When I was first diagnosed with fibromyalgia my whole world crashed around me. I was lost in a sea of dark thoughts; was this really how my life was going to play out? Years and years of pain rolling out in front of me? How was I meant to cope with that? Was this it? Had I really reached the end of my capabilities? How could I live with that?
I was probably at my lowest point when a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist called Michael entered my life. I have a lot to thank Michael for (there are others who I need to thank, but today isn’t their story). You see Michael taught me that acceptance is a key.
Acceptance. Acceptance, you say? I’m in pain all day and you seriously expect me to accept it?
Well, yes. To a certain extent.
On the blog post When you’re chronically ill: “Giving up” versus “Giving in” (find the post on Psychology Today here), Toni Bernhard talks about the difference between giving up and giving in. Giving up makes you feel like you’ve failed, “By contrast, giving in is a type of surrender. I think of it as sweet surrender. It’s the act of accepting what you cannot change and then looking for how best to live a fulfilling life within your limitations.”
The key to living a worthwhile life with chronic pain is acceptance. By accepting that you have chronic pain is to stop fighting it. By accepting it, we can learn to live with it, we can co-exist and move on.
Sounds really easy, doesn’t it?
I have days where everything I’ve learnt goes out the window. I fall back into my old ways of thinking. The other day I declared to my hubby, “that’s it, I’ve had it! I can’t do this anymore!” Yes, I was feeling really fed up and maybe more than a little sorry for myself. I was feeling overwhelmed with my to-do list growing faster than Usain Bolt doing a 100 metres sprint and my pain levels sky-rocketing at the same time.
I was feeling overwhelmed.”
You see, I’ve just started a new resin jewellery business on Etsy, I’m trying to write a new book whilst marketing the ones I’ve already written and I’ve started this brand new sparkly blog whilst looking after my kids and struggling with fibromyalgia, and it was all getting too much!
I was down in the dumps.
My hubby replied, “yeah, that’s it, Give up. Do you go to the kitchen, open the cupboards and find the food is magically there without working for it? Do you think these things are just given to you?”
That was what I needed. We’ve been together for around 24 years now and he knows exactly what I need to give me that metaphorical kick up the arse. His words snapped me out of my feeling sorry for myself phase. He was right; no one gets anything without hard work. Especially so for those with chronic illness. (And, to be fair, I always go to my hubby when I feel like this because, deep down, I know what I need and I know he will deliver the correct medicine).
I took a step back, looked at my life, and realised just how far I’ve come. I have achieved so much whilst living with fibromyalgia, but only after I’d accepted that pain was part of my life and accepted that I needed to take control.
And so, it goes back to acceptance.”
And so, it goes back to acceptance. Accepting that I live with chronic pain and accepting that there are going to be days when I forget everything I’ve learnt and that I will get overwhelmed. Accepting that, some days it will get too much and I will feel sorry for myself and I will become a grumpy cow (although, if I’m honest, I was one of those before fibromyalgia :)).
Acceptance is the first step on our long and painful journey. It’s the key to unlock the door. By turning the key of acceptance we can open the door and walk through it and take the second and third steps to self-managing our lives and our pain.
Acceptance, as Bernhard puts it, “brings relief from the exhausting (and ultimately losing) battle against the turn your life has taken. It makes you feel better, both mentally and physically, to never side against yourself.”
Acceptance is to surrender to what we cannot change.
Acceptance is a key.
Acceptance is the key.
Featured image is by Ladyheart, on Morguefile.com.
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