It is wonderful to think back on good times and positive events of the past. Sometimes there are lessons to be learnt from the not-so-good times too and recalling these can help us appreciate the present moment. Thinking about some of the things we didn’t handle so well can help us have empathy for other people rather than criticising their actions.
We can benefit from looking back. Getting out old photo albums, school magazines and personal scrap books and reading old letters and cards can remind us of old friends, happy days, family celebrations and some of our personal achievements.
The challenging times of the past may make us feel sad or perhaps we can look at the events from a more positive perspective. Sometimes we can look back and see that we handled the situation as well as possible under the circumstances. Bad times may have brought us closer to family or friends. Perhaps we feel these events have strengthened us.
However, sometimes we can get stuck in the past and find ourselves unable to move forward. This may happen after the death of a loved one or a much loved pet, the end of a relationship, moving house, losing a job or after friends or family move away. When adult sons and daughters move out of home sometimes the ‘empty nest’ situation causes a feeling of depression. It could be due to a combination of events.
It may be that a stressful period of life has ended but instead of feeling relieved and happy we find ourselves depressed and unable to move on. Sometimes this happens to someone who has been caring for a family member or friend for an extended time and now that person has moved into a care facility. Retirement from the paid work force sometimes isn’t the wonderful thing that was expected.
At other times it may not be possible to identify an event which is causing our ongoing negative mood. There are various things we can try, depending on the situation.
1. Identify the cause of the problem if possible.
2. Talk to supportive family and friends
3. Talk to a religious leader for spiritual guidance
4. Contact Lifeline for telephone counselling
5. Join a support group
6. Join an online group for support. Sometimes the anonymous aspect is helpful. Being able to chat online or leave messages in the middle of the night can be helpful as this is often the time when the world seems darkest.
7. Try writing in a journal or compose some poetry
If these strategies are not working, a visit to the doctor to check for any health issues could be advisable. There may be a physical problem, a psychological issue or both. The doctor can arrange for any relevant blood tests to be done or may refer you on to a specialist. He/she may suggest seeing a psychologist, psychiatrist or counsellor.
If you have an ongoing feeling of not coping, not being able to move on and generally ‘being stuck’ it is advisable to address the problem sooner rather than later so that you can get on with living life. Eleanor Roosevelt said, ‘The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience’.