Accepting myself has been an ongoing process and it began well before I became a parent and got married. It began more than seventeen years ago when I was flailing about, bulimic, unable to stop using my substance of choice (food) the way a drug addict uses crack. I have written about this period of my life before ‘here‘, ‘here‘, ‘here‘ and ‘here‘ so I won’t go into great detail again now. Suffice it to say, I was out of control, scared, suicidal and I couldn’t stop binging and purging. And then someone who had once been an active alcoholic and obese, with more than a hundred pound maintained weight loss, said to me, “What if you accept that this is where you are?”
I remember I looked at her in shock. Even now, thinking back to her words I find I am holding my breath. It was such a stunning statement. Never had anyone suggested such a thing. To me it suggested complete defeat. It was blasphemous. It was the single most heinous suggestion I’d ever heard. I think I said something like, “Are you kidding? What do you mean?” I can no longer remember her exact words, but she said something like, “You just told me you can’t stop binging and throwing up. You just said you are out of control. You just gave me a detailed description of what you do, how completely depressed you are, how you’ve tried for twenty-two years to control yourself and yet here you are, still unable to. What if you told yourself – okay. This is where I am. I am out of control. I hate it. I hate feeling this way. I can’t stop. I can’t stop hurting myself. I can’t stop binging. I can’t stop throwing up. I can’t stop thinking about food. I can’t stop abusing myself. This is where I am. I accept that I am here. What if you did that?
I didn’t have an answer. I couldn’t think. I felt like I was being given a pop quiz I hadn’t studied for. I stared at her and then she did the next thing that I could not understand or wrap my mind around. She opened her arms in embrace and hugged me. I remember my confusion, the feeling that this couldn’t be right, that she was unhinged, that the only thing that could save me from self-destruction was more self-criticism, more self-loathing and more self-recrimination. But I also knew what she’d said made some sort of bizarre sense; for twenty-two years I’d been upping the self hate talk to no avail. All that criticism I kept dumping on myself had gotten me exactly where I was – at a dead end. So I took a deep breath, held onto her hand and took a metaphoric leap into the unknown. The unknown of acceptance.
Just in case you’re wondering, it didn’t happen as quickly or as easily as this may sound. That leap took years of practice, of gently reminding myself that whatever I was feeling, whatever I was doing, I could accept that in that moment I was where I was. It took years and years of cultivating awareness, of being able to see when I took up the whip that I could also put it down again. Kindness, compassion, gentle reminders and acceptance, this is the road I have tried to stay on. As I said, this is very much a work in progress. Some call it a ‘practice’ because ‘work’ sounds difficult. My experience with acceptance has been that it is “work”. It is not easy for me. It does not come naturally. I have stumbled along the way. I continue to wander off at times, only to be brought back, gently, kindly and with compassion by others who are on the same path. It takes gentle reminders, many nonjudgmental nudges to move back onto the path of acceptance. But I have seen the light and know to follow it even when it grows dim.
My experience with acceptance regarding autism has followed a similar trajectory. You might think – why didn’t she ‘get it’ right away? Why did it take so long for her to remember that what had worked for herself would work with this too? And the only answer I have is this – I forgot and I couldn’t see that they were connected. I didn’t see the value in accepting autism because I didn’t see my child as Autistic. I saw her as having been diagnosed with a word I feared and didn’t understand, and therefore was not going to accept. Again it felt like defeat to accept. It has only been a little over a year that I was able to make the connection. And the thing that helped me make the connection came in the form of yet another person who accepted me and all my fear, guilt and shame with compassion. Once I was able to make the connection, became aware of my lack of acceptance and allowed that to be, without adding criticism and judgement to it, was I finally able to begin the process of true acceptance.
Acceptance of ourselves and where we are in this moment opens us up to the wonder of all.
Pascal, Emma, Harvey & Henry typing to each other – April, 2013