The Mighty Logo

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

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters


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.

Originally published: May 19, 2016
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home