Living a good life is challenging. A life that’s productive, positive, happy, and isn’t hugely damaging to yourself or those around you… It’s hard. And when you add in depression, anxiety, sickness, and sobriety on top of it all, it sometimes feels a lot harder.
Depression kills my productivity. Sometimes I start thinking about having to make it through the day and the week and the month and the year and the rest of my life while fighting the same battles every day and it just seems far too overwhelming. How can I possibly survive for the rest of my life??
Back in Thailand I started going to therapy and I talked a lot about this cyclical dread. I’d get depressed about being depressed and thinking about being depressed all the rest of the days of my life til I’m dead. What a depressing thought.
My therapist came up with a mantra for me to start taking things one day at a time: Tomorrow might be better. I’m not so optimistic as to say tomorrow will be better, but I can admit at least that it might be. And that was enough. It was hugely helpful in getting me to live day by day and focus on today rather than getting depressed about tomorrow before it even arrives. I’ve been trying to live one day at a time since then.
Moving to San Diego felt like my chance to really get my life together. To work hard on all the negative parts of myself. But the thought of doing that was daunting. I decided to do yoga every day, but quickly found my motivation lacking. I’d have lengthy to-do lists that overwhelmed me and I’d start wasting time and avoiding responsibility instead.
So I came up with another mantra for myself: Do the next right thing.
I ate breakfast. Great! That was productive and positive. Now, I have two options: I can do some yoga, or I can sit on the couch and watch TV until my eyelids melt together. The rest of the day is daunting. I still have to write two articles, run errands, clean my room, do laundry, apply for jobs, and cook food. But that’s too much to think about. So right now, in this moment, I just have to make one choice.
TV or yoga?
And I try to choose the next right thing.
And when that’s done, I can get dressed and ready, or I can lay on the floor and think about all the terrible things I’ve ever done and regretted and once I’ve done that for 20 minutes I might as well just roll on over to the couch and watch TV for seven hours because the day’s already wasted.
So I do the next right thing. I get dressed and ready.
And I take my days one at a time, hour by hour, decision by decision. If I think about having to manage my life for a whole week or month or year, I can’t fathom how to do it. But I can handle the next ten minutes.
There’s a play I really like that was made into a movie that I really don’t like called The Last Five Years, and in it there’s a song called The Next Ten Minutes. Part of it goes like this: