It’s so easy to think about everything that has gone wrong.
The chances you never took, the job opportunities you passed up, the stocks you didn’t buy, or even some of the ones you did buy. All of this can take a toll on anyone’s positive nature. Reflecting on choices made can help you learn from them.
Obsessing about the past has real consequences.
And these manifest themselves in some of the worst ways imaginable. For me, it is so easy to start down the “shoulda-woulda-coulda” road that leads me to the edge of the abyss. And from there, the grief, sadness, and yes gloom take over. I shoulda is hard to defend against. I shoulda, is one of depressions best friends. And I shoulda is always trying to make you feel sadness and despair.
So how do I combat that?
My support group helps, so does my family. I get reminded when I feel I haven’t done anything today that I actually; emptied, filled and ran the dishwasher, vacuumed the master bedroom and my office, brought in a load of firewood, built a fire in the woodstove, wrote in my journal and called my mother to see how she was doing.
And this was all before 2 PM.
Yet my mind was telling me, “you slack dog, you haven’t gotten anything done today. How can you think you are doing things when you didn’t cure your depression, or write the next New York Times Best Seller, or solve the housing problems facing lower Class Americans?” Why can’t I live in the moment?
Today, there have been many positives.
I have gotten the hole dug for my Purple Martin House Pole, set it in concrete and leveled it so the birds won’t have to worry about their beer spilling when they set the can on their coffee table. The concrete will help keep the house upright with the strong winds we occasionally get. They blow down the mountain towards us and can gust up to 25 mph without trying.
READ MORE: I almost should all over myself this morning
Here is my list of three lucky things that have happened to me:
- I got my first job when I was 10 years old. I delivered a weekly newspaper in our neighborhood, riding my bike up and down the hills. The frame on my bike was broken, so every time I would pedal going uphill, my pedals were going around twice as many times as my friends. At the time, it never dawned on me that this could be fixed, the frame welded to keep it from popping into itself as I rode. Yet years later, I had such strong legs, that I was a decent ½ miler in high school,
- I learned early in life what rip currents are. I had learned to swim before the age of 10 and was confident about my abilities when we would visit the seashore. Later, I would live just a few miles from the ocean, and swimming there was a big part of summers. Understanding how currents worked, I never panicked if I felt I was being pushed or pulled. I also have a healthy respect for the ocean, and only once encountered a small riptide and I was able to quickly swim along the shore and then into the beach. The experience rewarded me for keeping cool under pressure and helped establish that habit as an adult. Not panicking and staying calm saved my life that day.
- I needed PE credits to graduate from college. This led to my taking a swimming class my college was offering at the local YMCA. We didn’t have a pool on campus at the time (now we do. And we are also now a University, not “just” a college). My reasoning for taking the class was that I already knew how to swim, so it would be an easy A. But I got so much more out of the class. The very first day, I happened to see the Pool Manager. She was so beautiful, strong, confident and it turned out she was single. It also turned out she was teaching a “water babies” class once a week and the YMCA was looking for volunteers. Now you can see where this is going. I began volunteering and within two weeks, I told someone that I had met the woman I was going t marry. This was a bold statement because we hadn’t even been on a date yet. But 39 years later, we are still married and falling in love all over again.
There would be hundreds of honorable mentions including:
- Waking up at age 5 feeling lightheaded and going into my parents’ room to wake them up. My father quickly realized the heater was malfunctioning and we were being poisoned by carbon monoxide. I do not remember this, but my mother told me recently that she and Dad were so grateful we were all alive, that he took the day off from work and we went on a picnic.
- I was in Washington National Cathedral when Dr. Martin Luther King gave the Sunday Sermon. This was only a few weeks before he was assassinated. Dr. King, Jessie Jackson, Ralph Abernathy, and others came through the congregation towards the back as they left the church after the sermon. He passed just a few rows in front of our family.
- The birth of my three children. Each one special, each one so talented in their own ways. They have grown to be caring, competent and productive adults. They still have childhood curiosity and wonder about the things around them. I am so proud of each of them and the lives they are living.
- Standing on the summit of Pacaya volcano in Guatemala, with my daughter. The sun was beginning to set and the lava escaping from the vent near the top of the crater was glowing in the coming darkness. Looking past the lava, the horizon was filled with additional volcanic peaks in the distance. I felt closer to creation and the meaning of life than I ever felt in the church. This was my church.
- A few years later, I climbed an observation tower in the rainforest of Costa Rica with my wife and saw our next objective, Arenal volcano in the distance. We arrived there by taking a small boat across a huge manmade lake. Those same feelings of the meaning of life and the vastness of experiences there are in the world came flooding back again.
The list goes on and on.
Not remembering these experiences creates a hole, a void that I fill with sad, bad and unhelpful thinking. While depression seems to think this is ok, I am working very hard to remember the good times, the extraordinary times that I experienced. I am so grateful for these and look forward to living a life where more of these adventures are possible.
READ MORE: 10 self-care things I am doing to reduce stress
But I am finally living in the moment, daily.
This makes a chance encounter with someone an opportunity to learn something new. To hear a different take on something, to live through their experience for a few moments. I have only recently allowed me to slow down and take advantage of these moments. And the great thing is, these moments are all around us. I just hadn’t opened my eyes or my mind to the possibility. I had not seen the value in it for me, or the other person until I began to learn new tools for dealing with depression.
Living a balanced life is where I am headed.
This includes the big-ticket items and the nickel and dime activities. So much of what I have gotten to experience is free, which makes spending time doing that even more appealing. So, let luck continue and let me continue to remember the positive. Depression will keep the bad memories for me, I don’t have to worry about losing them. And I will continue to grow, learning new skills as I live a balanced life.
My concealed depression is written under the alias “Depression is not my boss.” I have certifications in SMART Recovery and am a Global Career Development Facilitator.
Last year, I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder.
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