When existence has been characterized by suffering for so long, it can be difficult to comprehend what life without it could look like. The concept of a positive, happy, well-adjusted person who lives a fulfilling and happy life seems so foreign to almost be unreal. Impossible. It seems as though life is always hard, will always be hard, and any claim of a different narrative is idealistic drivel.
Suffering likes us to buy into this narrative because it means that we won’t cling to the hope that it is possible to be free. And when there is no hope for freedom, you accept the hardships life and disorder puts on you as ‘as good as it gets.’
But the reality is that existence beyond suffering is real. People exist who are well-adjusted, securely attached, who lack trauma and suffering. Who are happy – actually happy – the majority of the time. Now one way to view this is to take a victim mentality and ask why. ‘Why them, and not me?’ Why do I have to suffer, to have trauma, to have dealt with abuse or disorder or suffering. This can be a very self defeating narrative, one in which you allow circumstance to trap you into an existence of being broken.
But another way to view this, and the way I choose to view it, is that the existence of these people is infinitely empowering. They represent hope. They represent freedom. And they are proof that life can exist in a paradigm so foreign to those who suffer that it seems a fairytale.
This means that we don’t have to accept our suffering at face value. We don’t have to be a victim to circumstance. We can strive for happiness and not settle for less, regardless of what life throws at us.
I believe in the power of agency. Of the ability for us to choose how we react and are effected by the things that happen to us and around us. This is how I have been resolving my world-shattering realization that ‘full recovery’ may not amount to what I have always dreamed it to be. I have no control over what the outcome of recovery looks like — if full recovery consists of maintenance and tolerance of symptoms, then there is nothing I can do to change that. But I know I want my life to mean something. And I have constructed the goals and values that make my life meaningful. Thus, regardless of the outcome of recovery, I can choose to live that meaningful life. I can choose to believe in myself and my own ability to cope with whatever life throws at me, because I am more than my existence.
I wrote this post a few weeks ago, but had difficulty completing it. It felt too short to actually publish, but I didn’t have any more to write. The realizations in it had made me feel limitless, something I had always wanted to be. But sadly, as the experience that inspired these realizations ended and I returned to real life, everything started to tank. My health, my mind, my recovery — it all went back to the struggling state I was in prior to this experience. The hard truth that my limits are real and tangible hit me again like a ton of bricks and destroyed the positivity I had been feeling.
Now, nearly two weeks later, I realize that the reality is it isn’t one or the other — limitless or hopeless. There are aspects of both. I am far more limitless than I was 5 years ago. Or 1 year ago. Or even 6 months ago. But that doesn’t change the fact that I am dealing with some hard things. Some of us are dealt a difficult hand, and it’s not something we chose or can control. It just is. And that sucks. It sucks to have limits put on you that you never asked for. It sucks for every day to be hard when for some it is easy. It sucks that your normal doesn’t necessarily get to be like other’s. But that doesn’t mean we have to resign to our illness or our struggles.
In the last year I have realized that I am so much more capable than my illness and my hardships have ever let me believe I could be. And I have begun to identify the potentiality of a life worth living that I fight for everyday. So, it is okay that it is hard now. It is okay that I am not limitless. It is okay that breaking from my structure and routine throws me off for a while. It is okay that I am not better. Because I am still trying. I am still fighting. And I will continue to do so. Possibly forever. But I refuse to accept misery. Ever. Full stop. We deserve more than that, my Warriors. We deserve lives we want to live. And I believe with my entire being that we can achieve that. We may have to fight forever. But isn’t that worth it when you consider the alternative?
I am restructuring my recovery right now with all these insights at mind. I have decided to focus on the root of my issues rather than the symptoms. Yes, my friends — on the root of trauma. I am terrified of this. It’s scary to decide to face what you have forever buried so deep so you never have to look at it. Trauma can mean a lot of things. And I think its at the root of so many of our problems and behaviors. So I have decided to start to tackle mine. Because it limits me so much more than anything else. And I am okay with getting worse for a while. With the fight being harder and the battle feeling unwinnable. I am okay with cutting back on parts of the life I have built to make more room for recovery. I am okay with all of this because no matter what I believe that life can be better than it is.
I suppose, after re-reading the first half of this post, that I came to the same conclusions a second time. And this, in my opinion, simply strengthens the concept that we are more than our suffering. Whether things are going great or terribly, there is always more that we can reach for if we believe that we deserve it — and we do deserve it. So believe in yourself. I do.