Why the World Shouldn't View Acceptance of Our Illnesses as Giving Up


It’s a dirty word.

The world tells us not to accept our limitations, not to accept no for an answer, that all things can be conquered and beaten if we push hard enough, and that those who overcome their limits are an inspiration to others.

The world is sometimes wrong.

Sometimes, limitations are what keeps us alive. Sometimes, taking no for an answer is necessary. Sometimes, there are things that can’t be conquered or beaten, but simply lived with. Sometimes, the inspiration we need isn’t the person who beats the odds, but the one who handles accepting them with grace… or who accepts it at all.

Disability and chronic illness can be all of those things, but acceptance is seen all too often as giving up.

It’s not.

After four years of living with chronic migraine disorder, four years of daily pain and a plethora of other neurological symptoms, and four years of trying find my limits and exceed them, I’m just now learning what I thought I already knew: that acceptance of my new normal and new reality is necessary to function as well as I can.

That it isn’t giving up — it’s what I need to keep fighting. If I expend all my energy trying to fight and overcome an incurable disorder, I’m wasting my precious time on something that is a pipe dream. I’m wasting my good days on something I’ll never attain instead of living for the good moments. I’m not able to make realistic judgments about my care and treatments if I am fighting my reality.

And worst of all, when I continually push myself past my limits, I’m not accomplishing anything except exacerbating my pain and other symptoms, which results in fewer good days or moments.

It’s not a one-time deal, it’s a continuous process. Over the years, I’ve developed new symptoms, some of them rather scary. And it’s normal to be scared or have trouble accepting these new things and new limits — and some days I will fail at it. Some days, all I’ll see is my limits, and some days, all I’ll find is sadness or anger at them.

Failing at it some days is not the end of the world, even when it feels like it.

Every day is a new chance and a new learning experience. I’m still learning ways to accept my new normal — counting the blessings I still have, using my experiences to reach out to others, realizing that acceptance is healthier than denial, and that it’s OK to admit I’m struggling.

I can still be happy on most days even if I’m not being a poster child for for trying to overcome my disorder.

The only thing I really need to overcome is my own preconceived ideas of the advocate/fighter/hero/example to others I feel I “should” be… and my expectations of myself are a lot higher (and sometimes less rational) than what others expect of me.

Acceptance is not easy, but it’s not a dirty word. Sometimes, it is the saving grace you need.

I will be OK, because I can accept my new normal, over and over again if need be, as hard as it may be.

And so will you.

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one thing people might not know about your experience with disability, disease or mental illness, and what would you say to teach them? Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.

Related to Migraine

man and woman sipping cups of tea with straws

The Question You Should Ask Before Trying to Cheer Someone Up

The other day, I was feeling kind of meh. It wasn’t depressed exactly — just the opposite of confident. Sometimes, when I have several days in a row in which I get migraines and I don’t socialize, I can feel a sort of malaise that affects my confidence about work. When my husband came home, [...]
Hand turning dial on thermostat

To the Co-Worker Who Turned on the Air Conditioner Despite My Migraine

I hope you’re feeling cozy and comfortable since I’m not in the office today. Yes, you’re free to lower the temperature of the air conditioner in the office. And you can thank the debilitating migraine attack I’m experiencing today for it. I get to stay in bed under a blanket with the AC shut off. [...]
Young woman with headache outdoor

5 Ways I Know a Migraine, Not 'Just a Headache,' Is Coming On

Have you ever been at work, or hanging out with friends and family, when you close your eyes, squeeze the bridge of your nose and quietly say, “I have a migraine coming on” — only to hear those famous words, “It’s only a headache,” or “Well, it’s not here yet.”  “Just a headache.” Then why do [...]
Woman with headache

The Reality of Hope and Positivity for Someone With Chronic Illness

“You’re so negative!” “You never know, your miracle could be right around the corner.” “Instead of researching all that could go wrong, why don’t you just trust that something could go right?” “So, this treatment is helping? You’ll be back to yourself in no time!” “Think positive!” “You’ve got to have hope things will get [...]