A pivotal moment in my mental health history was admitting that I didn’t have a disease, I had an illness directly related to my stress level.
That distinction changed everything.
Because initially, I thought that my chronic pain was the result of irritable bowel syndrome and dairy allergies and peptic ulcers and probiotic deficiencies. But that was just a dodge. A sickness scapegoat. A convenient story that I told myself to avoid taking personal responsibility for my declining health.
Turns out, I was making excuses and rationalizations and justifications for a problem I didn’t want to face. I was trying to outsource ownership. Because the way I saw it was, if I could just chalk up my stress to some disease, some third party entity that was out there and beyond my control, then I was absolved of all accountability.
But the truth is, I wasn’t sick because I had a disease, I was sick because I was a workaholic. I was sick because I was in a toxic relationship. I was sick because didn’t know how to press the off button on my life.
That’s why I was hospitalized three times in two years. Not because I was plagued with some horrible condition, but because I was making poor life choices.
And I don’t mean to be insensitive to people’s legitimate mental health struggles. When I hear somebody’s psychological horror story, I believe they’re experiencing what they’re experiencing. I believe biological things happen inside the human brain.
But I also believe that you are the result of yourself, and that your body never lies to you. Spend a week in a hospital breathing through a chest tube, and that lesson will crystallize quickly.
And so, the next time stress begins to have too loud a voice in your life, ask yourself what you might be pretending not to know about your role in the problem. Ask yourself what part you might be playing in being where you are. And don’t think that when the stress is over your body will forget.
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What story are you telling yourself about your current stress level?
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That Guy with the Nametag
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