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Je Regrette Tout
June 12, 2014 2:51 PM   Subscribe

Please help me figure out how to deal with crippling regret over small and large things.

I am a regrett-er. I regret everything. These can be big things (career choice, not being social in college, not moving to France when I had the chance, choosing the wrong job) or little things (buying an expensive flight last month, what I ate for dinner two nights ago, the brand of toothpaste I bought, agreeing to go to a party a few nights ago, giving my daughter some formula when I had to be away.) It is really crippling, and getting to the point that I can't make decisions and want to cry every time I've realized I've made a wrong one -- which is nearly every time. Literally, these thoughts can paralyze me for days, and I spend hours wishing I could speak to my previous self and tell them to go in a different direction.

I don't think I'm depressed -- I've got a supportive husband, a kid I adore, financial comfort, and a warm and healthy family. But my fear that I've made wrong decisions is seriously affecting my happiness.

How do you deal with regrets? Any resources that might help me with this? Or what's going on with me that this keeps happening?
posted by caoimhe to Grab Bag (11 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
 
I've got a supportive husband, a kid I adore, financial comfort, and a warm and healthy family

None of that provides immunity from depression, or proves that you somehow can't be depressed. Depression is not feeling sad because your life is shitty (well, it can be that!). It's a disease. Go get evaluated, because it can be serious.

That said: Every time I've had (brief) bouts of "oh god I should have/shouldn't have", I remind myself to look at where I am: If I'd made a different choice, I wouldn't be right where I am right now, and most of the time I'm pretty happy with that.

On rereading your question:

It is really crippling, and getting to the point that I can't make decisions and want to cry every time I've realized I've made a wrong one -- which is nearly every time. Literally, these thoughts can paralyze me for days, and I spend hours wishing I could speak to my previous self and tell them to go in a different direction.

It's fucking up your life. It's making you unhappy. Get treatment, whether it's just talk therapy or talk + medication, because this isn't normal or okay. You don't have to live like this.
posted by rtha at 2:57 PM on June 12 [4 favorites]


It may not be depression (though it may be), but it could also very easily be a form of Anxiety Disorder. Like rtha said, it's a disease that has real symptoms and real treatments (and may not have a "cause" in the emotional way, but rather the biological way). Go to your doctor and address this like you would any other life-affecting medical problem.
posted by brainmouse at 2:59 PM on June 12 [2 favorites]


You're right; it doesn't sound like depression necessarily. It sounds more like anxiety. Maybe the search term "anxiety" instead of regret or depression will lead you to resources that are a better fit.

Any time a mental health problem is crippling and paralyzing, definitely getting professional help is the way to go.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 3:02 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]


You're breast feeding a baby? Is this new since the baby was born, or worse? If so could you be experiencing postpartum depression or some other weird hormone thing? Are you eating and sleeping enough? Working on this stuff might make whatever this is easier to let go of.
posted by bleep at 3:05 PM on June 12 [5 favorites]


I don't think I'm depressed -- I've got a supportive husband, a kid I adore, financial comfort, and a warm and healthy family.

Situational depression may be related to these things sometimes, but biochemical depression has nothing to do with them.

But you are describing something that is more like anxiety disorder, as everyone else has said. Mine certainly manifests in "hauntings" and decision paralysis.

Anyway, you say you can barely function, and that is sufficient knowledge. There are professionals who can help decipher what the issue is. You can start with your OB/GYN if you have a good relationship there, or your GP.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:06 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]


Oh, good call, bleep! Yes, glancing through your recent questions, it looks like you've got a twoish-month-old; please call your primary care person and describe the symptoms. This isn't something to be ashamed of; you aren't the only person this happens to; you deserve to get help!
posted by rtha at 3:08 PM on June 12 [3 favorites]


Literally, these thoughts can paralyze me for days, and I spend hours wishing I could speak to my previous self and tell them to go in a different direction.

I spent some time watching movies and TV shows (the various Star Treks do this a lot) about time travel or otherwise modeling "the road not taken" or "what would have happened if..." I did that for other reasons (as I was trying to mentally model something) but it has helped me get a lot better at not second guessing my decisions and not having regrets.

The reality is that we do not live in a Star Trek universe. We do not really get to ever know what would have happened if we had taken the other path. You cannot ever really know that. You can try to learn from your experiences and improve your mental models and A/B test ideas but the reality is that there is simply no way to go back in time and find out what really, honestly, truly would have happened had you made some other choice. Maybe you would have been hit by a freight train if you had turned right instead of left and there is just no way to really, really know what that outcome would have been.
posted by Michele in California at 3:08 PM on June 12


nthing the observation that this is likely more a form of anxiety than depression (note: anxiety can lead to depression).

There are wonderful ressources on how to manage anxiety. I especially liked The Anxiety & Phobia Workbook.

Somewhere in it, they describe different types of thought patterns that increase anxiety. One of them is "black and white thinking". Your assessment of your past and future decisions might suffer from this. Instead of seeing your past choices as choices that hold both positive and negative effects, you seem to be assessing your choices on a scale of being either perfect or horrible. I'm sure that toothpaste does clean your teeth, your daughter is still healthy and that the costly airline ticket hasn't stopped you from being able to buy groceries. (And, well, I moved to France in college. It was okay. Not life changing. Just... Okay. Humans being humans while eating delicious cheese.)

Basically, sounds like you struggle with perfectionism. Making great decisions likely has served you well in some instances of your life - but this coping mechanism is now doing you harm. Working out where you learned it as a coping mechanism could help you. (Maybe through therapy?). Also, remind yourself your choices don't have to be perfect. It sounds like your life is holding together pretty well with adequate choices.
posted by Milau at 4:19 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]


Also will add: With a very small baby, this may be largely rooted in exhaustion. Try to eat better and try to get some rest. Everything looks worse when I am exhausted. Everything. And I have lots more self doubt when exhausted and under physical stress.
posted by Michele in California at 4:21 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]


A rising level of anxiety, coupled with its paralyzing effects, is worth a visit with your primary care doc or your OB/GYN, especially with your having given birth recently. No matter what you think the source of your worries is, its practical effect is decreasing your quality of life; going to the doctor is a smart next move. Please listen to the folks who are saying that you deserve an assist with figuring out what's going on.

In the meantime, consider that these are thoughts. Intrusive thoughts. Sad-making thoughts. But not tangible, immediate threats to your physical safety. There is no lion behind you. Keep breathing. You don't have to live as though every decision is a danger, even if it feels that way to you right now. It can feel different. You don't have to try to crawl out of it by yourself; help is out there. Please reach out for it.
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:29 PM on June 12 [2 favorites]


I agree so much with all of the above. That said, if you want a mantra, try: The perfect is the enemy of the good.
posted by warriorqueen at 5:05 PM on June 12


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