“You can’t change the past” – True.
“Looking back with regret is never helpful”…. I am not so sure that one is true.
The human body and brain are incredibly sophisticated and clever machines. Everything they do has a purpose and with that every human emotion has evolved for a reason.
Emotions exist to help or protect us (of course, in mental illness emotions can become a little whacky, but that is another post!).
I believe that regret is a powerful emotion and that we feel regret for a reason.
Appropriate regret about the near or distant past can allow us to process what has been, learn from and evolve from it and regret can very often be a strong motivator for change in our future.
With an eating disorder, many of us have years worth of regrets (if you are reading this and have only been sick a couple of years, please feel free to learn from my regrets and don’t build anymore of your own!).
I have a list of regrets in terms of ways that this illness has made me act, things I have not done, things I have said, chances I refused, relationships I lost…. If I wrote out every tiny regret from those years we would be here for weeks. And, I certainly don’t think that analysing every tiny regret arising over the past decade would be helpful now…
But looking back at the bigger picture, regretting the years I did not work harder at recovery, regretting the people I did not love and appreciate as I should have, regretting the times I prioritised an eating disordered behaviour over the values that are closer to my true heart – This broader spectrum of regret, I do think is helpful.
Yes, these regrets are sad and they do make me weep and grieve for my younger self BUT pulling out of the sadness and using the regrets to motivate the future is a valuable tool.
I do not want to look back in another six months, let alone another six years, thinking ‘if only..’.
I don’t want to wonder next week where I would have been then if I had faced a bigger fear today.
Each day we live in this illness might have been full of opportunities if we had been well enough to be open to experience them. As I inch closer to health now I see this more and more.
Each day offers opportunities of life I did not see or could not accept when I was sick. I still cannot see or accept every opportunity each new day presents yet but I will not regret that now if I know that today I worked as hard as I could to get well, so that tomorrow, life’s doors keep opening until some day the motivation to push ahead from my regrets will ensure that life’s possibilities are infinite!
Yes, I will always have regret and sadness about these years of illness.
But I will not wallow.
I will use the regret as my motivator to keep my recovery strong and I will share my regrets if it helps others never experience the same.