As a human being, I have a tendency to walk away from judgment. Though I’m working on standing my ground in what I believe, regardless of what others may think, I care and the fear in that still sometimes affects me. I acknowledge that. To a certain degree, caring is important. As Brené Brown points out in her speech, Why Your Critics Aren’t the Ones Who Count, “When we stop caring what people think, we lose our capacity for connection and vulnerability.” So, I care.
The fear, however, that keeps me from saying all of my truth does not serve in connection. The holding back disconnects. In my fear of judgment, I jump the gun on my thoughts- I hold myself back from opening myself to all of what I believe, from embracing the beliefs that I love and challenging those which do not serve me. In my fear of judgment, I’ve held myself at arm’s length from expressing my feelings, in particular, my grief.
Choice in life has been a challenging concept for me to understand, in and out of recovery. There are so many things we, as people, do not have a choice in. We do not choose where or to whom we are born. We do not have much of a choice at all until we’re semi-independent almost-adults, and often our choices are already limited by those previously made for us. We do not choose many of our leaders, and we do not choose the history set before us prior to our entrance on this planet. We do not choose our planet. Yet, without a sense of choice, there is no empowerment and time and time again, I’ve been encouraged to see the choice in my actions, which unfold my options.
The way I’ve come to understand it, though many choices I won’t have a say in, the perspective with which I address each decision, those I make and those already made, is the choice I have in everything. If I choose to internally shift at any moment, my altered perception can create change and, thus, an outlet of choice in that very moment. Without choice, there is no room to breathe, and so I choose to believe this. I choose choice.
The choice to choose comes up daily and my relationship with it is still rocky. I have to consciously remind myself of choice, and, at times, I falter in really integrating this belief I’ve come to develop. Because it so thoroughly applies to my eating disorder, however, I find it hard to outwardly express my hesitations and frustrations when they arise. Without a choice, recovery would not be possible, yet I don’t believe anyone chooses to struggle.
In fear of my critics, in fear of the judgment that might derive from both myself and others, I have strayed from questioning choice and mourning the choices I don’t believe I made. In particular, I have distanced myself from grieving the parts of my life that have already passed me by. Countless times I’ve heard exclamations on my age (“You’re only 17 (18, 19…)!”, “You have so much life left!”, “At least you’re not 40 (50, 60, 70…) and struggling!”, “It’s so good you’re taking care of [the eating disorder] now while you’re still young!”, etc.), and though it’s true, I am only nineteen, I am also nineteen and spent ten years of my life struggling with a disorder that I don’t feel like I chose. I spend a lot of time looking at the glass half full, but sometimes it feels half empty.
I’m sad that a large part of my memories from my childhood, prior to the onset of my eating disorder, feel framed by obsessions and compulsions. I don’t think it’s right that, though my temperament caused me to develop an eating disorder, there were so many environmental factors which led me in that direction. I cry for the need I had and still, at times, have to feel safe, and the maladaptive outlets in which I found that safety. I don’t think it’s fair that I spent so much of my time destroying myself, nor that I thought that it felt like it was saving me. I’m upset by the relationships and opportunities that have been lost in my struggles, as well as those I never got to know that I missed. It makes me so sad that it’s this challenging to change, that I sometimes feel better when I struggle, that hurting myself could feel better, that I (or anyone) could feel a need to hurt myself, and that it still hurts to do the healthier, more natural thing. And, I have grief over how many others will still suffer with this and be exposed to similar triggers as I, after I’ve healed myself. An eating disorder is devastating, and I’m devastated by the impact it has had on not only my childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood, but also that of my family and friends. I am devastated.
Even in writing this, I hover over the backspace key. I want to shut out the feelings that might allude to hopelessness, afraid that I won’t be able to pull myself out. But in doing so, I know I’m not vanishing them. They still exist and need attention. In the past, I’ve ignored or avoided them just to have them spill over and catch me off guard at moments of existential crises, which winds up truly feeling hopeless. So, today, I’m trying to notice them, just as I take note of my fear of judgment, and accept it. I’m saying hello to my grief, giving it space to breathe, and then choosing another feeling when it’s time. I’m choosing to grieve and finding the perspective in that to move forward positively.