Mental Health

Living in the present… or just avoidance?

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This post is sort of a follow-up to my post yesterday on goal-setting, in which I talked about the difficulty I have in setting goals for the future.

The past includes good stuff in the more distant past and a lot of not so good stuff in the more recent past.  I used to be someone who was generally pretty optimistic about the future, but depression has robbed me of that.  It’s been two years since I was last in full remission, and I’m not sure if that’s something I’ll ever be able to get back to.  Maybe the future will hold good things and maybe it won’t, but there’s no positive that I anticipate with any sort of certainty.  It’s hard to set goals for the future when I’m not certain what I’ll be capable of, and it’s hard to set career goals when there are some major factors outside of my control that are keeping me stuck where I am now.

All this means I’ve been in a holding pattern of living in the present.  From a mindfulness perspective I suppose that’s a good thing, but what if I’m using it as an avoidance strategy?  Avoidance has become a very close friend of mine.  The past holds a lot of pain, but even if I try to focus further back to a more positive past, I’m reminded of how much I have lost.  Looking to the future is terrifying, and something that I actively avoid doing.  Even though I’m not feeling suicidal, I don’t have a particularly strong wish to carry on living.  I carry on because my body keeps on living, but if I knew I was going to be killed by lightning strike tomorrow I’d be fine with that.

So I live for today because it’s the most bearable place to be.  Perhaps that’s a good thing, perhaps it’s not, but it keeps me moving forward one today after another.

What kind of relationship do you have with the past, present, and future?



25 thoughts on “Living in the present… or just avoidance?”

  1. An excellent post Ashley. with a provocative question to boot.

    I try not to have anything but a clinical relationship with my past these days, so l keep things objective. My present as always has one stress or another ongoing, so l tend to take life as best as l can one day at a time, and as for my future – l don’t know because of the one day at a time policy.

    As a youngster l lived most of my time in the future as both the past and present were relationships l didn’t cherish. So it is kind of ironic how l live my life these days, only living in the present.

  2. I live in the past and worry about the future – I really struggle with the present, it hasn’t been a very pleasant place to be. I’m learning, though. One step at a time.

  3. When I was young I seemed to live in the future because I hoped things got better in the future for me. Now I’m similar to you Ashley in that I cannot plan ahead so I love for today. I don’t know that it is avoidance for me but I can’t be sure that it isn’t either. Like you I don’t know how I will be in the future. I’m ‘retired’ now so that kind of helps.
    Great post xxx

  4. I honestly can’t remember what I replied to yesterday’s post, so apologies if I’m repeating myself! (short term memory issues being a depression thing)

    We all use avoidance as a coping mechanism, I do – to excess. It can be impossible to think about the future at times, and looking back at the past is only really useful if it gives you an awareness of how to move forward. If looking back causes distress or feelings of loss then it isn’t helpful.

    Forgotten your question now… ah yes.
    I cannot future plan past about a month. I generally only plan for the next week. The past is tricky, I probably try not to think about it too much, but from this answer I think I even avoid thinking about thinking about it!

  5. Your words could be mine, I understand exactly how you feel because it is how I feel. I’m trying recently to fool my mind, my brain or myself to believe in positivity. It is working so far even though I don’t have a job and have family to take care of. I don’t have suicidal thoughts anymore but frankly, if a car would knock out of a cliff, I would care.

  6. My mental health specialists and myself sometimes wonder if my Social Anxiety Disorder hasn’t progressed to Avoidant Personality Disorder….so pretty sure it is avoidance with me lol. Great post!

  7. Life eh Ashley – when you think you ahve all the time in the world you carefully weave the nominations in, and yet Madam dawg needs walking, jobs need a doing, cooking needs a cooking and the usual blah blahs!

    However a Nom nom nom in knee you shall be 🙂

    I know you have seen this, but let’s pretend you haven’t 🙂

    I have nominated you and your blog for The Liebster Award 🙂

  8. I think I’m in a similar place to you. Further back I was a really high achiever and I don’t think I will ever get back to that, and thinking about the loss of that person makes me feel really sad. But I do think there is a difference mentally between being in a holding pattern and living relatively contentedly within your own limits, even though they could both be described as “living in the moment”. In this I compare myself to my brother: he has a severely disabled 20 month old child but he and his partner just seem to accept their life for what it is and are happy enough, where I have so much and am still miserable and unfulfilled and resentful of my lot, and I feel as if I’m waiting for the right moment to begin living my life properly. Despression destroys the ability to be content, and however much people say that practising radical acceptance makes depression better ie “fake it til you make it”, I’m not entirely convinced that it’s that black and white. I think that it’s often the other way around – that acceptance comes AFTER the depression lifts a bit.

    Which is to say, maybe it is avoidance in your case, but maybe it is also the best you can manage at the moment and nothing to think badly of yourself about.

  9. I truly think my past tends to dictate in my present maybe a bit too much, especially when I write my poetry. Always about my deceased ex-husband. It’s kind of hard to avoid though because he is always in my dreams/nightmare at times.
    My present is my present, I do stay in the present as often as I can trying to use positivity in my daily routine, and sharing that with others as well.
    Goals? That is a whole other story in itself. If I don’t write them out, I’m lost without it. I have to keep a list of future goals in front of me in order to keep striving to get there. That list is the hardest to accomplish. I’m better at being in the present moment. 🙂

  10. I think you’re doing it the right way–the past and/or the future cause anxiety or unhappiness, then it’s great if you can keep your mind off of them. I don’t see it as avoidance at all. Jesus said, “Let the future take care of itself.” (Not an exact quote.) But I think he meant that as problems arise, you deal with them at the time, so worrying for the future is pointless. I don’t see anything wrong with your stategy at all.

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