My books, specifically DRAWING OUT THE DRAGONS and the forthcoming second and third books in The Meditations series, THE BARBIZON DIARIES and THE GRAND DESIGN, are rightly billed as works intended to be both motivational and inspirational, and much of what I wrote in them, and much of what I speak about publicly has to do with improving the circumstances of one’s life.
However, very recently and more than once, I have read variations on a general criticism floating around, one example of which I’ll quote from a post by my friend Shannon Hale, because she put it so clearly: “Amazed how many people I meet who believe a mental illness can be cured by positive thought and just “getting over it.”
Every little while, one of those criticisms is directed at me, with the idea that what I’m espousing in both my writing and my speaking is that people suffering from that kind of debilitating, devastating illness simply ‘get over it’ — and it absolutely, absolutely, is NOT.
Mental illnesses, clinical depression, bipolar disorder, chemical imbalances…all are are very real, and very legitimate reasons for those who suffer from these and other similar maladies to not be able to simply will themselves out of misery and into happiness. I know this, very clearly and very specifically, because I am one of them.
What is still required however, is the will to do whatever CAN be done, for however long it takes, to improve one’s life, and THAT is the primary purpose of the words I write and speak: not to try to convince people that instant happiness is possible just by wishing it so, but to help people learn that real, and potentially lasting happiness is achievable, if they can continue to seek out the things that will help them to be whole.
For some, that means medication; for others, different kinds of therapy. Some mental illnesses are more serious, and will be a much greater struggle for the people dealing with them; others, while still very real, will be more easily managed. And some may never be fully controlled or resolved at all — and in those cases, the only message I can offer is that of hope; that life is worth living, and every day, or hour, or minute that passes is a victory — because living also keeps alive the possibility that something can be found that will help, and happinesses may still be realized.
One of my personal heroes, Zig Ziglar, once said “Do I think you can do ANYTHING just because you have a positive attitude? No. But I do believe that you can do EVERYTHING better than you could without it.” I think this is true; and I think it’s as true for those dealing with mental illnesses as it is for everyone else who may be subject to far lesser debilitations. In some cases, though — maybe a lot of them — even just trying to have a positive attitude may be impossible. And in those instances, the things I write aren’t meant to bolster THEM — they are meant to bolster YOU; the people around those who are suffering.
One of the bigger problems in the world isn’t an overabundance of people saying bright, positive, optimistic things; it’s an overabundance of people willing to tear someone else down at the slightest provocation, or to commiserate with them in their misery instead of trying to provide a moment of calm and fortitude. That’s the distinction I think I want to make, here: my books and speaking may be less about how we should act to try to raise ourselves up for our own benefit as they are about how we should endeavor to better ourselves so that we can be a source of strength and hope for those around us who have none.
I learned about some of the specific things I’ve had to grapple with because at one time, I had some really lousy doctors. I’ve learned to deal with my illnesses by getting better doctors, and by surrounding myself with good people whom I know care about me. Some days, it absolutely IS as easy as simply willing myself to be happier; other days, it’s not so easy, so my goal is to act in ways that reflect what I want, and NOT what I’m feeling. In this way, I defeat my own demons. But on other days, I need more help, be it medication or counseling, or whatever else might work — and I remain open to new solutions and new possibilities.
Many, many people also DON’T have these kind of struggles, but the pressures and complications of everyday life can be terribly draining, too, and in those cases, there are some immediate truths to be realized: most struggles are temporary; most suffering passes; and happiness can be chosen. Transcendent joy can be found, even in the midst of turmoil. And the life you aspire to have can come to pass, if you but have the will to decide, the courage to choose, and the strength to put in the work to make it so.
One of my favorite sayings is “Everyone’s mileage varies” and in the case of the inspirational and motivational work that I do, people’s mileage varies according to their need to hear the messages I offer, and their ability to apply it to their lives. But whether someone is struggling with a serious mental illness or are just having a lousy day, the core message of everything I write and everything I speak about is the same:
Don’t give up.
At times, I may communicate that imperfectly, but it is always expressed with pure intent. And as often as possible, said with a hand outstretched, for those who need it to take hold, because I promised I would not let them fall.
Sometimes, that’s all I CAN do. And sometimes, that’s just enough.
Written from the rock of calm and fortitude,
your brother in moxie —