My life has not gone according to my plans. By now, I should be studying for a Ph.D. and teaching creative writing and critical theory, living independently in my own home with a dog and a loving partner, and landing a deal with a literary agent for my debut novel.

Instead, I’m suffering from chronic, long-term physical and mental illness, living with my father who cares for me, and am unable to step out of my home without having a nervous breakdown. As you can imagine, the PhD, teaching and partner route is nowhere to be seen on account of these unwanted tangents.

I’m disappointed. Actually, I’m gutted that my life has taken this unfortunate turn, especially when I worked so hard in my teens and twenties to lay the foundations for my future goals. This is not what I signed up for.

How do you cope when things move counter to your plans? How do you manage the disappointment felt when you invest your whole self in a project, idea or plan, only to see it come to nothing? I confess that until recently, I haven’t been coping that well. Disappointment made me bitter and hopeless. But this has had its advantages in that it has taught me what disappointment is, what it feels like and what it looks like when my mind starts to fight back.

Practices such as humility and gratitude may be helpful when broaching your disappointment but I’m not going to discuss those abstract things here. I’m going to smash the proverbial mirror we’re all taught to hold up to ourselves. We don’t need it because this is how we really cope with disappointment.

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This was first published in the April 2014 issue of Complete Wellbeing.

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