Mental Cleanse Challenge – Radical Acceptance

A friend of mine often jokes that the title of my autobiography and/or the epitaph on my grave stone will be two simple words: Of Course. It’s a solid suggestion. My consistent companions on this journey we call life seem to be Irony and Murphy’s Law. Contradictions construct much of my experiential learning – things just happen in my life, like, I don’t know, going from mental health worker to client. Such a jump is not an anomaly in my life, in fact, “Of Course” is a phrase I utter more often than not. I embrace the ridiculousness that is my life.

Today was one of “those days.” My goal for day 6 of this challenge was to do some yoga and practice radical acceptance. When constructing my 30 day self-care list, I could not anticipate a flu-like creature infecting my house. It’s effectively consumed us for the time being. I’ve spent the day with barely enough energy to sip some teas and watch Stargate SG-1 (don’t judge me, Jack O’Neill comforts me). My couch-ridden state prevented even the thought of yoga. My head feels like a pressure cooker and just walking from the couch to the kitchen and back is enough to make me dizzy – no elegant balancing and stretching for this girl. Ironically, though, the inability to do yoga allowed me to practice Radical Acceptance! See how the universe works sometimes?

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What is this Radical Acceptance thing? Sounds like a whole bunch of new age mumbo jumbo! (When I get cynical, I strangely channel a crotchety old man. Just go with it.) Did you go with it? Congratulations, you just accepted something.

Radical Acceptance is a concept in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. During the Partial Hospitalization Program in which I participated, we read an excerpt from the book “Full Catastrophe Living” by Jon Kabat-ZinnIn the excerpt, titled The Attitudinal Foundation of Mindfulness Practice, Kabat-Zinn defines Acceptance as “seeing things as they actually are in the present.” Radical Acceptance is a fantastic stress-reducing tool; it’s applicable in situations as small and mundane as being stuck in traffic and in major life changing events, such as the death of a loved one or receiving a diagnosis.

Acceptance prevents suffering. A facilitator at the PHP wrote on the white board one day that I’ll carry for the rest of my life: “Pain + Willfulness = Suffering ; Pain + Acceptance = Pain.” Willfulness, in this context, is a direct refusal to accept the situation as it is in the moment. Imagine how terrible my day would have been if I’d spent hours on the couch beating myself up for not doing yoga – or worse, if I’d stubbornly tried to do yoga despite having a fever and being dizzy. I’m certain that suffering would have overtaken the entire day. This illness is here, and it needs to run its course. My immune system has to beat it back. Eventually, I will feel better. The fever will leave; the sand paper throat will again be smooth; the sinus pressure will decrease; the cough will subside. Until then, all I can do is accept that I am sick and that I need to take it easy. I can drink tea to sooth my throat, and I can give my body the rest it needs.

No one wants to be in pain. No one wants to have the flu. No one wants to face their own limitations. No one wants to lose a loved one, receive a life-changing diagnosis, or deal with their crap. It’s easier to avoid or deny, in the short term, anyway; but in the long run, refusing to accept your situation is going to cause you immense suffering.

Back in November, when the severity of my symptoms increased dramatically, I refused to accept the reality of my situation. My therapist suggested a hospital stay then, and I laughed in his face. When my depression grew, I tried to ignore it. For two months, I suffered more or less silently (minus phone calls/ visits from a couple close friends, who helped as much as they could). By the time I did go to the hospital, my situation was so severe that I needed to leave my work and school. I also refused to accept that at first, which fueled more self-loathing and anger.

My point is, life is going to fling the unexpected in your face from time to time. And it’s going to get into your eyes and mouth and sting like hell and taste like shit. But it’s going to be a lot more uncomfortable if you deny that it’s there than it will if you flush it out and clean up.

So, today, I accepted that I was too sick to do yoga, and thus, I succeeded in practicing radical acceptance. 50% of my goal for the day achieved with a fever and sinus pressure? I’ll take it.

And I wrote this blog for you all – because I still do have a stubborn side. If this particular entry is a little scattered with metaphors and such, I apologize. Please just accept that I have slight fever brain right now. (See what I did there?)

How’d you practice self-care today? Do you want to get in on this challenge? I’d love to hear your go-to self-care activities and your progress in using them! As always, hit me up in the comments below, or on Facebook or Twitter! Much love!

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