I feel like I am waking up after 25 years in a coma. The dark haze of depression, psychosis and illness that was my reality for my entire adult life has slowly cleared and I am now blinking and rubbing my eyes as I stumble into the light of a new reality.
New experiences abound – such as waking up in the morning feeling something other than dread. Noticing that my back and legs aren’t hammering with pain. Enjoying simple hobbies like paper craft without having an existential crisis as I realise the futility of everything. Going for a walk and actually feeling better for it, not worse. Hearing the welcome sound of silence in my mind! And most surprisingly, spending time with a boyfriend who is so lovely and fun to be with.
I am 45 years old and for the first time in my life I feel happy and relaxed most days. Every day there is something to laugh about, something to be thankful for, something to look forward to, reasons to be glad I am alive, and reasons to strive to continue to be alive for as long as I can.
At the moment life seems simple, after so many years of it being an impossible struggle. Not that much has changed externally. I still live in the same run-down house with cracks in the walls and an outside toilet. I still drive the same 20 year old vehicle and work at the same job. But my internal landscape has changed and I have broken through into a place of inner peace.
As pleased as I was for a while that I was now enjoying life, I also started feeling frustrated and almost a sense of grief that I had seemingly wasted my life and had nothing to show for my 20s and 30s. I know I really did my best during those decades. I would have stopped being depressed and ill and wasting time if I had been able to. I just wasn’t able to.
25 years down the toilet. 25 years doing mostly nothing. No further education, no degree or qualifications, no career, no marriage, no children, no travel. No memories of good times partying with a posse of high-spirited gal-pals, or brunches to discuss salacious details of my weekend. Just decades of doctor visits and disillusionment. Support groups and side effects. Days that melted in to a grey glob of indistinguishable years of crushing pain, despair and loneliness with no end in sight. What a tragic waste of my youth.
I was going through something of a mourning process about this a few months ago, and expressed my regret to my boyfriend. He replied with what I thought was extraordinary wisdom by pointing out that I could have had the most perfect, happy life up until now, but no matter how wonderful it had been, it was still gone. It would still in the past and all that fun and laughter and success of days gone by would still be of no use to me right now. All I have is the present, so I shouldn’t waste it wishing the past – which is gone anyway – was different.
It’s true. All I have is now. It doesn’t matter if my 20s and 30s were an amazing ride of fun and success or spent sitting in my recliner staring blankly at daytime TV, they are gone forever and all I have is now. That is the only time any of us have in which to experience our lives.
I could speculate about how things could have been different, but if agonising over how things used to be is stupid, then giving energy to things that didn’t even happen in the first place is the ultimate folly. So is postponing happiness for a future that may never arrive. Your life happens moment by moment. Glazing over and being unaware of the moment is being unaware of your life.
If your ‘now’ isn’t great, don’t allow thoughts of the past or fears of the future cement that pain in place. Without the filters of past and future, the now is usually more bearable. And even if it isn’t, the present always dissolves away into the past and a new ‘now’ emerges. Things will get better. Then maybe they’ll get worse again for a while. And then they’ll get better again. And then not be so great… and eventually you’ll learn to be okay with all of it.