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.”
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.