Everyone sometimes wishes they could start again. I don’t know if it happens more frequently for those of us with mental health problems; I just know it’s easy to blame mental illness for all of the problems in our lives. I have this fantasy where I pack a rucksack, go somewhere far away and start my life over. I will never act on it, because I can’t abandon my dog or desert my parents and friends, but it has a strong appeal.
Yet I know it’s bullshit. I can’t escape myself or my past actions. Any new life I create has to be built on the foundation of what has gone before – and that’s a good thing. Regardless of our experiences (and I refuse to use this blog as an excuse to throw myself pity parties), we have all gained something from our past. Often it’s the knowledge gained as a result of making mistakes. It could be resilience from overcoming obstacles time after time. Or skills we have learnt, whether it’s knowing how to read or being able to play the piano. You might have gained a really good friend or a partner. Or just a kickass pair of shoes. We have all gained something, even if what we have gained seems small and insignificant.
Which is why we should stop wishing we could abandon our past and make a fresh start. Instead, let’s choose a fresh page, a new chapter. Decide what changes you would like to make and create a plan. Standard advice is to start small, but who says you have to? In my experience, bigger changes can be easier because the reward is more of an incentive and helps you face your fears. However you decide to transform your life, take action as soon as you can.
Take action and keep taking action. Fears and anxieties may never go away, but turning your attention elsewhere forces them into the background and when you take actions related to your fears and anxieties, they are reduced. Again, I’m not claiming that it’s easy to face your fears and take action, but remember: Fear and anxiety can only be overcome with action.
Any action counts. One of my successes in overcoming my anxiety this year was taking my dog for a walk on my own. Not only does this action seem tiny to other people, especially as I live in a rural area so going for a walk doesn’t involve negotiating crowds of people, but it’s something I used to do all the time. However, I hadn’t gone for a walk on my own for years. I don’t care what anyone else thinks – the first time I did it, I was elated and for good reason. Your actions may be ‘bigger’ or ‘smaller’ in the eyes of other people, but none of that matters. The only thing that matters is that you take action, any action.
So start a fresh page and do something a little different. Big or small, let me know about it – email firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment below.