Acceptance can feel impossible

Past couple of weeks I’ve been mentally struggling with a bunch of the pain that my body is in. In particular, the joints in my feet have been deteriorating rapidly over the past couple of months, and in the back of mind I get anxious about having to hop into a wheelchair again.

Today, Chris brought up  injured soldiers who have lost limbs he had met when he was in military school, and compared my situation to theirs. It’s similar in a lot of ways. There’s this stuff physically that you mentally want to be able to do, but physically you’re limited.

Those folks are usually really inspiring because they have this great sense of humor and acceptance about their physical condition for the rest of their life.

It reminds me of that great documentary Murderball about the US quad rugby team. It’s a movie about a bunch of really badass guys who are all massively disabled and in wheelchairs, but they have decided that they aren’t going to be beat down by their situation, they’re getting up to fucking play elite rugby in these wheelchairs that look like they came out of a Mad Max movie.

Tonight, I’m writing this because I’ve been struggling with accepting the pain that I’m in, and accepting that this is actually going to be the way I get to live the rest of my life.

Part of what kept me going for a long time was to never make excuses based on how I felt, and as part of that I feel like I was refusing to accept that this was actually the reality of my life. But I’m reaching a point where it’s really hard to ignore what’s happening to my body.

I’m waking up every morning with a lot of pain and anger from what I’m feeling, and I’m refusing to accept that is what is happening, refusing to accept the limitations that I’ll have to endure for the rest of my life.

And I’m grappling with having to accept this right now. Having to accept that there’s not going to be some miracle that comes along to get me healthy again. Having to accept that I’m going to die having lived my life this way, in pain, and not able to run around the way that my body longs to.

Maybe that’s the visual I’m avoiding. Laying on my deathbed looking back at my life wondering what it could have been like had I been healthy, had I not been in pain all the time.

I’ve never been great at accepting things that I didn’t want. If something isn’t happening that I think should happen, I tend to stubbornly go after it until I make it a reality.

But there’s nothing that being stubborn about not being in pain will get me. And until I accept that, and start walking through life accepting that this is what I have to work with, I have a feeling I’m going to have a hard time getting out of bed in the morning.

I don’t have an answer to this one. I feel like real acceptance of this is probably going to involve some tears and a bit of a breakdown. Or it might not. I might get to a place of zen about this through practicing daily acceptance.

All I know is that it’s weighing heavily on my mind right now, and I’m going to have to figure out how to move through it.

I hope this helps.

Austin W. Gunter


I’m Austin. I live in San Francisco, practice Tai Chi, have rheumatoid arthritis, listen to a lot of loud music, and host a lot of dinner parties. Want more? Start here.

One comment

  • I totally get what you’re saying, Austin. Hurting both mentally and physically, not able to do the things you’ve loved in life. And I’d rather not medicate for pain so it’s never gone. You have no scars and aren’t missing limbs so people have no clue of what’s happening… of how you feel. Not looking for sympathy, I hesitate to say, “I’m hurting, can you lend a hand?” As you explained, it’s been a thought process that evolves with the disease. My belief is that our lives are a journey of lessons and choices. One day and one hurdle at a time, sometimes I exceed, sometimes I fall short. We can’t beat ourselves up, Austin, but instead, look for ways to address our evolving needs. Physical therapy has helped, massage, meditation, tai chi; little things like a heated mattress pad and blanket, and timing chores, shopping, and errands when you’re well-rested. You beautifully expressed the challenges of chronic diseases and coping. Others will take comfort in knowing they are not alone. They can cope, there will be tough days, ok ones, and good ones. Keep searching, learning, loving… and hardest of all, love the person that is YOU. Blessings, light and love to All.

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