Why I Choose Recovery Over and Over Again
Why I Choose Recovery Over and Over Again
The first thing I notice when I’m beyond stressed is that I start shaking. Next, I have a 24-hour headache. Finally, my mind perks up and starts criticising me. My mind makes up ridiculous stories. They are mostly centred on my appearance, eating and exercise habits, and my socialising skills. I’ll be reaching for the front door handle and my mind will say: “You have sausage fingers.” I’ll be walking: “You’re not trying hard enough.” Someone will forget to wave to me: “She doesn’t like you, nobody does.”
My mind being obnoxious is the last thing I need when I’m already feeling overwhelmed.
The thing is, I used to easily give into the whims of my mind and change myself according to its demands. These days I put up a fight. Why? Because I’ve finally realised why I self-criticise: it helps me cope with life. This might sound foreign to you, but putting energy into listening to my mind and acting on it’s suggestions is a perfect distraction from real-world responsibilities.
Obsessing over losing weight, exercising for hours on end, trying to craft the perfect image of myself so that people will like me – all these things require energy. When I was very mentally ill, these strategies were a safe-haven because if I did all the things my mind wanted to do then my anxieties would disappear (for a minute) and I could breathe a sigh of relief. If I did all the things my mind wanted, I wasn’t a broken, unlovable person.
This safe-haven mentality made the mere thought of recovery absolutely terrifying. Leaving safety and going into the real-world where I could be rejected, ridiculed, and have confirmation that I’m unlovable everyday? No thanks.
When I was receiving treatment, though, something happened that completely changed how I felt about recovery. Schools, universities, and workplaces often ask about this ‘triggering moment’ when I share my story with them. I always say this: one day, I was laying on my hospital bed and realised that I was 18 years old, confined to bed rest, and that my life was going absolutely no-where. It made me cry because I didn’t know how I had sunk this low – it’s not where I wanted to be, and it made me cry because I knew that making a better life would mean reversing the shame and hatred I felt toward myself – and that felt impossible.
Still, something changed in me at that moment. It felt impossible, but I knew that I didn’t want the life I had. I knew I still had something to say, a tiny shred of potential. From that moment, I began to choose recovery every day, no matter how tough. And it was damn tough to choose every day between what I knew as safe and the real-world over and over again.
Even years on from my last hospitalisation, I still choose recovery every day because I whole-heartedly believe that it is 100% worth it. When I was a slave to anxiety, depression, and an eating disorder, it confined me to only one dimension of human emotion: shame, fear, and despair. I felt no happiness, love, or hope. I thought these emotions didn’t exist: whenever someone showed even the faintest sign of happiness I thought they were faking it. These days, I still feel shame, fear, and despair but I also feel happiness, love, and hope. It’s beyond amazing to feel genuine laughter, lose track of time dancing, feel like I’m loved for exactly who I am, and be in awe at a moving speech that really touches me.
Because I choose recovery, I choose how to respond to my self-criticising mind that perks up when I’m beyond stressed. I notice the thoughts, lean into discomfort, and tell myself that I’m GOOD ENOUGH right here and now. I then let the thoughts go and put my energies into the things that truly matter to me: relationships, goals and passions, and enjoying whatever is happening right now in this moment.
Instead of feeling safe in the stories my mind tells me, I feel safe in myself. In my everyday life, it means knowing that whatever life throws my way, it might be tough, but I am strong enough to to face it head on. It means knowing that I have worth, no matter what. It means I trust myself to show respect and kindness to myself. This feeling, this safety in myself, is why I will continue to choose recovery over and over again.