I think it is important to remember that everything we do is a choice we make.
Every time we use, every time we cut, every time we leave or stay, every time we yell, we make the choice to do it. It often doesn’t seem like it at the time,but we always have a choice. It can be hard to acknowledge this without blaming ourselves. When we are in an abusive situation, yes, he made me too scared to leave, and I made the choice to stay, under duress. I think we have to acknowledge that we make these choices, both good ones that we can be proud of, and shitty ones when all the options are terrible. Because if you say you had a choice when things were at their worst, that means you have a choice now. That means we are not doomed to this cycle of pain, this dark place. It means there is hope, we can break the cycle, and we will make good choices again. Every choice is an opportunity. And we each have the power to make choices, even when it doesn’t feel that way.
We go through therapy to reconcile with the choices that we and others have made. To forgive ourselves for the decisions we made that hurt us, and to learn from all of them. We have to learn to accept and claim ownership over our thoughts and actions. I can't look back on the awful times and act like it was someone else who went through that, who allowed himself to be hurt and who hurt others. It was me. It happened from and to me, and it sucked, and I have to accept it as it is. It is past now, and I can move forward. Without denial, and without the feeling of helplessness.
A big part of our journey of recovery sometimes is the process of learning to live with ourselves. That can be the hardest part. It is for me.
Today, I had a very good day, and I felt more confident and comfortable with myself than I have in such a long time. I don't want to forget that days like this are possible. I was about to say I don't want to forget that I can be this person, but what I mean is: I shouldn't forget that I am this person. Every day. Whether I realize and enjoy it or not.
People always tell us that it's not our circumstances that make us depressed, or anxious, or angry, but the attitude we take towards them. When I'm thinking clearly, I completely agree. But it is so hard and has taken me years of work in recovery to understand it and be able to apply that wisdom to my life. And still most days I cannot. I don't have enough mental energy most of the time to see things from any perspective but the one that hurts. We often complain how repetitive therapy and therapeutic literature is, but I've realized that I need to hear things like this hundreds of times before I can internalize them.
What I left out in the beginning of this post is that although we are constantly making choices and we have to acknowledge that, it is extremely difficult to make them consciously. Another lesson that is really difficult to internalize is one that you read over and over again, perhaps the most common advice about success: that you have to fail again and again and be okay with it and get up and run ahead to the next attempt. You have to accept failure. And mistakes. And misfortune. We have to let go of the alternate realities we carry around where things happened differently. Most mental illness includes a disconnection from reality. That might be the definition of mental illness. It's okay to be unhappy with reality, and furious at it, and to cry about it. But we still have to live in it.