Struggling With Acceptance

I’m struggling with acceptance: acceptance of my own circumstances. Currently, I have no control over what my life looks like from day-to-day because my pain is so unpredictable. This past week I suffered through multiple days with feet and legs so swollen they hurt and made it hard to walk. I didn’t get much sleep either, and as I write this, I’m in the midst of a pain flare for which I’ve had to take the highest doses possible of my pain medications for a few days. If I don’t get some relief with this amount of pain medications, I have to go to the emergency room to get help.

What I’ve outlined is only some of what I can’t accept on days like this. Over the last little while, I can’t accept that after more than two years of countless tests, so many invasive procedures, and a rather risky surgery, I have no pain relief. I can’t accept relying on handfuls of pain medications to allow my body to function, while they cloud my thinking. I can’t accept that the only time I don’t feel pain, is when I’m asleep; and the irony that sleep is a state that is so difficult for me to reach because of my pain. Nor can I accept that the sleep I so desperately need sometimes never comes or, when it does come, is interrupted by my pain. This cycle makes me feel like a helpless hamster performing on a spinning wheel for a treat that never comes.

As much as I’m having difficulty accepting my pain, I’m having even more difficulty accepting the compassion and generosity of the people in my life. The people who are trying to help me cope with the pain and all the adjustments I have to make in my life. I know this doesn’t’ make sense, but it’s hard to go from living an independent life with what seemed like endless years of adventurous activity ahead of me to being someone who can barely get out of bed some days. I know I have trouble accepting their compassion and generosity toward me because I’ve always had trouble showering myself with these things. Although, I have no difficulty expressing and abundantly giving these things to others – and I never have, not even now that I’m ill.

I’m starting to question whether this lack of acceptance and being hard on myself, and having expectations that others don’t have of me – not even my doctors – are harming my health. My therapist has an exercise he asks me to do where I am to imagine that I have a close friend or a twin living with my challenges and feeling as I do. I have to give them support and tell them what I think about how hard they are on themselves. The result is always the same: I’m able to see how ridiculous it is that I can feel compassion and empathy for someone else, but unable to feel them toward myself and unable to be gentle when attending to my needs. When we finish this exercise, I promise to work harder at being gentle with myself because I know it’s the right thing and best thing to do for myself. I do try. Really, I do, but it’s hard. It gets harder each day that I don’t know what to expect from my body.

I’m afraid that my struggle with acceptance is doomed to continue as long as my pain continues and will need my attention for a long time to come. Whenever I feel this way, I remember this quote, “If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.”

If Your Compassion - Buddha

I believe this is true, so I know the right thing to do for myself, to break my struggle with acceptance of my pain and my changed life is to treat myself with more compassion, just as I would with someone I care about.

 

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7 thoughts on “Struggling With Acceptance

  1. Being kind to yourself can sometimes feel like being selfish (or lazy). So, I decided to embrace my selfish side and allow it to help me cope with the pain. I’ve accepted the fact that sometimes the pain makes me selfish; sometimes it makes me mean and angry; and sometimes it can steal my will to live. But it’s not going anywhere, so all we can do is learn to live with it — and try to accept the limitations it puts on our ability to be the best person we can be.

    Another thing I’ve learned in 30 years of living with constant pain is that control is an illusion. I tried for a very long time to treat and control the pain through doctors and surgeons — they took all of my money and left me either in more pain or with no long-term benefits from treatment. However, if I had to do it all over again, I don’t know how I would change things. I had to try everything before I knew which treatments worked best for me. And I had to try everything before I was able to move into the acceptance phase of living in pain.

    Pleasure is about living in the moment — living with pain is also about each moment. It’s hard to live moment to moment, but it is possible. Pain is a formidable foe — I try not to feel guilty when I’m not strong enough to fight it. 🙂

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    • Thank you.
      I have been feeling selfish when I have to drop out of things I committed to or when I crash and sleep for a big chunk of a day, and can’t do anything else.
      I know – intellectually – that everything you’ve said is true and right, but it’s the emotional part that keeps knocking me down. The part that needs gentleness not only from others but from myself as well. The part that can only exist moment-to-moment because looking beyond that is too much to bear. That being said, I can feel compassion for you and the 30 years of pain you’ve endured and wish for better for you, but directing that toward myself takes a significant amount of energy and feels self-involved. It’s a big shift inward for me.

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  2. Your post reminded me of a wonderful book that really helped me – Radical Acceptance, Embracing Your Life with the Heart of a Buddha by Tara Brach. I have struggled with acceptance and compassion too. I have a couple touchstone sayings that I use at those times… This too shall pass. Take it easy. Be gentle with yourself. It will get better. … And I tell myself those things over and over. I’m so sorry for what you’re going through. That kind of pain takes a lot of strength to endure. I hope you’ll get some relief.

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