When dealing with bipolar disorder, the more you choose the act of acceptance, the more chances you have for contentment.
I, like many of you, keep regular appointments with my therapist. It is something I do to continue my journey towards optimal health. I maintain my mental health balance by seeing him regularly. I have come to trust and like my therapist very much and look forward to seeing him.
At our last appointment I brought up the fact that I constantly feel like my bipolar depression is going to rear its ugly head. There is a part of me that I don’t want anyone to see. Sometimes I feel like I can’t trust myself to say and do the right things all the time. I told him about some recent events where I felt like I was struggling regularly (driving, shopping, work, etc.) and asked him if this was the beginning of a new cycle of ups and downs.
He sat and pondered the question I had asked. His response was surprising. He asked me about the concept of acceptance. I said I had come to understand forgiveness and was practicing that approach with all the people and situations in my life. I thought forgiveness and acceptance were the same thing. He pressed for more. It was acceptance he wanted me to explore, not forgiveness. It was clear to me that his point was that forgiveness and acceptance are very different concepts. He was peeling back the layers; I could feel it. He was challenging me to dig deep to see what acceptance looked and felt like and see if I could begin to practice acceptance.
I spent my day trying to wrap my head around this whole acceptance business. I took some time to research some of the popular thinking about acceptance. During my research I discovered that many believe acceptance (many add the word ‘radical’) is simply a way to combat negative emotions and feelings; and that acceptance can aid in helping us feel better emotions, ideally leading to a more sustainable version of happiness. But if you are like me, you get it conceptually, but how do you actually do it successfully?
I began to reflect on what acceptance looks like in my life as it relates to my bipolar depression. I accept that I have a disorder that I must treat for the rest of my life. I accept that the medications I must take have undesirable side effects, but the alternative is not an option. I accept that I have my ‘bipolar’ moments and to be aware of them and to seek help when needed. I accept that I can learn and adapt to situations and maintain a healthy state of mind.
My examination of acceptance has taken me from my therapist’s office, to the internet, and finally to me and my life. My conclusion is that acceptance is possible if you want it, if you choose it. It doesn’t happen on its own; time and patience are required. The more times you choose to accept your circumstances, the more opportunities you have to feel something resembling contentment.
I envision my next conversation with my therapist will be about the act of acceptance, not just the idea of it. I’m going to begin practicing so I can feel better more often.
I encourage all of you to give acceptance a try, what do you have to lose?