I have a mental illness. I have written about this here before, and also on my own blog. Nowadays I do not think about it very much as I have been in a very long remission, with the assistance of medication. For a long time, especially when I was first diagnosed, my illness defined me and was my identity. I lived it.
Then something shifted inside me. I made the choice to have a life and not call myself a schizoaffective. It was a part of who I am but not all of who I am. I worked hard with psychiatrists and therapists, went through a lot of pain, and came out the other side as my Self. I was ready to live again. The process took a long time and I was in my 60’s before I really found out who I am.
For me, self-acceptance was more than just coming to terms with my illness and why I went through so many years in the dark. It was more than just accepting the parts of myself that I didn’t like. It was more than acknowledging the changes in my body and wearing them with pride.. It was more than letting my hair go grey and loving it. It was understanding that I am multi-layered, and can be many different things at any given moment.
My sister once observed to me that I can never really be free of knowing that I have a mental illness because every time I take my meds, it is a reminder of sorts. I had never thought about it like that and really, even now, I don’t really dwell on it. But today, when my phone jingled to remind me that it was time for 5 o’clock meds, I thought about it. I looked at the three pills in my hand and thought about what I might feel and be like if I stopped taking them. It didn’t frighten me, but it did give me pause. It did let me know, rather harshly, that without these medications I am not okay and could suffer again. It was just a moment, but I had to accept my reality. And I did. That is self-acceptance. For me.
Accepting does not mean that circumstances cannot change as you evolve and grow. For all I know there may come a time when I need no medication. Or I may go bonkers even with them. There is no knowing for sure. There is only who I am in this moment, and her I accept fully. And in this moment I am well and functioning, and best of all, connected.
A while back Kimm and I did a challenge: ACCEPT IT OR CHANGE IT. We asked our readers to decide whether or not they wanted to change something about themselves and their lives, or accept things as they are. There was no right or wrong. Only your choice.
There are some things we have no power to change, and some things we do. I believe the trick is to know the difference. So I accept my meds and do not think of them as a reminder that I have an illness that must be managed. I just do what I have to do. Often without thinking about it. That in itself tells me that I accept what is and my role in it.
I understand that, for me, self awareness is my goal. And awareness well understood leads to acceptance. Self-acceptance is embracing the totality of who you are and knowing deep within, that you are many things. You will never be the same from one day to the next and that’s okay. Some days you won’t feel like getting out of bed and some days the sun will shine in your smile. Acceptance means that all of it is okay. The human experience will run the emotional gamut, and it’s all okay. Being human is accepting all of it. Allowing what is to just be. Not fighting with your reality. Change can only come through acceptance. That is the truth. So accepting who you are is the only way to change the things that need to be changed. Do it. You will find it to be one of the most freeing things you may ever do.
Andie The Faerie