Choices

One of the most difficult aspects of living with mental illness is realising that you don’t have a choice. Sounds weird, sure, but for years I have been convinced the obsessions and compulsions I have are a lifestyle choice and so it seems do those nearest and dearest to me.

I can’t blame them because unless you possess a high level of self-awareness, balance and insight or have mental illness and are forced to confront yourself every day, then you don’t realise nor dwell on the possibility that feelings are not a choice. How we act and put those feelings into perspective may very well be, but I don’t choose to shut out the physical world, I have had to do so because it was affecting my choice to survive life in a negative way.

Just like I cannot snap out of having OCD, I cannot choose to get up go to a job, work regular hours, socialise, feel enjoyment of the simple and great things in life and not feel a depression so dark and deep that it seems a part of my soul and physical being is missing.

When I became functionally unwell for the first time after I was married, I remember asking my husband if he was doing alright. I felt incredibly guilty about not being “normal” and well, pursuing all the things we planned. His response was, “I’m fine, because I have to be.” The implied slight that I choose to give into these base urges that render me incompetent and impotent in my own world, because I am lazy, selfish and insensitive to those I love, consumed me for years.

In fact it was only this year, eleven years after he first used that phrase, that I addressed him about it. Even then it was only because I realised during the course of psychodynamic group therapy that I don’t choose to be the worst version of myself I can possibly imagine.

His shock that something he said could haunt and hurt me for over a decade was genuine. It had no effect on my feelings for him or our marriage as I live with much bigger personal imperfections. He certainly didn’t mean all the inferences I drew from his words, but he had never had to think about his own feelings leading him to take action in a way that severely derails his life and how he functions in it.

I would like to be a person who feels joy in the simple things in life, who isn’t pursued by negative thoughts and fear of what I can only describe as immense emotional pain, vulnerability and a lack of security that surpasses just not feeling confident, but I don’t know how to change my feelings, essentially how to change me. We all grow and mature but imagine life lessons being taught to you by an inner voice that shows no compassion and understanding, does not allow for mistakes and never ever stops, and you will take a small step closer to how I have felt since my teens.

The greatest wounds, put downs, harsh words and insults I have suffered are those I have mercilessly inflicted on myself and the only let up in this barrage of internal assaults occurred when I isolated myself and gave in to the avoidance I now live with. I know I cannot change the past, who I am and the hope of being someone not ruled by OCD fades, but this is the most self-awareness and the closest understanding of happiness I have ever achieved.

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29 thoughts on “Choices

  1. This is a wonderful piece, ajoobacats. More should be written based upon individual perspectives from those of us who suffer daily from some form of mental illness (I suffer from Major Depressive Disorder). Personally, it is difficult for me to open up and share the slightest bit of my internal struggles. When I do, it is best to believe that the message is derived from a deep well of insight and experience. These are our truths. These are the inner experiences we live with, day in and day out.
    Thank you for this.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, I do find it immensely difficult to write things from such a deeply personal perspective, but doing so seems to help. I only wish I could find the words and keep my never-ending doubts at bay when I do so.

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      • Ajoobacats, sometimes never-ending doubts are what is needed when writing from individual perspective. That might just strike a chord in someone and help someone with their personal issues, whatever they might be. In fact, there are many authors today who write from personal accounts and much of their main characters are filled with never-ending doubts! It helps the reader understand who you are and from where, deep inside, you are coming from. It is unique, and all you! Not everyone has the courage to voice who they really are. Please, keep going!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Also, I am sending my prayers for you. I have some of the same issues with anxiety. I know it makes my husband crazy and he really tries to understand, but he really just doesn’t get it. It is difficult living with a mental illness and trying to explain it to anyone who doesn’t have it is like trying to describe color to a blind person. Just know you are not alone.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, I suffer from anxiety and depression as a result of the OCD and often feel the labels don’t help. It’s hard for me to understand my mental illness sometimes, so I can’t hold it against him. He has supported me with my illness more than anyone else I know.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Don’t ever stop writing about your personal struggles – It is enlightening, raw and vulnerable all at the same time. I think it is beautiful when you write about your experience and reach others that are struggling. Anxiety for me is such a struggle, I try, with the greatest difficulty, to be gentle with myself. Hugs.

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    • Thank you, I worry about coming across as a whinge bag, another inference I’ve drawn from my estranged family. It is really hard to come out of your default mindset and start looking at things in a different way, particularly when a lot of it is to protect yourself. I had to start by trying to figure out what I was protecting myself from and why.

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      • I think as human beings we are conditioned this way, it is the most difficult thing to break away when your walls are up. I think you have a marvellous outlook on who you want to be and why it is important to your well being. Inspiring is what you are. Not a whinger at all 🙂

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      • Twenty years ago I would have been in total denial of the walls. My limitations, I thought, were embarrassing weaknesses. I wish I’d learnt to respect my feelings much earlier.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. A lot of what you’ve mentioned here really resonated with me. It can be difficult for people without mental illness to fully understand what it’s like & how it can manifest.

    You are so brave for talking about it. Sending you so much love, understanding, & hugs. ♡♡♡

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I understand what you mean by this post it’s exactly how I have been feeling for the past few years more than 10 and nobody seems to understand what it is like. The answer is usually just get over it. But it doesn’t work that way!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I wish I could send you a little bit of sunshine and happiness, I really do.
    Since those things can’t be sent via snail or email I’ll just have to imagine them.
    May you have sunshine in your bleakest moments and hugs whenever you need them.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I applaud you for the candid description of your internal struggles. As you know I struggle with anxiety as a result of health issues that keep me on high alert. Every day is a challenge. It helps to know that others can relate to how I feel. Thank you.

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