How To Prevent An Emotional Breakdown With An Unconditional Regret

Letting go is hard. But you don’t have to go through your whole life regretting what you never did. You can live your life as if that never had happened, and that can help you get over difficult past events.

When I say life’s a journey, it’s not just a journey in terms of a single, linear path. There are different, intersecting paths, and some of them are harder than others. It’s hard to admit to what happened. In fact, it’s the hardest path, at least in my experience. So let’s assume that that never happened. We are living in a world of two realities: one, where you were always right and got all the right results; and two, where you were completely wrong, and the wrongness makes you feel like you’re a failure. Which path will you take? I can tell you which path I choose: one in which I take responsibility for the truth of what happened, both how I got there and if I still believe I could have done something differently, and take the full measure of how wrong I was…

I still get emotional all the time about some of the times I messed up. The most recent one happened a couple weeks ago when I went to a doctor’s office to have a breast exam. I got there thinking it would be routine and nothing out of the ordinary. It turned out to be something I hadn’t prepared for. The nurse asked me some detailed questions about my life—the way I got my job, the kind of friends I’ve had and I wasn’t sure if I’d had any significant ones since graduating college. I’m not good at hiding my emotions, which I know is a problem if I’m looking for a job. The nurse gave me a physical exam to see how I would react to the questions she asked. She asked me my age, height, weight, and whether or not I took any medications, as well as a number of other questions. And then the part she didn’t ask me—the part I’m still working on. I didn’t get the full physical, just a look underneath.

One of the other nurses (who were there to help people take the exam) asked whether or not I’d ever had breast biopsies. I hadn’t at the time, but I did get tested for HIV in the past, and was testing negative. And I do believe I’m free of the virus. The doctor had told me to wait until my results came back, but I didn’t seem to take the doctor’s advice. I made it up to her afterward and talked with her. I explained how scared I was and that it scared me enough that I wanted to talk with someone now and not a year from now. The doctor wanted to talk with me. She told me to say I was in great shape and not worried about getting HIV. I knew that wouldn’t be the truth.

If you can get past your fear about how you’ll be judged or how you’ll be treated from people, you can make headway on the questions to which you aren’t a good source of answers. If you don’t tell the truth, this process may make things worse, not better.  In truth, I didn’t have cancer, or a drug problem, or a history of depression, or anything to tell. I think I had a history that was very similar to other people’s in that I got fired from a job and became an alcoholic, and was involved in some drug use. Those things happen. But what I didn’t do was take a course from an alcohol or drug rehab center in college, and I didn’t have time to find one, because the university’s policy for students was that if you want to get out of school for more than a year to take a course, you would have to be admitted to a school.

All my friends who I think are doing very well in their lives are now in college. I was there for a little of that time. I felt I needed to be away from it, so I transferred to a community college. I wasn’t able to avoid having to explain why I was so far from home for an entire year. My plan was to return to school and get a degree, but I never got my degree.