I was asked the other day if I accept my life, the way it is, with health conditions and all?
The truth is, I don't honestly know if I have or not. Some days I am able to feel content, face the obstacles, and live life in the moment. Other days, I'm agonizing over the pain, misery, and inconvenience of illnesses and life style changes. Many days, I feel like my feeding tube, ileostomy bag, and IV lines are a normal part of me. Nothing to be ashamed of. Resources to improve my quality of life and how I physically feel. But then there are those days when I feel like a mutant, abnormal, like I am becoming artificial. That I am incapable of being normal; Unable to fuel my body with nutrients or hydration like a "normal" person. Unable to even use the bathroom as a "normal" person. Just an awkward science experiment gone wrong.
I know that "normal" is a perception, I understand that MY normal is not required to be like everyone else's normal. I'm thankful that I have a feeding tube and IV lines most days, even when they are an aggravation. They eliminate the pain of trying to eat or drink orally and help me have energy (though still lacking) to be a part of life. I have accustomed, for the most part, to having a colectomy with ileostomy. It's without a doubt less than ideal, but it removed the unexplainable gut wrenching pain that tormented me day after day as a result of colonic inertia. These devices and "accessories" are tolerable. They make life more manageable and increase my ability to actually "live" life. Currently, they are a necessity. I can accept that.
But do I accept my life like this? Do I accept that things may never change? Does acceptance mean that I am inviting illness to stay? Would completely accepting my illness mean that I welcome it to remain with me forever, no longer hoping that it will go away?
According to Wikepedia "Acceptance in human psychology is a person's assent to the reality of a situation, recognizing a process or condition (often a negative or uncomfortable situation) without attempting to change it."
Seriously, I'm not sure that I like this definition. Yes, I can see the reality of living with my conditions. I can recognize how they impact my life, positively and negatively, but how do I not attempt to change them? Does that mean that I shouldn't attempt to find better treatment options? Shouldn't attempt to change the ailments and symptoms that make me feel so awful? Not try to fight for a cure or improved health? I'm not sure if that's even possible. According to that definition, would accepting my illness mean that I'm essentially giving up?
While pondering the question of acceptance, I decided to search a little deeper. I would think that there has to be a way to reach a level of acceptance without giving up hope that things will one day improve. From my reading, I was reminded that there are 5 stages of Grief: Denial, Anger, Fear, Hope, and finally Acceptance. In my past experience, I always linked these five stages with death. But isn't it possible that one would have to journey through each of these levels in order to grieve an unwanted or even chronic disease? I can effortlessly think of times that I have been in denial, angry, fearful, hopeful, and even sometimes accepting of my being sick. Truthfully, I think I seem to bounce back and forth between the stages, trying my hardest to avoid sadness, defeat, frustration, and even depression. Isn't that normal though? Are we expected to be accepting all of the time? I know I accept many aspects of my condition most of the time, probably much more extrinsically than intrinsically. (I do attempt to at least appear that I have everything together, that everything will be alright, that I can handle this, etc. ) How else can I remain strong, and not weak, in the eyes of others?
In order for me to consider complete acceptance, I must first determine what I believe acceptance to truly look and feel like. If you asked me what acceptance is I would most likely describe it as follows:
Acceptance does not necessarily mean I'm giving up or that I keep all of my emotions in check ALL of the time. It does not mean that I will never doubt myself or feel sad. Acceptance to me, does not mean that I'm completely resigned to the fact that my health status is set in stone forever. It does not mean that I have to have a cure or that my illness will eventually disappear. But it also does not hinder my treatment options or limit future possibilities.
What acceptance does mean to me is that I'm in a state of being at peace. Acceptance means that I am aware that this is my reality now, so I have to be ready and prepared to live with the cards I'm dealt. Acceptance would simply mean that I'm OK with where my body and mind are on any given day, that I value what my body CAN accomplish, without focusing my energy on what I wish it could do.
I don't believe that Acceptance is something I can do once and for all. Acceptance lives in the present moment. In order to accept my current health I must discover a way to keep what I am passionate about in my life. It will take time, work, patience, spirit and heart to entirely accept my illness and make a space for it in my life. I will have to be willing to calmly navigate the various paths of all my emotions, not allowing my inner critic to pass or hold harsh judgements against me. Without a doubt, it will be a difficult and challenging road ahead as I must accept not only the positive emotions and experiences, but all of the negative emotions, obstacles, and struggles as well. I strongly believe that there will be times that I do accept my illness, my feeding tube, my ileostomy, my symptoms, my diagnosis, etc.. However, there will also be times that I do not. And I believe that is okay as long as I am able to resurface and seek out help or support when needed.
So back to the original question. Have I reached the ultimate level of ACCEPTANCE?
I guess my response depends on what acceptance means to you and on which day you ask;
Because my answer will likely fluctuate between YES, NO, and MAYBE SO.
© 2015-2017 Trisha Bundy ALL RIGHTS RESERVED