As mentioned in the previous post, I am going to let you know how I eventually accepted my diagnosis of Fibromyalgia. You might be shocked to realize that it took me 10 years to do that but when you are diagnosed, you remain forever hopeful for a cure or a treatment that is going to cure this illness and for that reason, I refused to accept my illness. Without accepting it, I was permanently in a fight against my body and it certainly was not doing my head any good.
One of the skills we learnt about in the clinic that I was in for depression, was Dialectical Behavior Therapy. There is so much on the internet that provides learning experiences for this therapy and so I am not going to cover every single part of it. I think therapists also provide this therapy. What I am going to do is highlight parts of the therapy that really helped me a lot. I will try and briefly explain what the objective of the said therapy is and then explain how I utilized it.
Dialectical behavioral therapy is basically used to change the way we think and it is done in 4 main parts. The one that i am going to speak about today is Radical Acceptance. This is a very good exercise or way of thinking when you cannot control painful events and emotions from coming your way.
Radical Acceptance basically means the following:
- Radical means all the way, complete and total
- It means accepting completely in your mind, heart and body
- It’s when you realize that you have to stop fighting your reality, stop performing because your reality is not the one you wanted it to be, and you finally let go of any bitterness.
So to explain a little further in detail. You must accept your reality as it is, even if you don’t like it. You must realize that everyone has limitations on their future, but only realistic limitations need to be accepted. You must understand that there is a cause for everything, this includes situations and events that have caused you pain and suffering. Even though you have painful events in your life, your life can still be worth living.
So why do we have to accept reality? Well, rejecting your reality does not change your reality. In order for you to change your reality, you first need to accept it. You need to accept that pain can not be avoided. Pain is nature’s way of letting you know that there is something wrong. If you reject your reality, your reality can turn pain into suffering. If you continue to reject your reality, you could then be stuck in a state of unhappiness, bitterness, anger, sadness and shame. Once you accept your reality, it may lead to sadness but deep calmness tends to follow. It is said that the path out of hell is through misery. By you refusing to accept the misery that is part of climbing out of hell, you end up falling back into hell.
We need to accept that pain is part of living, e.g. If you put your hand on a hot stove, you will feel pain and the hand must be lifted. Accepting that avoiding pain can cause your problems to worsen and end up causing more suffering. Resisting reality as it is causes suffering, not the pain.
So basically the 4 main accepting skills are:
- Accepting your reality. Stop fighting it. Refusing to accept your pain ends up creating suffering. To accept your reality does not mean that you approve of it. It does not mean that you become passive or give up. You need to accept that even with painful events in your life, your life can still be worth living.
- Turning your mind. In order to accept, you need to make an inner commitment. You then need to repeat this commitment over and over again. This is a choice.
- Willingness. You have to be willing to do what is needed. What works, not what you want. Be effective. Act in response to your wise mind and keep practicing awareness.
- Replace willfulness. Willfulness is refusing to make the changes that are needed. It means giving up and refusing to tolerate. You try to fix every situation. To use an example, hitting balls from a machine. Willfulness does not change the fact that the balls are still coming at you, willingness is how you respond.
By replacing willfulness with willingness and by doing what is needed and not what you wanted to do, enables you to change your mind and accept your reality.
Okay so once the above is understood, we were given a worksheet to complete, to try and practice radical acceptance of a painful situation. I decided that I would use the first painful event that I could think of and try practice this radical acceptance.
So the first question asked was that I describe a situation that was causing me suffering. I answered easily, that it was my inability to work due to Fibromyalgia and that as a result, I felt lonely and useless. The next question was that we describe what we can realistically change through problem-solving and/or shifting our thoughts. My answer to this was that I had to accept my situation and stop wishing that it would change. I needed to find some things that could fill the void, for example, a hobby or interest. We were then asked to describe what we need to radically accept. I answered that I needed to accept that I have Fibromyalgia and my reality will be this way until I die. We were then asked to describe what other skills we may need to practice Radical Acceptance of the situation. My answer was that I had to give up fighting my reality, to accept it and make changes where possible. Our last question was to describe how our lives would be different once we had radically accepted our situation. My answer was that I hoped that my depression would get better, even if it was just a little better, and that my mindset would change from being very negative to a more positive one.
This was a major situation that I had to accept and upon doing so, I finally accepted Fibromyalgia as my reality. Just with that acceptance, my life became slightly easier. I stopped fighting and accepted. A certain amount of peace came over me and I was now able to focus on more positive things to fill my life with.
There are a lot of exercises out there to help you practice Radical Acceptance. Some realities to accept may be as small as having to wait in a long line or that the delivery person is 30 minutes late. I encourage you to research this more and do some practicing for yourself. It was a really helpful skill that I learnt.