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Stop Coping, Start Living

Free Yourself- Change Your Life


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 with a coping strategy running in the back of my mind. Sometimes the coping didn’t work, and the bad feelings and behaviors came to the forefront. They would take out a few months of my life and I then had to regroup. My unwanted feelings and behaviors are 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. 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, like I had a burden to carry, so I resigned myself to living and performing with these issues. This burden almost felt good, like I deserved the depression, anxiety, bulimia, or binge eating. 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. How do you get out of coping mode and into thrive mode?
Once I decided to stop coping and start living, things began to change. The very first attribute I acquired was a sense of value. I realized 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. Nothing I could do or not do determined my value as a person. A faith in God helped, 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 character flaws. 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 came first. Being happy is not as hard as I thought it would be, but it wasn’t natural either. In the past, my perceived failures gave me something to focus on. It was an easy way to get attention from others. I went to therapists and clinics. I took meds and went to treatment programs. I made a lifestyle out of working on my ‘issues’. Being happy would erase all that. When I started to believe in myself, 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, make no judgement about it, then get up and go 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 judgements 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.

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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