I used to think I had to cope with my problem behavior, whether it was overeating, drinking too much alcohol, or being depressed and anxious. I went about my life, going to school, working, getting married, having kids, all with a coping strategy running in the back of my mind. Sometimes the coping didn’t work, and the bad feelings and behaviors would come to the forefront. They would take out a few months of my life and I would have to regroup. But for the most part, my unwanted feelings and behaviors became something I learned to function with.
The problem with coping is that it never ceases. By telling myself I had to manage my depression, anxiety and eating issues, I gave them more power than they should have had in my life. Notice, I even called it my depression, my anxiety, my eating issues. When in fact, they weren’t ever mine, they were just symptoms of an erroneous thought process. I considered myself flawed compared to others, like I had a burden to carry, so I resigned myself to living and performing with these issues.
This burden almost felt good, at times, like I deserved this depression or anxiety, bulimia, binge eating or whatever else I was dealing with. So, year after year, I stayed in survival mode, saying things like,
“I’m hangin’ in there,” or “I’ll manage,” or “I’ll get by.”
To me, these were positive statements. They were proof that I would get through and live for another day. But in reality, they were mistakes in my thinking. As long as I had the notion that all I could do was ‘hang in there,’ I stayed in victim mode. I saw my defects as something that happened upon me, maybe from the way I was raised or from my genetics or for whatever reason. And as long as I was merely coping, I took no responsibility for my actions. I just tried to quell my behavior and fit into life the best I could.
So, how do you get out of coping mode and into living?
Once I decided to overcome my issues and not just cope with them, things began to change. The very first attribute I acquired was a sense of value. I had to know that I was a good person regardless of my behavior. This doesn’t mean I congratulated myself for bad conduct, it means I became aware of my value as a human being. I realized that nothing I could do or not do determined my value as a person. A faith in God helped me, but even if you don’t believe in God, you can still believe in your inherent worth. You are as human as anyone else on this earth. You weren’t born with depression, anxiety, or eating problems. And if you had a traumatic past or believe you are genetically predisposed to these problems, it still doesn’t mean they have to manifest in your life.
Understanding and accepting my value gave me a reason to be happier and change my behavior. And it came in this order – being happy comes first. Being happy is not as hard as I thought it would be, but it wasn’t natural either. My perceived failures gave me something to focus on and talk about. It was an easy way to get attention from others. I went to therapists and clinics and even in-patient treatment programs. I took medicines and talked to others who had these problems. I made a lifestyle out of working on my ‘issues’.
When I started to believe in myself, I didn’t want to just cope anymore, I wanted to thrive. I decided it was okay to have bad feelings and that things did not have to be perfect. The bad stuff didn’t go away immediately, but the power it had over me did. On days when I woke up with that tight, anxious feeling in my chest, instead of worrying myself into a full blown panic attack, I would acknowledge the feeling and make no judgement about it. Then I got up and went about my day. After a couple hours, I would forget about it.
In the case of depression, I realized that when I felt the most despondent, I thought everyone hated me and I felt sorry for myself. I performed a reality check on the thought, “Everyone hates me” and realized that even if not everyone liked me, it still was highly unlikely that everyone hated me. So instead of trying to stop the depressing feeling, I acknowledged it, made no good or bad judgement about it and decided not to have a pity party. I soon found myself doing interesting things and reaching out to others.
Binge eating behavior was the last big hurdle. I had overcome the darkest aspects of my life, but couldn’t seem to shake the eating problem. It was only when I stopped feeling guilty for eating and stopped trying to restrict food that the insatiable hunger went away and was replaced by natural hunger and satisfaction with normal meals.
When I condense my life changes down to one page, like this, I wonder why it took me so long to become the person I am now happy with. It could be that it takes time, maturity and experience. But if we all wise up and get happier as we get older, all old people should be ecstatic and not cranky and depressed, as some are. But whether you are young or old, you can bring about positive changes in your life. It starts with an understanding of your inherent value. We are all worthy whether we know and believe it or not. And this inherent value supersedes genetics, past events, character and behavior. Once I realized this, I stopped coping and started living.
How to realize your value click here
How to start a binge free life click here
Featured photo from pixabay.
“You don’t have to entertain every thought that comes into your head.” MD