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Recovery, we’re often told, is a step-by-step process. One day, one hour, one thought at a time – our behaviours are broken down and analyzed, one by one.
Through my stuttering beginnings of recovery, this paralyzed me. I could not move forward after a slip. The all-or-nothing mindset of my disordered brain led me to believe that recovery was all-or-nothing as well. I was either succeeding or failing, recovering or relapsing – there was no grey area. It is impossible to sustain recovery this way. I was a slave to my perfectionism. Whenever I fell short of a goal that was set by myself or my treatment team, I became upset and would revert to my old ways, thinking that I had failed and all was lost. Which in turn led me to believe that my shadows were inescapable.
But one day, my imagination presented me with a brief glimpse of what my life would be like without those shadows. I pictured myself as being free, laughing with reckless abandon, and enjoying each moment for what it was – a moment of my life dictated by myself and fate, and not by the darkness that engulfed my brain.
I have always been a dreamer, creating imaginary scenarios which I longed to make come true. In fact, a decade ago, these were triggers to my disorder. I dreamed up a “perfect” life for myself – one in which I had my ideal body and was loved by all. I nearly died in the pursuit of that vision. But my recovery vision was something different, it was something that felt so true to my genuine self, something that I needed, desperately and completely.
So I decided to make it happen, to bring it to life. It was that moment when I changed the voice in my head from a whining and despaired “Why can’t I recover?” to a motivational “Why can’t I recover?!” I finally saw myself as the only obstacle standing in my way. I also had absolutely no idea how to make my future life vision of a content and hopeful self come true. I wanted to make goals, but they all just seemed so insignificant compared to the big picture of a recovered life that I wanted to step into.
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And that is when I learned about intentions. They’re more broad and less focused than goals. In a way, small goals can be the stepping stones to reach your larger planned intentions. Intentions are our mind’s view of how we would like to live our life. They’re the visions of our heart, ones we feel an intensely longing urge to bring to fruition.
Goals are self-imposed obstacles that bring us progression. But they are easily avoided. I know that each time I sat myself down and committed to having at least one challenge meal or dessert each week, I was very prone to either purposefully “forgetting,” actually forgetting, or becoming so anxious over making decisions about the challenge that I became overwhelmed.
But creating intentions forced “to-do” lists and seeing life as a series of accomplishments out of my mind.
I knew I wanted to create a peaceful mind and enjoyable life of pleasure and indulgence for myself – one in which I made choices based on my wants and needs, independent of the views of those around me. They are very fluid and I don’t need an itemized list to remember them. Instead, with every decision I make (and trust me, there are many now that I am exercising my own free will and am no longer confined to my ED’s ideals) I pick the decision that aligns with my idea of how I will most enjoy life.
Goals are concrete. They are the measured steps that one takes down a path. I’ve never been all that great at following paths — I get distracted by trees and butterflies, and tend to wander off the trail. Intentions let me fill my life with cool trees that I can climb to hopefully sit next to some butterflies, and if not, to just enjoy the experience and the view.
So when asked if I want pumpkin pie or apple pie, I will say both because both will make me happier. When an invitation to the movies arises, I’ll accept if it’s a movie I think I will enjoy. If the day is beautiful, I might go for a walk. If my dog is feeling playful, I’ll bring her along, and if there’s no one around, I’ll let her chase a squirrel off leash. If the day is not so beautiful, I won’t force myself to walk but instead will curl around a notebook with a blanket, and light some scented candles. I will choose to stay up late watching funny sitcoms with my brother and let myself laugh freely at the dumb jokes. I will create ridiculous hashtags. I’ll indulge in really warm showers until my environmental conscience kicks in. I’ll paint a super cute ceramic t-rex piggy bank with a friend because who doesn’t love cute ceramic t-rex piggy banks? And I will never, ever turn down the opportunity to work Harry Potter metaphors into real life.
Life isn’t a series of puzzle pieces that need to be put together in a particular way to make a beautiful complete picture. We are not a sum of our parts. We are trails of memories that we make and choose to hold close. Intentions don’t have a start point or a finish point. Every choice can bring us our greater picture. Paint with optimism, let your heart dream and bring that dream to life.
Intentions are imagined dreams come to life. Simply live life the way you wish to, and watch your own dreams come true.
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The opinions and information shared in this article may not represent that of Libero Network Society. We hold no liability for any harm that may incur from reading content on our site. Please always consult your own medical professionals before making any changes to your medication, activities, or recovery process.