I never really experienced regret before. Partly because I have always acted upon my impulses, and partly because I never really had to make a life-altering choice.
Well, until recently.
Lately, I made a choice that resulted in delaying something that I wanted. I acted upon feelings of panic and fear, which made me lose perspective of the bigger picture.
At first, I believed that I made the right choice, but slowly, reality crept in. I realized that the choice I made was maybe not the best option.
This led me to more feelings of panic and fear, coupled with suffocation. I felt, yet again, stuck in a place in my life that I didn't want to be. Especially, after I promised myself I won't be stuck again.
I thought I experienced the "heavy heart" symptom before, but never like this. Since I was the only one responsible for my predicament, the world felt so far away from me. It felt like I cornered myself in a tiny spot away from everyone else, and I kept torturing myself. Thoughts of blame kept looping in my head of the things I was missing out on and things I won't get to experience because of my mistake. You always think you have reached the depths of depression, but then it proves you wrong.
The panic never subsided, and so I sought help. I went, to the first time in my life, to a psychiatrist.
For someone who claims to be "progressive", I felt self-conscious for going to a psychiatrist. The stigma of being "mentally unstable" made me feel embarrassed. I thought people were looking at me funny, and the idea of talking to a stranger about my thoughts was so foreign and scary.
I went and the psychiatrist helped me process things and put them in perspective. I realized that even though I consider myself a thinker, my thoughts often get lost in powerful emotions that derail me. And so I am left with a bizarre emotion that I believe has sprouted from nowhere, when actually there was a collection of thoughts behind it. This weird disconnection between thought and emotion was the seed of my troubles.
I was given a technique that helped me sort things out. Every time I felt upset, I was to write down my emotions, thoughts, behavior and alternative thoughts. At first, I struggled to find the link between the emotions(which were very intense) and the leading thoughts. However, once I did, I realized that each event was not a result of a single thought, but tens of thoughts. I also realized that usually, my mind collects thoughts over one day and then results in an intense emotion the following day. The looping around of thoughts made my brain react emotionally and sometimes physically to the mental pain.
Once I was able to sort things out, I was able to logically and calmly figure out how "real" my thoughts were, and provide alternative thoughts, something to counter the negativity. It's a very helpful technique. I realized that I was conflicted and that is why I made a less-than-perfect decision. After a couple of weeks, I was able to sort the conflict and decide what my next move should be. However, suddenly I was hit with powerful feelings of regret and sadness.
I searched for ways to help with regret. The first thing is to admit to what happened. Secondly, learn from it, see what you did wrong or right in the situation and how you can face it. Thirdly, forgive yourself. I think this was the most difficult of steps. Once you admit you were wrong, it is very hard to stop the self-torture and let go of your own mishap. It is also *SURPRISE* the most important step. I think what helped me in achieving self-forgiveness is realizing that at the time, I didn't have all the variables. I acted upon the information I had at the time. It was unfair of me to expect my past self to figure it all out at the time. It also helped to realize that even though I was missing out on some experiences, I was gaining others. Nothing is 100% right or wrong, and so it helps to realize that any experience enriches you in someway.The final step is to take action. For me, the action was to decide on what I truly wanted, without fooling myself or any external pressure.
Finally, I think "being present" is very important. Don't let yourself drift along your thoughts and emotions so much that you forget to experience things. There is always something positive about what you are going through (even though it might not seem like it), and you have to latch yourself to this positive thing. Let it guide you to the other side.
I have to add that this whole thing takes time and a lot of persuasion. You have to actively work on your brain and slowly nudge it to where it needs to be. It takes a lot of effort and every day is a struggle. However, if you are really adamant, it gets better.