly wouldn’t wish it on anyone else, but it’s not like I can close my eyes, click my heels three times and make it go away.
One of the things I’m not so open about is that I also suffer PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) from being sexually assaulted at the age of 22. I causes me to have reactions that are more extreme to certain circumstances. I won’t bore you with the details (and I also don’t like putting that information out in public because I’ve actually had a few people try to test the information and it’s ended with very bad results). What all of this amounts to is the fact that, as much as I want these books and tapes and videos and workshops to change my life, they can’t change my brain chemistry. And since neurobiology hasn’t figured out how to modify my brain chemistry either, I figure I can’t really be upset at these people.
So I find other ways to achieve what I want. I deal with the symptoms of my outrageous brain, and keep moving in the direction that I know I was meant to go. I also realize that some truly amazing writers had the same screwed-up neurobiology that I have, and many of them managed to live extremely successful lives. The list of writers, artists, musicians, and actors who have been diagnosed, or are thought to have had bipolar, is long and filled with a stellar assortment of people. There are the tragic cases of those who couldn’t, or wouldn’t manage the disorder, but there are many who – without the help of goodness gurus – led (or are leading) wonderful lives. It’s nice to think I’m in such upper-class company! I take comfort, and inspiration, in knowing that the key to my happiness isn’t going to cost me the price of a book or a video or whatever. The key to my happiness, to my success, is to accept who I am with all my warts and flaws, and to know that I’m the one steering the ship. There is nothing wrong with me because the motivational stuff didn’t work for me. I’m just on a different journey – one that no one but me is on. And I’m okay with that.