It’s always odd to me when some people suggest that people who struggle with depression, anxiety, trauma, addiction, or eating disorders are “choosing” how they think, feel, and function.
This idea is often thrown around as a way to blame people for their suffering— and also as a way to assure people that there’s a surefire way to avoid that kind of emotional and behavioral suffering, i.e, simply don’t “choose” it.
I guarantee, nobody who is struggling with depression, anxiety, trauma, addiction, or an eating disorder, is waking up in the morning and cheerfully “choosing” that suffering.
It’s true that we sometimes make choices that exacerbate our suffering— but if we do, it’s almost always because we don’t see alternatives.
Nobody WANTS to be depressed. Nobody WANTS to be anxious; to struggle with trauma; to be shackled to an addiction; to have an eating disorder.
Nobody wakes up in the morning and consciously CHOOSES any of those things, when they feel hey have realistic alternatives.
I grew up struggling with all of the life-ruining symptomatology presented by undiagnosed Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder— but it never occurred to me that I had a condition that could be identified and treated.
I just thought I was making choices that made my life difficult.
In fact, I was TOLD I was just making choices that made my life difficult.
The thing is, I didn’t WANT to make my life difficult— and I didn’t, for a very long time, understand that I had options.
Lots and LOTS of people reading this have had the experience of feeling personally blamed for their emotional or behavioral suffering.
Some people truly think that any kind of emotional or behavioral struggles can be avoided by just making the right choices— and that if someone IS suffering, it’s because they’re somehow not taking responsibility for their emotional and behavioral health.
Believe me: no one is “choosing” suffering.
In fact, the vast majority of people who struggle with depression, anxiety, trauma, addiction, or eating disorders are actively struggling to feel and do ANYTHING other than those things that are ruining their lives.
Dedicating our life to recovery is a choice…but it’s a choice we often make out of desperation.
I didn’t get into recovery because I woke up one day and decided I’d just try it out.
I got into recovery because I was at the end of my rope. My emotional and behavioral struggles were on the verge of costing me everything I valued in my life— if not my life itself.
MOST people who get into recovery feel the same way. We WISH we had the luxury of choice.
But very often, we don’t.
We don’t get to choose how our brains work.
We don’t get to choose who our parents are.
We don’t get to choose the environment in which we grew up.
We don’t get to choose how the adults around us related or treated us when we were young.
We don’t get to choose our genetic vulnerabilities to certain disorders or patterns.
Anyone who thinks that emotional and behavioral struggles are simple matters of “choice”— that we can freely and easily choose among things we experience, think, feel, and do— doesn’t understand how humans work.
If only it was a simple as “make a different choice!”
Don’t get sucked into self-blame or shame.
There are a LOT of factors that go into why we feel and function as we do.
You just focus on crafting a recovery plan that is realistic and applicable to YOU— and sticking to it one day, one hour, one minute at a time.