But I’ve Wasted So Many Years!

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness  (c)2015  Nancy Virden

photo-24769120-old-man-standing-and-looking-at-the-camera78. Helen* was two years shy of eighty years-old when I met her desperately trying to break a life-long addiction.

55. Sue* thought she was too old to make something of her life. As a mature woman who had given her youth to unhealthy decisions, she was trying to start fresh when I met her.

66. Bill* had attempted to end his life because he saw nothing of value in living. We shared our stories with each other and he admitted feeling like he had sacrificed his family to his job over the decades.

Regrets. Wasted time. Are there any other possible perspectives?

As someone discovering new life at middle age, I prefer to see the past as just that- past. Flipping mental pages in self-named “failure” scrapbooks causes more hurt. If I want to spend a day in bed or hours crying, focusing on regrets will get me there. Is that what any of us want?

Instead, I see life beginning today. My focus is on “what’s next?” rather than “oh no, what did I do?” Most of us are our own worst critics, so it makes sense to look for positives, right? I mean, we are not paid to demean ourselves. Emotionally beating-up who we are does not create healthy relationships. There is no true love to be found in self-abuse. Why not strive for what can produce goodness and potential joy?

Setting goals for spiritual, emotional, physical, or financial health is one means of focusing forward. Using today to start making dreams come true, is another. What steps can be taken toward making amends, seeking reconciliation, or addressing restitution? What thoughts or temptations can be challenged now?

Latching on to humans, money, materialism, and compulsive behaviors for the strength to live does not serve us well. Those happier feelings they produce are temporary, and pain returns with a vengeance. Escapism by its nature is focusing on the past.

Being in-the-moment creates opportunities to make a difference:

I want to be generous. Therefore I will not waste money compulsively or impulsively.

I want to be a supportive friend, so I will be a good listener. 

God’s love will hold me up. Today I will live out my values despite how I feel.

Today I cried tears of gratitude that my “wasted” life has become so rich. If the time some of us have to be healthy-minded is less than others, so what? In this new year, regret will not add twenty-four hours.

Making today count will add a full day of meaningful life.


NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help is yours.

*not their real names

* picture from qualitystockphotos.com






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