For a long time I thought that life was something that was happening to me. I didn’t examine my part in what was going wrong. I didn’t believe I had a choice in whether or not I used behaviors, and I didn’t think I had a choice in whether or not I was happy.
I was stuck in the mindset that, for whatever reason, I was the way I was. There was no opportunity for growth, there was no opportunity to better myself. I would be going between treatment and relapse until I eventually died.
I’ve been out of treatment for a year and a half as of the sixth of November (I just figured that out and now I’m doing a tiny happy dance). The time that I’ve been out of treatment has not been without behavioral or emotional struggle, to say the least. I’ve had times where I’ve used behaviors that I told myself I wouldn’t use again, I’ve felt lost or hopeless. The last year and a half has not been sunshine and rainbows.
But I have learned so much about life and living, mostly that I have to choose to take responsibility for my actions, the results of my actions, and how I feel.
Yes, the way people interact with me affects how I feel in the moment. But I can choose to let it go or hold onto it. I can choose to be angry or be understanding. I can choose to stay in feeling awful or to change the feeling by doing something else or talking it through.
Similarly, I can choose to use a behavior in response to my current life situation or to refrain from using behaviors. I can choose to put myself in a dangerous situation or to care for myself.
At first, it wasn’t so much a choice. When I got out of treatment, I felt pretty awful most of the time still. I didn’t actively choose to not respond with behaviors, I just had this internal voice that said that I could not respond with behaviors. Not so much of a choice, just a mechanical understanding of what was going on. I didn’t work to change how I felt, but I acknowledged that using behaviors wasn’t an option.
Now, with so much of my outpatient therapy focusing on my existence instead of my history and beliefs, I am at a point where I make choices. At the end of last year, when I was really struggling with my food intake and self-harm behaviors for a minute, I chose to see my therapist more often and find a new dietitian and doctor. I didn’t say “oh this is happening to me” then. I said “oh, this is a result of my actions and I need to do something to get out of it.”
I do similar things with emotions now too. If I’m in a conversation that leaves me feeling not-so-great, I talk it through with another human (or a few other humans) and then I do something else. I go on a walk with my dog, or listen to an ebook (currently The Happiness Project), and let it go.
This isn’t to say that an eating disorder, addiction, or other behavioral issue is a choice. I fully believe we are genetically predisposed to these struggles, and environment plays a huge factor in them developing. I didn’t choose to have behavioral problems.
However–I did, do, and can continue to choose recovery and take responsibility for myself.