A woman holds her hands over her chest as heart spring out from underneath them

The Concept of Acceptance

What is acceptance?

The Oxford Learner's Dictionary describes it as “The quality of being willing to accept an unpleasant or difficult situation.”1

Acceptance is essentially a common and unremarkable word – one that is a part of our lives every single day.

What do we accept?

We accept that the bus is late...again. We accept that we don’t have money to buy that beautiful diamond necklace we see on display every day. We accept excuses even if we know them to be untrue.

However, accepting an incurable, chronic condition is not something we have been programmed to embrace readily.

Throughout our lives, we are predominantly unaware of the things we accept on a day-to-day basis. Many times these are things that, for all intents and purposes, we theoretically deem unacceptable such as lying or cheating.

Accepting an incurable, chronic condition

And although this is a global offence, people will still be penalised with hypocritical judgements and undesired opinions. However unfortunate this is, it is something that we must expect and something that we should learn to manage in the best way possible.

When speaking of acceptance in relation to an incurable, chronic condition like narcolepsy, we are broaching an entirely different predicament.

Acceptance is exhausting

In my personal experience, I have found that the subject of acceptance has been one of the most exhausting themes that consistently arise in conversations with family and friends. People seem to expect that automatic acceptance should subsequently follow a mere diagnosis.

It is wholly understandable that those around you don’t want to see you suffering and wish for you to accept your circumstances in order for you to live a happy and healthy life. Nevertheless, although acceptance isn’t an impossibility, it surely does not come easy in any way.

Acceptance is not linear

When dealing with a chronic illness that impairs you every single day and will continue to do so for the rest of your life, the path to acceptance is simply not a linear trajectory.

There are days where I feel as though I have made my peace with my condition and feel as though I am making significant progress. This can be followed by weeks of renewed frustration and denial derived from a fresh bout of aggravating symptoms.

So why is acceptance of a chronic illness so different? This is because it requires a different process in comparison to anything else.

How to develop genuine acceptance

In my experience, there are 2 very distinct stages that must be successfully mastered in order for genuine acceptance to develop.

Know the facts

The first is the acknowledgement of the fact. Unfortunately, we know that “about 50 percent of patients with narcolepsy may be undiagnosed."2

In addition to patients being undiagnosed, there are also many more who might be misdiagnosed.

Without knowledge of the existence of the problem, nothing can be done, and herein lies the first and most prevalent hurdle.

Get to know your new self

The second stage (for the 50 percent lucky enough to be diagnosed correctly) is the conscious, deliberate effort to change and readjust the only world you have ever known. You suddenly find yourself in a position where you no longer can identify with the person you were all your life. Not only are you forced to rediscover yourself in accordance with these new circumstances, but you also then have the added responsibility of reintroducing yourself to the world and even losing loved ones along the way who may not understand or even accept your new reality.

Acceptance is not the final destination

I do not view acceptance as a final destination as it is something that people as a whole rarely manage to fully accomplish. As humans, we all battle our entire lives to merely accept ourselves as we are, let alone being handed an added pressure of accepting an imposition that few can even comprehend.

Acceptance isn’t a destination, it is an achievement that we must conquer throughout the course of our lives.

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