Mindfulness, Radical Acceptance, and the Effects of SMA
When I started grad school earlier this year, a friend told me that I could not, under any circumstances, start to psychoanalyze the people in my life. I laughed because technically we’re not supposed to do that anyway. I told her she didn’t have to worry.
I’ve managed to keep myself under control, yet I’ve found it significantly harder than expected to keep from gushing about all the different theories I’ve been studying for class. I’ve taken to posting quotes on Tumblr as an outlet.
Similarly, I’ve tried to keep from writing columns on counseling theory. (Who wants to read about Freud? I sure don’t.) This week, though, I’ve decided to make an exception for something I’ve written about in previous columns, as I’ve been thinking about it for a while now. We all have different views on mindfulness. I’m not going to tell you to try mediating or anything like that, because I’ve had spotty success with it in the past. But there’s one aspect in particular — of mindfulness, not meditation — that I’ve been trying to apply to my own life.
Mindfulness can be considered radical acceptance of the present moment. The underlying assumption of the overall theory is that in focusing on all the negative aspects of a given moment — physical discomfort, anxiety — we actually miss out on the moment itself. Life is inherently full of good things and bad things, and so it follows that in order to truly live, we must work to accept the good, the bad, and everything in between.
The past few weeks I’ve been trying to apply this to my health. Since getting my G-tube placed in 2010, I’ve been remarkably healthy; compared to my pneumonia-riddled childhood, my couple of stays in the hospital for kidney stones feel tame. But the past year or so has been hard on me. I’ve been sick several times this winter, and am still fighting off a sinus infection. Every time I feel like things are returning to normal, something inevitably manages to break my streak of good luck. I can’t seem to catch a break.
I find myself comparing my current health to my health a few years ago, including everything from my energy levels to the condition of my skin. I’m not deteriorating. It’s not like my health a few years ago was perfect, or even unattainable. Yet I’ve somehow managed to idealize it, that “golden period” of my life, to the point where everything else feels somehow … less. Even when I’m healthy, content with the present moment, I still feel like I’m missing out, because it still doesn’t compare with what I’ve accidentally labeled my peak.
I don’t want to live my life like this. Even if I do recover to the point of feeling well again, I will inevitably get sick, end up in the hospital, find myself here — fighting with my body as I have for years now. SMA is not a one-time disease — it’s a chronic illness and will be a part of me and my everyday life until I die.
I don’t have the time, the energy, or the willpower to nitpick my existence, to tear my body asunder in search of imperfections. My health fluctuates, as is natural, and I want to accept that. There will always be something about myself and my body that I would like to change, but I want to move past that so I can live each moment instead of getting caught up in comparisons.
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