04.30.17 // Not My Choice

Let me start by saying this - I never chose this path.

No one ever chooses this path. Now, this is not some self-pitying rant, but a way to let others know that I know how hard it is. And the fight you are fighting is real and worth it.

There is this feeble, yet persisting idea in our world that mental illness is a choice. It’s romantic. It’s the starving girl in the corner or the depressed boy in his bed. It’s the memes on Tumblr and Instagram accounts of endless scars on wrists. All the images collectively make mental illness seem like people chose it as an aesthetic. An exterior entity, and not a realistic one at that. They see a stereotypical portrayal of the very real life millions of people live with every single day and take it as the truth.

It’s not my truth, nor is it others.

I never chose to be scared of hurting people with my thoughts. I never thought that I would have to spend hours ritualising and obsessing over intrusive thoughts that pop into my brain unannounced.  

I’ve been through two rounds of day hospital treatment, two outpatient programs, and am now on my second round of inpatient; this was not a choice. I made the decision to go there to get better, to reclaim my life, and to stop this 24/7 battle going on in my head every day, yes. But what I didn’t choose was to have these thoughts. I never wanted to believe that I wasn’t good enough for someone unless I was a certain weight. I never wanted to believe that I had to only eat a certain amount of food or else I would be out of control. I never wanted to run hours on end to feel a fraction of the self-worth that most people can feel every day.

I have left school and friends behind too many times to count. My mental illness has led me down isolating paths, whether it was literally pushing my best friends away, or calling my own mother a bitch for trying to help me. The false truths that I would be better if I listened to my OCD, anxiety or anorexia have only led me away from the life that I actually want, and deserve, to be living.

So let me repeat this, mental illness is not a choice. There is nothing romantic about having to spend every single day fighting your brain. There is nothing “cool” or “hip” about trying to rewire your brain to fix your faulty cognitions, the ones that you didn’t even choose to have to begin with, yet they are the ones that are seemingly unchangeable.

The thoughts can change with a decision to change them. But that decision takes immense strength, bravery, and courage. So to all the people living with mental illness, I know what you are going through. I know what it is like to feel exhausted every single day because even when you have a good day you know that you’ll have to keep fighting. Recovery is a long road, but the other one is the one that leads to despair and isolation, there is no doubt about that. You have millions of people supporting you, and even more, you have the ability within you to destroy the thoughts that are destroying you.

Most of all, I know that it is not your fault. I know that it is unfair that you didn’t choose to have these thoughts yet you are the one that must change them. I know this wholeheartedly because I have to do it too. But or now we are doing it together, and it sucks and it’s unfair but it’s also a gift (in the most fvcked up way); we get to see life in ways that other people don’t. The resilience and strength that you get from recovery isn’t something that you can get from simply living. And when we hit the other side? (Which we will). All the positives will seem that much brighter because we have been through the lows.

So no, mental illness isn’t something that people choose. And to all those fighting, here’s to the choices we can make, like the choice to fight that little voice. It takes immense strength, and, help IS there for you.