Choices that Change Me

Making decisions and choices are not easy. Sometimes there are consequences. Sometimes you don’t know the outcome of your choices. Sometimes there are more emotional consequences than anything else. But I believe the greatest thing I have gained from recovery is just that – the ability to make choices. There was a time, not too far in my past where making decisions was something I was completely unable to do. I would paralyze under anxiety and panic over making decisions with my life. I was riddled with fear that any decision made I could not make, that it was wrong, that I could not be trusted. These were not biased fears. I couldn’t see farther past my decisions to take part in a negative behavior. The behavior had an easy outcome – one that was controllable – and while unhealthy and toxic – it was a behavior easily done for me. My decisions were obviously unhealthy, so how could I ever make a decision about my life! There was a point in time where even the simplist act dropped me into a full blown panic attack. Oh how life has changed.

In the past year and a half I have made extremely large, important, and life altering decisions. I decided to move across country with my partner and left everything I knew behind. I also left everything I owned behind as well. We came to Boston in a Toyota Matrix and everything we had/could fit in the car. We took a road trip across the country with no plan of direction, how long it would take, or what we would do. We arrived in Boston with no home, no place to stay, and were basically nomads living out of a car. We had no job, no idea where to live in Boston, and no friends to help us with the transition. We were all we had – and being in a car for weeks together had started to weigh on our relationship as well. I like to gloss over these decisions as being “no big deal”. I like to think “well its nothing, anyone could have done it.” But the fact is – no one else did – and for me, someone who could barely write a check to pay a bill in the past, this is a huge deal and huge accomplishment.

Since I moved to Boston I took a neuropsych and addiction class – both of which I LOVED. I thought I was pretty clear in knowing I wanted to study psych – either by becoming a therapist or working towards a PhD to do research and clinical work. I got stuck big time. For some reason I wanted to have all the answers to what I wanted to do when I grew up. I wanted a PhD because of the title, the allure of having authority. I honestly get trapped in thinking degrees mean more authority and importance. I think it goes to my feeling inadequate and worrying how others view me. The realities were – the PhD is very difficult if you do not have a psych undergrad and no research experience. I met with an Advanced Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner who had her PhD and did research with eating disorders and I thought I had hit the goldmine! I could work with patients, and do research and all I would have to do was take 5 pre-req science courses and then apply to an advanced nursing/masters program. So this current semester I decided to try something different. I decided I would take a semester of science classes and see how it would go. I wanted to try it without simply dismissing the idea. I had never taken a science class in my life – in HS I was in pre-IB/AP bio and had to drop it and join earth science since I was doing so poorly. Apparently I havent changed so much since my HS self.

I was/am taking Anatomy and Chemistry upper division classes. Both classes had labs, and chemistry alone was 7.5 hours between lab, section, review, not including time to do the homework, prepare the lab, or study for exams. Anatomy was absurd – I should have trusted the teacher when she said “if you have never taken a Bio class before you will NOT do well in this class”. Listen – I did not. I am a Scorpio who thinks nothing gets in my way – that if I worked hard – I would do well. This class was beyond my abilities. Maybe if I did not have a full time job, if I didn’t do ED activism, I would have time to do all the reading and memorizing necessary to pull the grade in this class. But the realities I face made this impossible. I decided I would stay in Chemistry and put all my efforts into one class. Well apparently hours of studying isnt making any difference. I do well in labs, but I am just not getting the material. I have a live-in tutor and it just causes tension because I am not a good student when relating to a person I love. I was taking out my frustrations of the class on him. I was waiting for the epiphany to make the subject “click” and it wasn’t coming.

To face this – was to face my biggest fear – I am not good at everything. I know – rationally no person is good at everything. But it is very hard to work your ass off and still not have rewards for all the hard work. I still think on occasion that if I do not do well at something that that somehow defines my self worth. I have to fight these thoughts with all my being. Learning to understand my capabilities, my strengths, and limitations is NOT failing. I have to keep repeating this in my head over and over. I had to really consider what I was gaining from staying in this class vs what I was sacrificing. I was stressed all the time, not sleeping well, feeling gloomy at work, getting in little arguments in my relationships, and cravings of binges were facing me once again. This is where I had to draw the line. My happiness, my health, my relationships are worth more than this. I do not see myself “getting” this class enough to be worthwhile. I have decided to drop both classes. Two WD on my resume. This is the first time I have EVER withdrew from a class. I am sure that the decision is right for me. I am way more a psychology person than I am a scientist. I spent four years in college doing what I thought I should to make a living. I am coming upon my 30th birthday and I am done following the “shoulds” in life that come from who knows where. I am good at many things and have to start following my passion, my strengths, and my own journey – wherever that may lead.

Last night I was so “sure” this was the right decision, and while today I am sure of this still, the uncomfortable feelings have started to creep in. What do I want to do when I grow up? What if I want to go for the PhD but can never get into a school? What if ___? what if ____? Does dropping this class make me a failure? Am I giving up versus making a smart decision? UGH! I am riding the emotional wave of the unknown. I do know I will take psych courses next semester. I do not need to know what I want to do when I grow up right this second. I am trying to come to terms with this. Trying to accept my life is a journey I have never been able to understand or rationalize when thinking towards the future versus the right here and right now. There are so many unknowns I have faced in the last year and a half and school always seems the hardest to go through the emotions about. I moved across the country, left everything I knew, and have no idea where my guy will get into med school or where we will live next year but these ‘unknowns’ do not scare me as much as not having this school thing all figured out.

Every so often my head goes to the “this is what I SHOULD be doing” place. I havent abolished that voice, but I am able to fight it and lesson its impact upon me. It is no longer the driving force behind my decisions. I seem to be a person so quick to push aside my accomplishments and so quick to jump on myself for not doing something as well as I think I should. I almost titled this blog as “accepting my weaknesses” and had to smack myself in the head for saying it is a weakness to make a decision that is right for me. That nagging voice is in my head, saying I am a loser, that I am not smart enough, will never be good enough blah di da. I have to almost bitch slap that voice out of my head. I giggle to myself because this is amazing – this self reflection and ability to see my thoughts as not “all knowing” and “all powerful”. I can choose to fight the negative self talk and fight for my recovery and my life. I am able to make choices – and this is my greatest achievement in recovery.

My recovery has given me all these blessings in disguise! I was unable to do anything without help, had to depend on others for help and support when I was unable to do anything. My parents were my knights in shining armor – supporting me through the darkest periods of my life. But today I no longer live in the dark, I am stronger than I give myself credit for, I have accomplished more than I ever thought imaginable, and I will continue to follow the path that is right for me – even if I get scared along the way.

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