What Would Your Life Be Like If You Enjoyed Yourself More

I was visiting with my therapist. We meet every few months to discuss my anxiety disorder. I told her about how I had all these good things going on in my life: wonderful kids, a good job, a wife I honestly love, a book coming out…and yet I couldn’t enjoy them. All I could do was zero in on some argument at work, or some vile comment on my blog page, or something that happened years ago, or look at the future and worry about bad things that might happen. I churn it in my head until I’m an anxious mess, unable to sleep, and miserable.

“Each night before bed I pray to be able to enjoy my blessings,” I said.

She told me how this is all typical of my condition, and then she gave me something to think about before our next visit. “What would your life be like if you enjoyed yourself more?” she said.

And I know that some of you reading this, those without mental illness, might not understand the impact of this simple question, but please realize that I’d never once, not in my 35 years of battling depression and anxiety, ever considered imagining how my life might look if I enjoyed myself more. That’s how overwhelming something like this is. Depression, anxiety, all of it, is so consuming that it’s almost impossible to imagine life without out it.

I didn’t think about her question until I was sitting next to my 3yo, trying to get her to sleep. It was dark except for Aspen’s special pink flashlight. She’s on the bottom bunk, and she shined it at the bottom of her sister’s bed.

I started to think about her question, and I started to compile a list of everything I’d do differently if I enjoyed myself more.

I’d enjoy my time with my children more, like the moments I was having right there with my daughter, her soft hands holding her favorite flashlight, her eyes curiously moving side to side, my heart warm and quiet and content.

I’d leave arguments at work, along with stress, and unfinished duties. I’d approach work situations with the assumption that I am a qualified professional and not an impostor. I’d feel proud of myself for finishing college and landing a good job despite coming from a broken home with a drunken father. I’d love my wife of 13 years more, and allow myself to feel confident and comfortable in our relationship. I’d feel good about my accomplishments as a writer, and stop comparing myself to others. I’d slow down and laugh along with my children, and I’d hold them a little longer, savoring the moment rather than worrying about getting to that next thing on my long list of things to accomplish.

I felt a rush of something that I couldn’t define, but if I tried to put a name on it, it’d be a mix of confidence and relief. I don’t know where all this will lead. I don’t know if I finally found a breakthrough, but what I do know is that I fell asleep sitting in my daughter’s bed thinking about that question. And I slept better than I can remember.

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