Radical acceptance means looking at yourself and the situation and seeing it as it really is.
My goal with acknowledging depression is to not let it boss me around anymore. I am working on learning coping skills and avoiding unhelpful thinking styles. In the past few weeks, I have had small challenges that depression has thrown my way.
Depression is testing me to see if I am paying attention.
I don’t believe it wants me to accept the truth. It likes it when I am blindly following the easy path. The way it has always been in the past feels safer, more familiar. Depression makes is feel like the right thing to do, whatever that may be.
Depression had already tested me with a service I ended up canceling. In my clouded state, I didn’t remember why we had set it up, or that we had talked about it several times. Somehow, I couldn’t remember that there was a plan. This ended up impacting others and left me understanding that I was going to have to be more vigilant.
Then in the Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook, I learned about radical acceptance.
The book suggests that radical acceptance means you stop trying to change what’s happened by getting angry and blaming the situation. They tell you not to waste your time and continue to suffer by blaming yourself or the other person. The author’s want you to focus on what you can do now.
I believe I have been doing that. I have made the conscious decision to not use labeling. This unhelpful thinking style can be a habit if left unchecked. Only in recent weeks have I caught myself, one or two times, using labeling. But I am not beating myself up about having depression.
I am all about how to move forward with depression not being my boss.
That is radical to me. Accepting what has happened and creating a path forward has my full attention. I am not interested in the blame game; I never have been. It always seemed to me that people who spent their time blaming others could be spending their time fixing situations. So, the concept is not new to me.
But the name “Radical Acceptance,” is. The book gives you suggested coping statements you can use to remind yourself that you should accept the present moment and the chain of events that created it.
I can see now that the chain of events that led to my hospital stay began almost 16 months ago.
Each step in the chain was carefully orchestrated by the depression. It had a plan to push me, once again, up against the wall. And it set that plan in motion and guided me to the blackness of no hope, no way out, no other choice. It found ways to isolate me from my support people, to have me keep secrets, and pull me further and further away from reality.
Now I am dealing with the consequences of all the steps in the chain that brought me to this point.
And I am finding tools to keep the depression from getting the upper hand again. So, I am subscribing to the radical acceptance of coping statements. I picked out several that spoke to me including “I can’t change what’s already happened,” and “the present is the only moment I have control over.” In reading over the coping statements as I am writing, I see one other that makes sense.
“This moment is the result of over a million other decision.”
And one of those recent decisions was to apply for a full-time job, to think about “un-retiring” as a way to recharge my emotional batteries. Or at least that is how it started out. I told myself, with depression whispering into my ear, that I needed to get back out there. The reason I was depressed was that I wasn’t having enough human contact.
Getting back into the workforce would solve that. I would have all the daily interaction I was missing and would be a better person because of it.
But there was a nagging “what if” I was avoiding.
What if I didn’t need that type of emotional support? What if I was moving towards a position of General Manager because then I “was somebody.” I would be valuable again as the GM. I would be somebody.
And best of all, I would not have to face myself.
I wouldn’t have to grapple with “being enough” when I didn’t have the title. I wouldn’t have to wonder about my own self-esteem or the value I had as an individual. With a title, it’s clear to me who I am.
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Without a title, with it being just me, what is there?
And that is where radical acceptance and the skills in the Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook come in. I need to be vigilant. I cannot say once “depression is not my boss” and it’s gone. I will be saying it over and over and over for the rest of my life.
It took me many days, many conversations, many worksheets, to fully appreciate radical acceptance.
Because on the surface, depression made going back to work full-time look perfect. It positioned my thinking to only see one thing. And it had already started to push that idea on me, to the exclusion of all others.
Depression can be very devious.
Without the vigilance that radical acceptance gave me, I would be merrily going down the same path that, after 40 years, put me in the hospital. Depression was working overtime to get me back. If I do not remember that, it will swallow me whole.
So, I am working on my self-care and “being enough.” These two activities will take a lot of my time. There will be opportunities for outside employment once I have addressed the underlying depression.
I do not feel like celebrating. I feel sad, mad, and disappointed that I am not starting a new job. But it is the right thing to do.
Facing depression, calling it out with radical acceptance, is a huge step towards being in control.
I am doing that and am proud of the results that my first big challenge with depression has thrown my way. I’m basically one for two, but the one that really counted, I got right.