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The Process of Accepting My Mental Illness

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If you’re new to the mental health system, or you have just seen a doctor and been told you have a mental illness, it’s a daunting time. So many new words and concepts are thrown at you. One of the more confusing things you’ll likely hear is: “You have to accept you have mental illness.”

You’ll hear doctors tell this to new patients. Yet there’s ambiguity about going through the “process of acceptance.”

How does it happen? What does it involve? How do I accept I have a mental illness?

First, let’s understand why even accept you have a mental illness!

Why Accept Your Mental Illness?

Ultimately, acceptance can make your life easier. With acceptance you stop fighting your mental illness. Another confusing notion, right? What do I mean. Obviously not a street-fight. What does someone fighting their mental illness look like?

What I mean is:

If you’re drinking and you need to get sober.

Masking and coping to deal with mental illness.

Trying a medication, then going off it unsupervised then getting back on it and then going off again.

Getting a psychiatrist, then stopping seeing them.

Pretending your mental illness isn’t real.

Not educating yourself on coping skills or management techniques.

Not behaving in a way that maintains good mental health.

Acceptance is a way to align yourself with living with a mental illness.  The opposite is called denial. Denying the truth is your mental illness is real and not going anywhere fast.

Why else choose acceptance?

Acceptance allows you relief.

It means you can stop battling with, “why do I feel this way? What’s wrong with me? Why do I drink and always end up feeling like this?”

No one’s perfect. Not even patients who’ve been in treatment for years. They may seem to be doing well, but still do the dance of acceptance.

How to Accept your Mental Illness.

It’s very simple.

I said the affirmation, “I am a person with a mental illness,” just like they told me at Colombia Mental Hospital. Living my life in acknowledgement of this reality was how I found acceptance. By that I mean when I took on responsibility for managing my mental illness, it was the acknowledgment that I had one.

When you have a mental illness and need to accept it, taking care of your mental health is the process of acceptance itself.

Maintaining good mental health can be using: coping skills, meditation, seeing a doctor, getting support to quit drinking, trying different meds. These actions are some examples of how you get to acceptance.

Research the illness. Notice what symptoms you’re having. Begin to do things on a regular basis to manage your mental illness.

True acceptance is going to involve consent. You consent to taking consistent, long-term, committed care of yourself with respect to what your mental illness is.

When you left the doctor’s office you might have been ruminating on what the heck acceptance is. I felt that way at this foggy word, “acceptance.” When I was told to say the affirmation, “I am a person with a mental illness,” I actually thought it was some magical statement that if repeated in the mirror, poof, I would get better.

Acceptance statements are deeply helpful. But deep breathing when I’m anxious is what acceptance is. Going back to your psychiatrist with a report on how you handled a med and exploring the next one is acceptance.

Acceptance is the enlightened view that in taking actions that have direct effects on your mental health and you are committed to doing it consistently, over the long-term.

Take responsibility each day for your mental health with respect to the mental illness you have. That’s it. Remember it’s a journey and you never know just where this life of recovery will take you with an open mind, too.

Photo by Sorin Sîrbu on Unsplash

Originally published: September 22, 2021
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