Depressive Nostalgia

Depression has made me nostalgic, and not in a good way.  As far as I can remember, I’m not normally the nostalgic type.  The past is the past.  Some of it was fun, some of it wasn’t.  Either way, I don’t dwell on it.  Or I didn’t dwell on it.  Lately, I spend an awful lot of time thinking about my past.  And it is definitely not helping anything.

There are two main themes that my mind keeps turning to.  One is just the bad things that have happened, mostly regarding my marriage.  That’s not particularly exciting.  I just got divorced, so that happens to be my wallow right now.  Whenever my mind is unoccupied, it finds an unpleasant memory, an argument or something, and goes over it.  I’m guessing (hoping) that will pass with time.

The second theme is missed opportunities.  This is far stranger for me and feels worse.  I have no idea how it is for other people, but until recently, I never looked back on my life with regrets.  That’s not to say I don’t feel bad about anything I’ve done.  Of course I’ve screwed up and feel bad about it.  I mean that I’ve never wished for any important changes in my life.  I’ve never wondered what if.  What if I had majored in music or writing instead of philosophy?  What if I had taken that HR job instead of the compliance job?  What if I had sent in my applications for grad school?  Until recently, if the questions came up (although they only ever came up if someone asked), the answer was a simple, “I never would have met my wife and had my daughter,” and I’d forget about it.  Now that doesn’t work so well.  And that’s not even getting into the myriad little personal decisions from my past that keep popping into my head.

I know this is connected to my depression.  Part of that knowledge comes from it being so out of character for me.  But most of it comes from the fact that telling myself, “I never would have had my daughter,” doesn’t snap me out of it.  I’m no longer able to convince myself of anything.  I can tell myself that I was always miserable as a student, from kindergarten right through college graduation.  And from what I know of grad school, I would have been even more miserable there.  And I would have had more debt and no better job prospects.  And I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed any jobs a PhD would have prepared me for.  And if I had spent years in a PhD program, I definitely would not have met my wife and had my kid.  All of that is true.  I know it’s true.  But there’s a nagging voice inside me telling me I’m wrong.  I should have majored in music.  I should have taken the other job.  I should have gone to grad school, gotten a PhD and become a professor.  I know that voice is wrong, but I can’t make it stop.

I’m basically suffering from nostalgic self doubt.  I keep going over my past and telling myself that I chose poorly.  Things were better then and if I had only made the other decision, they’d be better now.  It is immensely frustrating.  It’s like there’s a split between my knowledge and beliefs (the question of whether that’s even possible would fill a book, or at least a separate post, so I’ll leave it alone for now).  There’s still enough of the old me to know better.  I know that even though I’m going through a bad time right now, I have it pretty good.  I just don’t believe it.  I know that it’s pointless to worry about things which cannot be changed.  But I keep doing it.  It’s maddening.

There’s so much to hate about depression, but being stuck in the past is particularly distasteful.  I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be a fan even if I were stuck in the happy times.  This just sucks.

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