I was talking recently to one of my sons (I have three of them) about a distressing allergic reaction he’s been experiencing.
For some mysterious reason, his skin breaks out in hives whenever he sweats. He’s had issues in the past with seasonal allergies and reactions to things he’s eaten. But to be allergic to sweat? That’s an odd one.
My son has been to doctors and allergists who have poked and prodded and given him tests that, in the end, have proved inconclusive. Their message to him: Sometimes we just don’t know what is causing allergic reactions and just have to learn to live with them.
Needless to say, my son doesn’t want to hear this. He wants to solve this puzzle so he can do normal things like the rest of humanity.
I can’t say I blame him. If I had to reach for the Benadryl every time I went to the gym or worked outside, I wouldn’t be happy either.
My message to him: Don’t despair. The human body, like the human psyche, is an incredibly complex machine, and we’re not born with an instruction manual to refer to as we go through life. It can take a very long time to understand ourselves well enough where we feel like we’re driving the machine, rather than the machine driving us.
Look at me, I tell him. As I relate in my book, The Long Walk Home, for years of my life I suffered from sometimes crippling spells of anxiety and depression that would descend upon me seemingly out of the blue. I had no idea when I woke up in the morning what kind of day lay ahead of me. I felt like I had no control over my moods. My emotions were running my life, and all I could do was ride them.
It took me decades to get a handle on my inner world to get to the point where I felt comfortable in my own skin. Blessedly, for the past twenty years or so, I’ve dwelled in a place of relative harmony.
Sure, I get down now and then like everyone else. There are days when the old beast of anxiety rises and threatens to take hold of me, but generally I know why it’s happening and what I need to do to step out of the spiral. Change the thought patterns, get a good night’s sleep, and poof! I’m feeling better again.
I won’t get into details of how I got to this place of peace—all of that is described in my book—but suffice it to say that it did not come easily or cheaply. It took a lot of inner work, a lot of therapy, a lot of reading and research to untangle the complex spaghetti of gears, buttons, and levers that run my internal manifesting machine.
Along the way, I wasted countless time and money on things that, in the end. didn’t help and often only made things worse. Prescription medicines. Blood tests. Alternative therapies. Pricey self-help programs ordered over the Internet. You name it, I tried it.
That’s all part of the process. There’s no easy route to lasting personal transformation. Dead ends, stumbles, and falls come with the territory. Much of the time we feel like we’re walking through dense fog, bumping our heads, getting nowhere.
Speaking from personal experience, though, I can say that the peace and confidence that lies on the other side of the tunnel are well worth the agony we go through to get there.
That doesn’t mean we ever really arrive. Every day, I continue to discover more about myself and why I think certain ways, feel certain ways, react certain ways. The journey of self-understanding doesn’t end until our time here on earth ends. Each day until our last day, we are on the road to find out.
For instance, I recently wrote about my journey to discover the cause of new daily headaches I started experiencing on a daily basis last September. It took me nine months and a bunch of doctor visits to figure out what was causing the headaches, but by trying different approaches and talking to a neighbor who was also experiencing headaches, I was able to pinpoint the cause.
Life is full of these journeys of self-discovery. Some take weeks or months. Others may take us a whole lifetime. No two paths are the same, because no two individuals are the same.
What unites us is the fact that we are all on a journey. We are all born, we all die, and in between, we have a chance to discover ourselves and make our lives, and the lives of those around us, as peaceful and meaningful as possible.
The important thing is to keep walking, keep searching. In the words of Winston Churchill, never give in. Never, never, never.
In my next post, I’ll share some tips that I found helpful in my own journey to peace. I hope they’re helpful.