In life there are some horribly painful
things. There are events, relationships, and emotions that are too difficult
for us to deal with in that moment. So we find ways to cope with them. It
could be watching a movie, writing in a journal, going for a walk, or having a
bubble bath. These are each small things that distract us momentarily from the
pain. They give us some relief, renewed strength and often help us to move
forward, past the pain and hurt. In a sense these coping strategies protect us
from harm and keep us from getting overwhelmed. They can be very effective in
helping us stay sane.
But what happens when life itself is what causes the pain. When it isn’t one event or moment or relationship, but the unpredictability and discomfort of life itself that makes us hurt. What happens when our small coping strategies are not enough, when life becomes too hard and overwhelming that they are no longer enough of a distraction. What happens is we find new ways of coping. Maybe it is alcohol, maybe exercise, maybe drugs, maybe work, maybe food or maybe sex. These are coping strategies that can consume more of our time and energy so that we don’t have to be fully in life. Whether you have an eating disorder, an exercise disorder, a drug addiction, a sex addiction or you are a work-a-holic, it doesn’t matter. Underneath each disorder we are all the same. We are all the same. We each use our own disorder to help keep us safe on our whirlwind adventure through life. These coping strategies protect us when life gets to be too much.
At the same time that they are protective, each disorder is equally destructive. They each take us away from the present moment and our strong emotions so that we can feel “better”. But in reality they don’t make us feel “better” they make us feel nothing. If we constantly focus on food or exercise or work or drugs then there is no time to be in life; no time to pay attention to our fears; no time to feel love or be loved.
The truth is that these coping strategies can not help us in the long run. Instead they destroy us. They wear us down from the inside out. Some more clearly than others. Drugs can destroy us instantly. Their effects are immediately visible. Exercise and work can be just as destructive. They wear you down slowly until you are exhausted. Each of these coping strategies break you down until the lines that define you as a person are blurred. Instead people become defined by their work or exercise or drug of choice. To the world you become your coping strategy. You become so lost in it and so consumed by it that it defines your life. It becomes impossible to imagine your life without it. Impossible to imagine your day without alcohol, without running, with food.
Society sees each disorder differently. Alcoholics, work-a-holics, people with eating disorders, runners and sex addicts are all judged based on the coping strategy they indulge in. Each one has there own stigma associated with it. But the thing that is so often overlooked is that underneath each disorder is the same human. A human that is scared, overwhelmed and trying to make it through each day on this Earth. It doesn’t matter what method we choose to help us cope, the purpose of each coping strategy is the same.
The idea is not to judge someone for their disorder, but to find compassion for them. Look at yourself. Look at your fears and how you find a way to manage them. Each disorder stems from the same origin of fear. Someone can be addicted to drugs the same way someone can be addicted to running, as an attempt to find “peace” and “safety”. It is not logical, but a desperate attempt to stay sane in a world that is so confusing. What’s ironic is that our attempts to stay sane actually make us go INSANE. Having compassion for yourself and others struggling with any type of disorder is the only way to take steps to get out away from the hold of a destructive coping mechanism. Replacing it with another “disorder” (such as replacing drugs with work) may be initially less harmful, but it does not solve the underlying reason for the disorder. Looking beneath the layers of the coping strategy is the only way to beat it. And that takes compassion; compassion and ALOT of hard work.
It is not impossible to transcend these feelings, actions and reactions. Naturopathic Medicine may be a way that can support you on your journey to healing. Whether it is or isn’t remember that you are not alone and you are NOT your coping strategy. You are YOU – a strong, caring, independent, perfect human being.