I am sure I’m not the only one, but I’ll be one of the first to admit that during the last thirty years of my life, I have had more regrets than I probably should. Should? Should, by society’s standards, I guess. Here are just a few on my list: I never graduated high school; I never went overseas; I never had a proper job; I entered into an abusive relationship; I got married when all the signs were telling me not to and I had a baby when I probably shouldn’t have (you might be thinking, did she become a teen mum? No, my son is only 10 months old and I love him with all my heart, but the circumstances regarding his conception and birth are complicated).
Some of these decisions I did not have complete control over, but this doesn’t stop the nagging, dragging feeling of wasted time.
I try my hardest to be my best self for a few days, then I clock out, and I have to restart my efforts again. Some things are more consistent than others, but I still cannot get into a headspace where I feel I am doing the best of what I am able. I don’t push myself to be better either; I stick to the same old habits. If I could just break one bad one, just one, it would be proof that I am not a complete failure, that I can change, that I can grow. It’s even harder when you feel like the world is holding you back, that your lot on life has been dealt, that this is how it is always meant to be. These are the days that I trudge through to get to the light on the other side.
I look at my son and I think how grateful I am to have him in my life, but I also feel sadness. Sadness, not for having him, but as a reminder for the possibilities I could have pursued if I hadn’t succumbed to the demons encircling my life. I had let them take over my body, invade this vessel and make decisions that I was never happy with. I thought I was, but I used that concept as a mask for my true feelings, my true desires. Not all of it was my fault (I mean, no one asks to get abused, or to be assaulted), but at some stage I should have taken responsibility for my own life, my own decisions.
I am so thankful I realise this now, but I definitely have regrets about not realising it sooner. I think that’s ok, though. It is difficult to live a lifetime and not have some regrets about the paths we have taken. I think it takes a lot of courage to admit the mistakes we have made, and still feel regret about them. It becomes a problem when we let those feelings consume us, and prevent us from moving forward and choosing different paths.
When I feel those suffocating instances, I try to read, write, watch anything that replaces that negative mindset—even if it is for a short time—because great things can happen in minutes, or seconds; that pivotal instance when you choose A instead of B. I don’t think there is any correct way in navigating regret and bad decisions, and people around you will try to advise you on the best way, or steer you in the direction they think is correct because it worked for them. It’s okay to heed their voice, but don’t let them dictate what you truly feel, or what your intuition is saying you should do. And if you make a few more mistakes along the way, if you regret a few more things, that’s okay too. You can cross those off your list. They are done.
So why am I writing about this? Because I think it is important to recognise the progress we all have made through the trials that life has thrown at us, and to acknowledge the emotions those experiences bring out. I have the classic case of internalisation: I generally do not acknowledge my feelings, let alone express them to other people. This can cause a multitude of issues, not limited to the act of numbing myself, self-isolating (which I think we have all done enough of this year) or using any means of distraction to avoid sitting alone with my own thoughts. It has come to my attention this year, that this is not the healthiest of habits, and that in order to progress in other areas of my life, I need to face these demons. How am I doing this? Well, conventional therapy has never seemed to work for me (however, I do highly recommend it as a starting point for anyone with a mental illness, or if you need someone to talk to), and after years of trying and failing different techniques (such as mindfulness, meditation and medication), I have gotten to a point in my life where I am just…over it? Over the constant, vicious cycle of depression and anxiety taking me over. I will admit here, though, that I have gotten to this ‘over it’ point in my life many times before. However this year it seems different. Maybe it’s the forced self-isolation from Coronavirus that finally pushed me, but I am making multiple conscious efforts to better myself in any way, shape or form, and not punishing myself if I fall back, or make a mistake, or you know, feel regret for my decisions.
So back to how I face my demons: I keep a journal every day, and I do not get upset if I miss an entry; I read, read, read and read whatever I want, in whatever order, whenever I can; I complete shadow work (I will explain this concept in a future blog, otherwise feel free to research this yourself), but most importantly, I let myself be. It sounds too simple to work, but it does. For me, at least. I let feelings course through me, and tell myself that they are temporary. I allow myself to feel and not feel guilty about it.
Regret is probably one of the hardest and more debilitating emotions to experience, simply because it trails with it a plethora of other feelings, memories, issues and more regrets. It compounds into a mountain where the top is barely visible in the stratosphere. This doesn’t mean it’s the end, or the beginning of the end. As someone who hadn’t written a word for several years, being able to write this much (and consistently) shows how much we can overcome, even if it takes us a little longer to realise it.