Christy Whitman – Live With Joy
Christy Whitman, noted author and inspirational speaker, shares her unbelievably moving story that set her on the path of self-discovery and the pursuit of happiness.
My childhood was crazy-making, actually. For everybody outside, we had to look perfect, as long as we looked good and everything. But inside the family, my mom and dad would argue a lot, they’d bicker a lot. My dad had a very hot temper. My mom, I think, held a lot of anger. So it was very confusing in my childhood to be around them.
My mom used to say that she would find my sister, as a young child, crying in her room. And she would say to her, “Why are you crying?” And she’d say, “I don’t know.” And she goes, “People don’t just cry without a reason to cry.” She had a lot of issues. She wasn’t happy, and I just don’t think she felt good about herself. And she just never had a good self-esteem. Even pictures that I saw of her in high school, she had braces, glasses, she was overweight, and it was during that time where my sister started getting really depressed. She always fought depression. Like my family usually does, we’re just going to ignore it like nothing happened and act like everything’s fine. But I remember the tension in the house, because my mom and dad were really worried.
She moved to California. We always had these lovely in-depth conversations. We would talk hours on the telephone. We were talking a lot about my mom and dad and therapy that she had been going through, and she was just very honest and very real that she was in a lot of pain. One day she stopped returning my calls when I would page her. She refused to come home for Easter, when she always for sure would come home for Easter and Christmas. So, something was going on with her.
And so that day, I went to a Hallmark store and I found this beautiful card. So, I wrote her this card, just poured my heart about how I loved her and what she meant to me, and so the card was just full of love and pure honesty. She called me up, and she said, “Chris,” and her voice was just really low, and she goes, “I just want you to know I got your card, and I’m really touched and I didn’t know you felt that way about me, and I didn’t know that I had touched your life in this way.” And so, that conversation, she said, “I’m not well. I’m unhappy.” And she goes, “Christy, you have no idea how bad it is. You don’t understand the severity of this.”
And I’m terrified. The feeling of helplessness, there’s nothing I can do, there’s nothing I can say that is going to help her get out of this. So, I just thanked her for being my big sis, like those two little girls when they grab their hands, it was that ‘sissy’. It was just that kind of moment of just appreciating that I had her in my life. That was the last time I’d ever spoke to my sister.
It was about a month later, and it was over Memorial Day Weekend. I walked into the house and the phone rang. I get onto the phone, I said, “Hi mom!” And she said, “She did it.” And I said, “Mom, who did what?” And she goes, “Your sister, she committed suicide.” And I just dropped. I dropped the phone, I dropped to my knees. And I was grateful that I wrote her that letter, and that when she took her life, she knew exactly how I felt about her, and that I appreciated her putting me on the path of self-discovery and of healing, and all the things that she did for me in my life that were good. ‘Cause there were a lot of lessons in all that.
After my sister committed suicide, I was very committed to making sure that it didn’t happen to other people. So, for me, learning about how to find happiness and to live my life in a space of joy was really such a motivation for me, and it’s still a motivation for what I do today, because when I hear someone that reads one of my books or takes one of my courses, and they tell me that it’s changed their life and that they were depressed, now they’re living with joy, I feel like I helped my sister in a way, too.
I would say for someone that is just starting out that wants to change their life, that wants to go from feeling bad to good, is start looking at all the aspects of your life that you don’t like. Look at all the places where you’re not satisfied, you’re not happy. Look at the aspects, and then ask yourself, “What would I love?” We get shaped by the environment that we’re in. It’s like we’re a little seed being planted in the garden, we’re raised by the garden that we’re in. All the times we’re yelled at, all the times we’re told we’re not good enough, or that we’re never going to amount to something, or that we’re a pain in the ass, or whatever we were told, all those things, all those experiences shape us to be who we are.
So, feeling badly about yourself, not feeling good about yourself, not feeling good about who you are inside, it makes functioning in everyday lives, in everyday reality, no matter if it’s relationships or your career or whatever it is, makes it really difficult when you don’t feel connected to yourself and you feel disconnected, when you feel like you’re bad, when you feel like there’s something wrong with you, and that we don’t have to be victim to circumstances. And we don’t have to have our circumstances and situations or things that happen in life dictate how we’re going to feel or what the outcome of our lives are going to be.
So, when you find yourself in a situation that you don’t prefer, know that there’s lots of other options and lots of other choices. And we get to decide, we’re the only ones that give ourselves permission, and we’re the only ones that decide for ourselves what we want to experience in our life. This is how anybody can get started, and nothing has to change in order for you to do that. We all have the capacity inside of us to focus on what we would love and how we want to feel. And you can have what you want in all aspects of your life, but you just have to focus in that direction.
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