Depressed? Have Regrets? Life is a Journey. Map it.
It is not uncommon for us to at some point have regrets, to feel there are things we did wrong or didn’t do right. Anxiety and depression may try to convince us that we suck and our lives are a disaster. But nothing is ever wasted and life has a way of weaving a story we can’t see, one that is meaningful to us and the world around us. We often just need to visualize the progress.
Life is a Journey. Map it.
We learn from everything: what we’ve done right, what we’ve done wrong, and things that just happened to us. Events change us, whether they inspire us to make different choices or to look at the world differently. And what makes us look at the world differently can make us make different choices.
Creating the map
First: open a document or get out a piece of paper or notepad and a pen.
Write down the earliest age that comes to your mind, as in, the one that seems most relevant to your pain. It may be when your marriage first started going downhill, when you first got married, when you were 18, puberty, kindergarten, or when a traumatic event happened to you. Start wherever seems important. You can always add on whatever you want later.
Think of experiences you had during that year. Firsts, worsts, bests. Things you learned. Realizations you remember having. Things you tried.
Be sure to word everything in positive terms, even if it was bad. For instance, don’t say, “I realized I couldn’t trust anyone.” Replace it with something like, “I learned to let go of people I couldn’t trust.” If you can’t think of any positive change or realization so there isn’t a positive angle to put on it, move on to something else. You can always just include things like, “I made it through so and so.”
· I tried something new
· I experienced my first _____
· I ate something new
· I read ____ book(s)
· I discovered a band that influenced me
· I learned about ______
· I realized _____
· I overcame _____
Include decisions you made and things you tried, even if they didn’t pan out. The important thing is not whether it worked, but that you made a deliberate choice. It was an experience, one of your steppingstones.
If this exercise feels good and/or helpful to you, you can continue to do it on a regular basis, yearly, monthly, weekly, daily, whatever suits your needs.
Our minds have a way of seeing things a certain inaccurate way. Creating a visual representation of our progress solidifies the idea in our minds that we have achieved more than we think, that we are going somewhere, that there is sense in what seems like madness.
A visual representation also makes it easier for you to improve. When you see the words, “I did,” you want to write more of them. If you see gaps where you really wish you could write those words, you might say to yourself, “I could do more things like I did during so and so time.”
This exercise can’t ease every pain. And all advice isn’t right for everyone and sometimes the same advice can come to us at different times and we’ll reject it or cherish it. But this idea has helped me some. It’s not a magic cure-all, but it puts a positive angle on things that I struggled to find positivity in and it helps me feel more of a sense of control. We need that sense of control to not just deal with the past but to find ways to improve our future.
You have a story. Your experiences, your pains, and your wins matter. Appreciate and use them.