Last Year’s Lesson: To Live in the Moment

Noted psychiatrist Peter Kramer warns us about romanticizing depression in the same way that tuberculosis was once romanticized—and I wholeheartedly agree; however, as I attempt to climb out from the second most debilitating bout of depression and anxiety in my life, I can’t help but recognize the lessons, or should I even use the word gifts, that this illness brings.

I have been humbled by the acute anxiety and depression of the last year. Humbled enough to recognize what’s important and what’s not. My lofty career aspirations and personal goals have been replaced by the desire to sleep through the night and to live as many days as possible without pain. I don’t care about how many people read my blog or my books and I have little interest in building a name for myself. I want merely to enjoy as many precious moments as I can with my family and close friends, and if the opportunity comes, to help a person or two as I go along.

I have learned the importance of staying in the moment as much as is humanly possible. To concentrate on the dishes when I’m washing the dishes; to enjoy hot water when I’m taking a shower; to taste the flavors of a dish when I am eating; and to feel the tenderness of my daughter’s hand as I walk her across a busy street.

If you live with chronic pain of any kind, you really have no option but to embrace the present hour. Life is too overwhelming and, in my case, sleep disappears if you skip too far ahead. Peace is grasped in the now, like Thich Nhat Hanh writes in “The Sun My Heart”:

Peace can exist only in the present moment. It is ridiculous to say, “Wait until I finish this, then I will be free to live in peace.” What is “this”? A diploma, a job, a house, the payment of a debt? If you think that way, peace will never come. There is always another “this” that will follow the present one. If you are not living in peace at this moment, you will never be able to. If you truly want to be at peace, you must be at peace right now. Otherwise, there is only “the hope of peace some day.”

What are the lessons you learned this year?

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14 thoughts on “Last Year’s Lesson: To Live in the Moment

  1. My heart and good wishes go out to you. I, too, have been struggling these past few weeks and am forcing myself to live in the moment when I can remember to! :) The short days of a Scottish winter don’t help but God must have had His reasons for my being born here! With every good wish for a happy and healthy 2014 x

  2. Therese,

    I’m sorry to hear that you are struggling – I hope that you are at the end of your slide and that you will be in a new place soon.

    This year I learned that work helps keep me well. I am so thankful that I am able to get out and think straight enough to work. I am not taking it for granted. I’ve learned that the distraction and effort to be a bit less selfish keeps my mind off of my troubles. I know too well though, that the cart could tip and a new challenging passage could come my way at any time. I feel like I’m on the edge of a type of happiness that I’ve not yet experienced. I’m not sure what stands in the way of making that leap.

    I hope the same for you friend…that your future holds a new place that includes a whole day at a time to look back on, rather than hour to hour.

    Prayers for you,

    Kate (DeepWithin)

    http://www.attendanceplease.wordpress.com

  3. I have suffered from anxiety and depression for nearly 20 years and just finished reading Beyond Blue. I have never experienced and breakthroughs or successes like desribed in the book. It was very disheartening to check this website for the first time only to see that you are going through the same things again Therese. Although I am extremely thankful that my depression does not involve suicidal thoughts, I have all but given up hope of living a life of fulfillment. To see that someone who seems to be doing “all the right things to stay healthy” has relapsed only reinforces my hopelessness. Good luck to you and God bless.

  4. Hi Therese,
    I wish you happiness for the New Year. I just started receiving your blog. You have such an eloquent way of expressing your self & describing your depression. I am very impression by the way you have been riding your storms with out accusing any one. i dont suffer from depression but I feel our daughter is suffers from it or some other form of mental illness. We have tried reaching out to her but she wont respond & has cut the family off & us since three years. I have gone for councling trying to fill in the doted lines but have had no success. Had she not been our daughter I would have steped back & not bothered or worried about her. I personally am more content & comfortable with myself type of person. I accepting life as it comes or let things slide of as a person. I feel life is to be lived and enjoyed but every thing has an ending at some point & I tend to think about today & greet my tomorrow when it comes each morning with a pray. This has worked for me all these years.
    Seama

  5. Theresa, I so agree. I was just reading my mail and feeling sorry for myself because I deal with pain every day. I was also nursing some hurt feelings. Your post helped. God bless and I hope you start doing much better. My heart really does go out to you. God bless

  6. Theresa, i feel so bad that you are still struggling. I hope you have you are surrounded by supportive people I know you do on line. God bless. (I hope this isn’t a duplicate post.)

  7. Oh mate, your name was ‘built’ ages ago! No need to keep building. We are all so lucky to read your blog. Your honesty, wit and sincerity goes a long way. Maybe longer than you may think. So tonight is my NYE. No fireworks or getting wasted for me. I’ll go to bed early and wake up refreshed tomorrow morning, like I try to do every day. I will say ‘thank you’ every morning I do. I know I’ll ‘slip up’ from time to time so I will try not to beat myself up when I do. Happy New Year for you and all the people here who perhaps read your words one day and decided to ‘keep going’. Because you made a difference T.

  8. Happy New Year. I am so sorry that you suffer from depression. I am trying to find out more about depression & mental illness. My sister has estranged my parents & us all. We don’t know why & have no idea how to reach out to her. All we know she suffers from depression & blames us all. Does depression make people with drawl and break contact?

  9. Wonderfully written. Last year proved intensely humbling to me, as well, as I managed to add to my ever-present anxiety an unexpected and chronic heart condition. I am reaching the end of my career and have adjusted my ambitious accordingly.largely out of necessity as I am longer comforable with the incessant stress.and ambiguity of the contemporary workplace. And yes, these days a decent night’s sleep and a pain-free morning and evening would be utter bliss to me. I am busy trying to climb out of my own hole and while I am in it there is no time for thoughts of unfinished projects or articles I would like to write or that one last presentation that would summarize 37 years of work, All I want to see when I finally climb out is my wife, my now-grown children, my extended family and those close friends who still listen to me when I call.

    Perhaps the single lesson I learned this past year is to continue to pray for healing (I gave up for time) — mine and others close to me, many whose struggles are much worse than mine — and then get on with life however difficult that might be. Most of us recover, at least for a time, and it is those small miracles — the tenderness of a daughter’s hand you mentioned and years ago watching my son play baseball — that burrow through the blankness and give us strength to go on.

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