Todd Patkin suffered a nervous breakdown at age thirty-six—and it turned out to be a breakthrough. He shares fifteen important things about life and happiness that he has learned, and that he hopes Americans will take to heart in the coming year.
Todd Patkin wants you to do him a favor. Look to the upcoming year and ask yourself—realistically—what lies in store in 2012? If you’re like most people, a huge portion of your life will be spent anxiously plugging away at a job you may or may not enjoy with coworkers you may or may not like. Okay, yes, you work hard to build a better life for your family. But here’s the question: Will you have time to enjoy them? Will you be too exhausted to throw the ball with your son? And how many nights will you get home too late to tuck him in this year?
Patkin, author of the new book Finding Happiness : One Man’s Quest to Beat Depression and Anxiety and—Finally—Let the Sunshine In, says this pattern of stress and striving has to stop. We already live in uncertain and depressing times, and our lifestyles are driving us not toward new heights, but over the brink.
If you’re not careful, says Patkin, you may suffer the same fate he did.
“When I was thirty-six years old, I was successfully leading my family’s auto parts business, I was well respected in my community, I had a wonderful wife and son…and I also suffered a nervous breakdown,” he says. “Yes, at that point in my life, I enjoyed what I did and was truly proud of my successes, but I was also pushing myself too hard and prioritizing the wrong things…and eventually, it all caught up with me.”
For months leading up to his breakdown, Patkin suffered from a paralyzing depression and anxiety, and found it difficult to complete tasks as simple as deciding whether to order coleslaw or potato salad with his lunch. But he still considers himself to be very fortunate.
“As horrific as it was, my breakdown was actually also my breakthrough,” Patkin shares. “It was an in-your-face wake-up call that forced me to realize that I was driving myself too hard, and for the wrong reasons. I finally had to say, ‘Enough is enough! I am done destroying myself and ruining my life!’ Admitting to myself that my former way of life wasn’t working was the beginning of my road to recovery and true happiness.”
For the past decade, Patkin has taken a closer look at what really makes people happy and unhappy, and he has seen most of his goals and priorities shift. In the same way, he says, it’s in your best interests to shift your habits and focus in 2012. Call it a New Year’s resolution to simply be happy.
“I have come to realize that how happy and fulfilled you are is largely under your control, and that it has less to do with success and accomplishments than you might think” he asserts. “I believe that most people are experiencing many—if not all—of the stressors that led to my breakdown, so please don’t wait until you, too, reach a breaking point to make changes in your life. I’m totally convinced now that true happiness is a possibility for everyone, so I’m asking you to take the lessons I have learned to heart.”
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