I used to believe that inspirational quotes about seizing the day, living your dream and whatnot, was a good way to keep motivated. Not that I put them on my walls or reposted them on my social media, but you know, every now and then I might have liked one that someone posted. But when you get ill, really ill, these ideas of how you should live your life just makes you feel worse. Nobody wants to hear “carpe diem!” when they’re suffering from severe depression.
I’ve spent the last week on the couch. Crying, staring out into the void, incapable of functioning like a normal person. I wasn’t even a person, I was just a body with a person trapped inside. I’ve wasted what could be precious days of my life, not seizing the day. Not working towards my goals. Not being the best that I can be. Not visualising my dreams or helping others.
But it’s not just quotes about living in the moment that get to you. You know that quote by Mark Twain; “Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do”? I often think about that by imagining myself as an old person lying in a hospital bed, reminiscing about the past. I image what my thoughts will be, if I’ll be happy with what I’ve accomplished by that time, if I’ll have any regrets. And I always feel bad about the countless days, weeks, months, years I’ve spend doing nothing because of depression, anxiety or just pure laziness. And this idea of future regret is dangerous. It’s making us focus our mind on future happiness and how we can attain it, which often makes us feel less of a person until we get there.
We need to remember that it’s okay to have bad days too. As long as those bad ones aren’t more frequent than the good or okay ones. We can’t all be living life to the fullest every single day. If you strive towards this you’ll end up disappointed. Trust me.
Here are some more realistic ideas to think about:
1. This too shall pass
I know, when you’re deep in despair it’s hard to see clearly and believe that it will ever get better. But it does. Sometimes it just takes longer. And better does not have to mean you are up and running, living up to your full potential. Better can mean getting out of bed, smiling at a stupid joke your partner made or taking a shower. Celebrate every step and give yourself some credit.
2. Appreciate the small things
Every day I am grateful for my home, my plants, my friends and my boyfriend. I take time to actually appreciate what I have. Sometimes all it takes is having potatoes for dinner, or when I ask the boyfriend to bring me some tea, and he brings me exactly the kind I was secretly hoping for.
3. Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery
I am currently reading “The Power of Now”, and the most important thing I’ve learned so far is this. I spend way too much time thinking about what’s been and what will come, but the truth is that today, this moment right here, is all there is. The past cannot change, and the future is just an illusion. Think about it. No living person (physically) lives in the past, it’s impossible. So visiting the past with your mind and reliving painful moments is like spending your time at a graveyard, talking to ghosts. And you can chase the future as fast as you want, but you’ll never catch it. You will always be in the present. So try to let the illusion of time go for a moment and focus on how you are feeling right now. I’m not telling you to “seize the day”, but realise that you exist only in the present moment, and what you do with that is totally up to you.