#BeReal – SHAWN HENFLING

My #BeReal guest today is Shawn Henfling.

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“I don’t need to be Michael Jordan but I’d at least like to be in the NBA.”

I don’t like myself. Rather, I don’t like who I think I am. I can’t really hate myself because I don’t know who “myself” is. I’ve gotten through 38 years of this life without a clue as to what kind of a person I am or can be.

Right now, you’re probably thinking to yourself, “Well, here’s another pathetic excuse for a human being making excuses for all of the crappy things he has done to others. Time to stop reading and leave an equally crappy comment in that little section at the bottom.” You can do that if it pleases you, or you can read a little more and get to know me a little.

I’m reasonably intelligent and well educated. I possess an MS from a good school and, without applying myself all that much, breezed through undergrad and high school. I’m no Stephen Hawking or Andrew Solomon, but then you probably aren’t either. Kind of an odd thing to mention when lamenting that I don’t know who I am right?

I tell people that I’m just smart enough to know I’ll never be smart enough. It feels like there’s this fine line between the intellect required to do great things and that required to live mired in obscurity and an unhappy mediocrity. There is absolutely nothing wrong with living in that big gray area of mediocrity, but it feels wrong for me. But then again, without knowing who I am I can’t really say can I?

Or maybe I’m just never happy, doomed to being dissatisfied for the rest of my miserable days? I’m depressed. At least, that’s what my General Practitioner says. I’ve never seen a Psychiatrist or Psychologist. I’m trying, but apparently the good ones have long waiting lists. The depression, or whatever mental defect I’m currently afflicted with, clouds things in my mind. Even on the good days I can’t see myself with any sort of clarity. Think of looking into the bathroom mirror once it’s been fogged up. There’s SOMETHING there, a vague outline of some sort of human, but you’re left guessing at anything beyond that.

It isn’t that I’m not trying to be something more, someone I can be proud of, a good example for not just my kids but humanity as a whole. I help people broken down on the side of the road, check in with friends and strangers alike if something seems off, offer my help whenever it may be needed and desperately try to make “the right decisions.” Still, I don’t feel like a good person and the fog persists.

Since I was a child I’ve wanted to make a broad, positive impact on the world. I’ve always hoped I’d have a job that allowed me to do that someday. Here I am, two decades into my working years and I’m still a product of the system, selling things people don’t need and taking money people do not have so that I can buy things I don’t need with money I don’t yet possess.

I can’t even tell you who’s in charge upstairs. This mental instability I have makes it impossible for me to tell the difference between me and the thoughts in my head. Every decision gets called into question because I’m not sure who made it. It sounds ridiculous, as if there is some phantom puppet master pulling my strings, but this is my reality. I can’t tell where the depression ends and where I begin.

I have a business that is failing and will fold at the end of this year and I’ve written and published over a hundred articles, some on very large media sites. I’ve been paid for just one of those. I want to speak with people about mental health, help them understand each other and themselves, but I have no idea how to get started. I have no plan, no direction and no clue how to fix it. I don’t like who I think I am.

I’m a bastard to myself. I can’t be even OK with anything I’ve ever done. Married but a lousy husband. Step-dad but barely competent. A hack of a photographer. A writer barely worthy of the ink on the paper. A failure several magnitudes greater than I can stomach. My mind will never allow me to be good enough or even think I CAN be good enough. But…then what is good enough?

I don’t know who I am but I don’t like who I think I am. I write about all of this because I want to help people who feel like I do. Or maybe I think that’s why I do it. Maybe I do it for purely selfish reasons. Maybe any good I’ve done in the world has been accidental or selfish, and that means it wasn’t really any good, right?

The further I delve into the abyss of my own thoughts, the more confusing it becomes. Every question is answered with a new question. How can I be successful if I don’t know who I am? How can I know who I am if I don’t know who’s running the show? If I don’t know who’s running the show, how can I know if my intentions are pure? Even if my intentions are pure, have they done any good? If they are selfish, what does that say about me?

I don’t have to be Michael Jordan, but I’d at least like to be in the NBA. How can I be in the NBA when I’m not even sure basketball is my sport? The metaphor holds. I can’t achieve any measure of success until I know who I am and what I should be doing. Until then, I’m just some kid standing outside the fence watching everyone else play.


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Shawn Henfling is an aspiring photographer and writer, step-father and husband. He has made public his continuing battles with Depression in an effort to let others know they are NOT alone. A salesman by day and writer/photographer by night, he stays busy to maintain a distance between him and the demons in his head. See Shawn’s photography and blog at his personal website.

6 thoughts on “#BeReal – SHAWN HENFLING

  1. I can completely sympathise with the argument in your head. I feel the same way, i’m not sure which me is me; second guessing myself with every thought or feeling. Its so exhausting having to fight my minds voice every day. Thank you so much for sharing and all best wishes to you

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  2. I like the image of “the fog of depression.” As for the who we think we are versus who we really are, Shawn, I’m nearly twice your age and still find that rather perplexing, or, perhaps, a changeable territory to explore again and again. Its hard to let go of a business you’ve built. I had to do that a long time ago and it hurt and was seriously disorienting. But, along the way, there was discovery in that chaos that eventually led me to work that was fulfilling. Thank you, Shawn for sharing so openly. reblogging

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  3. Shawn, I really, seriously hope you figure this out, because I’ve lived this kind of tumbling, rumbling reality for SO LONG and it’s the most frustrating, clouded, amorphous place to be, but GOOD FOR YOU for advocating from within it, anyway🙂

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