Acceptance: Part 1

I don’t care if it hurts
I want to have control
I want a perfect body
I want a perfect soul

Thom Yorke

Acceptance isn’t something I am good at, its not even something i’m comfortable with. To me acceptance was/is resignation or passivity and having spent most of my life scampering from fight to flight, the idea of ‘giving in’ just can’t be done.

But of course thats not really want acceptance means and i’m learning that slowly, its a tough lesson.

It is the last stage of grief and loss; denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

I have been very good at denial, denying to myself and to others, I don’t like to admit defeat, I don’t want to be seen as weak. I didn’t care (enough) if it hurt, I didn’t care (enough) if I felt ill, I didn’t care (enough) if proving everything was fine was just making it not. I absolutely did want control when my body had its own ideas.

Anger has also fared well, anger at the unfairness of it all, anger at scuppered plans, anger at my body not doing what I tell it to, anger at those who didn’t believe me.

Bargaining is probably where i’ve spent more time in the last year, if I rest today, can I run tomorrow? If I do my physiotherapy twice today can I not bother for the rest of the week? What if I eat only organic healthy food and try all the supplements the internet tells me will cure me, can I then be free? Pain free body that never needs to rest = perfect body, right? *What if I think only positive thoughts, will I be able to think myself out of it? * Perfect soul= no bad thoughts?

What if, what if , what if!

The depression is the realisation that none of these tactics actually work.

Having tried really really hard to think, read, talk and will myself out of pain, and finally coming to terms with the fact that my invisible and chronic illness isn’t going away, I have to learn to live with it. Thats all there is left.

ACCEPT. CHANGE.WALK AWAY

This is such a useful motto, i’ve started using in to make small changes in all aspects of my life. I used it to leave a job i didn’t enjoy, even though I thought I should. Could I change things? I did try very hard. Could I accept things as they are? No. Time to walk away. You can’t walk away from pain, you can change certain aspects of it and you can accept it. But heres the crucial point, you don’t have to accept the suffering. Pain and suffering don’t have to go hand in hand. Medicine teaches us that acute pain is ours bodies way of alerting us to danger; the pan is hot, the knife cuts you if you don’t pay attention! Pharmaceuticals teach us pain can and should be removed so we can get on with our lives. And this is all helpful, except it doesn’t work for chronic pain. The body has done its job alerting us to pain time and time again but the drugs don’t work (they just make things worse, you might say if you loved the 90s!). So Doctors and allied professionals, patients and consumers spend time, energy resources looking for ways to exclude pain from the equation. ACT ( acceptance and commitment therapy) teaches a different approach and its wear i’m starting. I recommend both of these books to learn more about the separation of pain (both physical and psychological) and suffering:

Harris, R (2008) ‘The Happiness Trap’. Robinson, London.

Dahl, J and Lundgreen, T (2006) ‘Living Beyond Your Pain’. New Harbinger Publications, Oakland CA.

So 2017 is about acceptance…

One further point from above: * Keep smiling, keep going, don’t give in, don’t worry* These are all said with such good intentions but to anyone with chronic illness be it physical or psychological this can be really toxic. Thinking positive is sometimes just dressed up exhausting denial. Forcing yourself to believe you have the power to remove pain by thinking happy thoughts and then feeling inadequate for not achieving it is horribly destructive.

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