Self Actual is for the introspective and open-minded.
It’s not your typical “self-help” blog. We don’t propagate a checklist formula for happiness or success.
Our mission is to provide an honest and compassionate dialogue about a deeper, more durable feeling – the feeling of fulfillment.
Because, as the great Tony Robbins says, “Success without fulfillment is the ultimate failure in life.”
My name is Patrick Wiltse, Blogger-in-Chief at Self Actual, and I created this site after a series of traumatic events that transformed my life forever.
I’m a happy guy, but I wasn’t always that way.
Growing up, I was bookish and eccentric. Once a week, a short bus would arrive at my elementary school to take me to another school where I partook in the “gifted” program.
Put simply, I was kind of a weirdo.
As weirdos often do, I grew weary of the social friction my weirdness created and sought to conform. The net result was an adolescent with little confidence and an underdeveloped sense of self, whose high school experience was characterized by isolation and anger.
University was different. It was a wonderful and formative experience, during which I gained confidence and formed powerful friendships.
Unfortunately, just before the final month of my freshman year, my life was derailed by the shocking discovery that I had cancer and needed to leave school immediately for treatment.
And by “treatment” I mean I was forced to say goodbye to my cancerous right testicle.
As you might imagine, my self-confidence did not benefit from this turn of events. Frankly, it freaked me the f*ck out.
Partially due to mental shock and partially due to the physical repercussions of losing a testicle, during my second year of university I became depressed and perpetually tired.
Coping with daily life became a struggle.
The struggle subsided, though. Time heals and, as that dreary school year neared its end, I regained some energy and began enjoying life again.
It’s said that nothing good lasts forever. In this case, the good was especially short.
In March of that year, about 11 months after my initial diagnosis, I learned that the cancer had returned and I needed to leave school immediately (again) for an aggressive cycle of chemotherapy.
The boredom of sitting through chemo and watching life from the sidelines birthed in me a spiteful ferocity.
Who was fate to keep me from experiencing life the same way as my healthy peers?
I returned for my third year of university with maniacal energy. I partied too much, slept too little, and exhausted myself into a state of depression like I’d never experienced before.
At the recommendation of my endocrinologist (the person who was supposed to help me manage my hormones), I started taking anti-depressants. I don’t remember if they helped.
All I remember is feeling trapped within my new identity – foggy headed, scared, and unhealthy – a grossly distorted reflection of the person I wanted to be. For the first time in my life, the future was a frightening and uncertain place.
That’s not to say I wasn’t trying to improve.
As victimized as I felt, I knew I wasn’t trapped by my circumstances – I was trapped within myself. My spirit was broken and it was my job to fix it.
So, from the stubborn desire to live an enjoyable life, my “self-help” journey began. Only, the first couple years of this journey weren’t helpful at all.
Tactically, I was doing what I thought were the right things.
I was exercising and learning about nutrition. I was participating in class. I started dating again. I even developed a meditation habit.
Yet, while my energy levels and social life picked up, it seemed that every time I improved my circumstances, I only became more self-critical, more anxious.
Although I was getting “better”, I was as depressed as I’d ever been. I was trapped in what Mark Manson describes as “the feedback loop from hell”.
Frustrated and craving change, I audited the timeline of my life, trying to learn from the happy points. I found that the best times of my life shared some distinct commonalities.
I realized I was happiest at times I was reading regularly. I was happiest when I was being creative, playing instruments, writing, drawing, making videos. I was happiest when I was spending time outdoors.
With nothing to lose, I consciously re-introduced these things to my life, trying to reconnect with my carefree childhood ways.
I started playing guitar most days of the week, taking time to learn new and difficult songs.
I nudged my budding career towards my interests, finding creative work that interested me and leveraged my strengths.
And I began reading voraciously, finding a link to my younger, happier self through timeless words on ink marked pages.
When happiness returned to my life, it returned in a way I’d never felt before; poignant and vivid – a palpable beauty hanging in the air – gratitude illuminating every moment I’d have otherwise taken for granted.
Through those rough, formative years, I learned how to treat my mind and body with respect.
Happiness had always been there in places. When it became scarce, I was forced to ask myself what caused it in the first place.
I learned what was (is) important to me.
I love my family, friends, and girlfriend. I love music. I love creating. I love the outdoors.
And I love reading.
It strikes me that so many authors have shown great vulnerability and generosity, exposing their souls to be examined by strangers. Their bodies may expire but their words live forever, and in those words I find one of life’s greatest pleasures.
THAT is why I started Self Actual. If even a single other is impacted by the words I share, my goal is fulfilled.
If you enjoy the content on this site, I invite you to join me on this journey of self-discovery and life enjoyment.
Follow Self Actual on social, join our Reader Community, send me an email, or leave a comment below. Whatever you’d like – I’m always happy to hear from you.