Monday, December 11, 2006
Acceptance: A Reachable Goal
I'm afraid that I'm becoming depressed again. I've had two good months, but I can see the signs. Those of you who have ridden this roller-coaster again and again will understand the frustration and disappointment felt when this happens.
Last week, my father-in-law called and asked me for Teresa's phone number. I gave him a number and hung up. A few minutes later he called back and said, "That's the wrong number." I gave him another (a variation). He called back, "That's not it." Well, by that time I was completely confused myself. I told him, "When she calls me today, I'll get the right number."
That's often the way my depressive cycle starts. I start forgetting things that I know quite well. I have (and did) difficulty finding the right words to express myself. I also noticed that I was tired all of the time, my eyes were squinting, I wasn't laughing as much, and I wanted to go to bed early. When Sunday came around, I was quiet during Bible class and I resumed my afternoon naps. It's such a familiar pattern. Maybe, it will be a short cycle. That sometimes happens.
Today, I'm including an article I wrote about a year ago. Please note: Most of the time, I will be speaking about biological depression and/or Bipolar Disorder. I will address the other types of depression more fully in the future.
Let's start with the naked truth. If you have a biological mood disorder, it will never go away (with rare exceptions). It will be your lifelong companion. It will be like having a fat old messy elephant in your living room. You can deny that it exists, but it will still be the biggest thing in your life.
I know from personal experience that wishing upon a star that this disorder will go away won't work. Turning your back and a blind eye to the problem won't work. Praying for healing may not work. Complaining that it's unfair won't work. So if nothing works, then how can we cope with this unwelcome companion?
Acceptance. According to Webster, to accept something is to "endure without protest; to regard as proper, normal or inevitable." It sounds simple, but it is hard to accomplish. Before we can make any progress in coping with our disorder (illness), we have to learn to accept the inevitable. Reinhold Niebuhr's Serenity Prayer begins with these words, "God grant me the serenity to accept the things that I cannot change: courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference."
The first step in our survival is to accept the inevitable, the unchangeable. We cannot change the fact that we have a lifelong illness. It can be treated and stabilized, but not cured. There are things that can be changed, and the most important change needed is the way that we think.
If we think that denial is an effective coping mechanism, then we will be angry and frustrated when it fails. If we think that refusing to take medication will make the truth of our illness go away, then we will be bitterly disappointed. If we believe that acknowledging our disorder will reveal a personal weakness, then we will suffer injury to our pride and sense of worth. If we don't think right, then we won't do right. We do what we do, because we think what we think. Wrong thinking equals (=) wrong coping.
Often, acceptance only comes after the painful process of grieving our loss of mental healthiness. The five commonly accepted stages of grief are:
(1) Shock ("I can't believe it!")
(2) Denial (("I won't believe it!")
(3) Anger ("This shouldn't be happening to me. It's just not fair!")
(4) Depression ("I can't deal with this."]
(5) Acceptance ("I can now get on with my life.")
You can easily see how we might get "stuck" at one of the first four stages, without ever arriving at acceptance.
Getting on with life is a reachable goal, but it is not easily reached. It takes hard work and patience to attain this goal, but it is definitely worth the effort. To deny and defy the problem is no more productive than it is to scream at the Sun for interrupting your sleep. In order to learn to live with your illness/disorder, you will need to make a declaration to yourself and then to others who are a part of your life.
"I accept it. I don't like it, but I accept it."
"Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me (2 Corinthians 12:8f)."
["I'm so low I could do a ten minute free-fall off the edge of a dime."]