Trying to accept living with a chronic illness whilst at the same time trying to heal is a tough combination to balance!
Having lived with Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for several years I have learnt that there is a fine balance between accepting you have a chronic illness and your desire to improve your health and get well.
I think it is our natural instinct to fight something that does not bring us wellbeing. When we suffer we want the suffering to go away. We want to live a life where we don´t struggle. Living with an illness can limit our possibilities and we don´t really like feeling limited. Therefore, we look for answers and cures with the hope we may find the “Magic Solution” to our illness.
I have tried just about every treatment and therapy that exists! Yet I still live everyday with my illness, it is “chronic”. So eventually, I had to ask myself could I accept that I am living with an illness, can I accept the inconvenience, the pain, the fatigue, the impact it has on my relationships and my life?
Acceptance is a practice. The common Buddhist saying S=PxR (suffering equals pain times resistance, highlights that the more we resist “what is” the more we suffer.
Learning to accept something, does not mean that we should just give into it. By accepting that this is the way things are right now does not mean that we cannot work towards improvement. We are able to learn to accept what is happening to us in that moment and still alongside this work towards better health.
Acceptance Commitment Therapy is a Psychological Therapy that works on this basis. Harris (2006, 2007) sometimes refers to this as expansion rather than acceptance as the word acceptance can have negative connotations. Acceptance/Expansion refers to the practice of making room for unpleasant feelings and sensations, rather than pushing them away or supressing them. By allowing our feelings to come and go without struggling with them, we find that overtime we can be less bothered by them.
Learning to accept illness does not mean that we should accept that things will be this way forever. As many chronic illness sufferers know, the symptoms or the severity of the symptoms can fluctuate and change over time, proving that nothing ever stays the same. By accepting the impermanence of things and by accepting things as they are in that moment, we can learn to live with the symptoms of chronic illness whilst continuing to work on improving our health at the same time.
Essentially working towards acceptance is a balancing act and you will notice that you will fluctuate between acceptance and resistance. But as I mentioned earlier, it is a practice and you will see noticeable benefits over time if you make the time to practice it. Take time to notice when you are resisting “what is” and try to let it in. See if it works for you.
Good luck folks!