…. to accept the things I cannot change.
Easier said than done, right? I know for me acceptance is something I have yet to really achieve. I realized recently that I didn’t even believe I had a “real” illness. I just didn’t look at it like that at all. I’ve come to understand that I always truly believed that I was just a broken person. My bipolar disorder seemed to me to be a serious flaw in my makeup. I’ve noticed that I haven’t even actually accepted that the diagnosis is accurate. I acknowledge the depression and anxiety aspects of it but I find it hard to accept the disease in its entirety. I look at other people that have the condition and their illness manifests differently than mine so I have continued on with my belief that this cannot be true. I’m doing all of this work to get it under control but I don’t believe that the diagnosis is true. How far from acceptance can I get?
What is acceptance? Is it giving in to whatever happens to you? Is it being happy about your condition regardless of what it does to you? I don’t think so. From my understanding, acceptance is acknowledging that whatever is true at the moment is just the way it is. It doesn’t mean I condone it or that I am happy about it. It’s just knowing that this is my reality right now. It’s also not about denying my feelings about the situation. Doing that keeps you in denial and prevents you from admitting that the situation is real. I am really bad when it comes to denial. I have a tendency of saying to myself “this can’t be true”, “I cannot accept this”, or “I can’t handle this.” In effect, by saying this to myself, I am fighting with reality and that is a fight that I just can’t win.
It’s one thing to talk about experiencing acceptance but it something else entirely to actually do it. How do you even start to do that? One of the ways to do it is to be completely honest with yourself about how you feel about whatever you are struggling to accept. Write about it. Get your feelings down on paper. Vent in any way that feels beneficial to you. I do that with this blog. I write about the things I go through on a day to day basis and the things that I have learned that help me to self-manage my condition. It’s helped me to deal with the anger and frustration I feel when I think about this life-long condition that I have to deal with everyday. By doing this it has helped me (to an extent) to come to understand my bipolarity even though I still struggle with believing that this is my new reality. This is also where self awareness comes in (see my previous posts here Self Awareness Part One and Self Awareness Part Two). You can examine your emotions on a deeper level to see what the root of the problem is and, by doing that, move through the emotions blocking your acceptance of the situation.
Once you’ve dealt with the emotions involved with the situation, you can now see it for what it really is and make the changes necessary to improve it. This is the part that has always confused me a little. How can you accept your situation if you are working to try to change it? Or what if you can’t change something (like a mental health condition)? While I can’t do anything to change my diagnosis, I can work to make it easier to manage. This is where getting the proper care comes in for me. Since being out of control is not acceptable to me or anyone I care about, I now work with my doctor and therapist to be more balanced and learn to live life on life’s terms. Accepting life for what it is is the key to all of this. When you can say, “It is what it is”, then you’ve finally attained acceptance of your situation. Doing this removes a lot of stress and anxiety because if you are fighting with reality, you are wearing yourself out for no good reason.
Acceptance is a hard topic for me because it is still something I have not fully attained. I know that when I finally get to that point, my life will fall back into a happier and more peaceful realm so I work everyday to finally get there. My biggest problem is that I am a “fixer”. I encounter something that doesn’t fit into what I want my life to be and I want to fix it. My bipolar disorder, however, is nothing that I can fix, but I absolutely can work to make it easier to for me to handle. I think that when dealing with this condition becomes second nature for me, I will finally be able to accept it for what it is and move forward peacefully.
If you are interested in learning more about acceptance I recommend the following sites and books to learn more about it.