Thursday, March 14, 2013

Raising the White Flag: Accepting or Surrendering

{St. Remy Church by Mary Borchers}

A good friend of mine sent me a beautifully written piece about healing from depression, titled Getting Back Up After You Fall.

As I was reading it, I realized that the author put everything I have been trying to say about depression into one excellent article.  Even though there are no words to describe the feeling that is depression, the author Elena, does a pretty darn good job.  You can read her full article here.

Among other enlightening paragraphs, she states that the worst part of suffering from depression is the shame.  She writes:
Despite years of evidence to the contrary, when I couldn’t get myself off the couch for months, when I couldn’t enjoy any activity, and when I couldn’t smile genuinely at anyone or anything, I truly thought that this was my actual self, my real personality—that I was boring, unmotivated, useless, a loser, an anomaly; that I was weak, and that all of this was my fault.
For years, I believed that depression was who I was without even knowing what depression meant.

I believed that I had a pathetic personality and a brittle soul.  I was helpless, cowardly, feeble…and I hated myself for it.  I ran over 5 miles a day, but I thought I was weak.  I stubbornly stuck to a diet of no processed food; however, I was certain that I had no will-power.  I surpassed my coworkers within the first year of a new job and earned a management position; yet, I honestly would tell you I didn’t deserve it and I was a worthless employee.  I believed I was a failure and nothing and nobody could tell me otherwise. 

In her post, Elena goes on to say:

Essentially, depression lies to you—about everything. And when you are used to trusting your thoughts and being self assured and confident, it takes a long time to realize that the torrent of negativity in your brain may not be an accurate representation of reality.

One main characteristic of depression is that it causes isolation.  But by nature, as humans, we are communal beings.  We are meant to help one another and live in community with one another during this journey called life.

In reading Elena’s blog, I recognized so much of myself in her writings.  It has been so good for me to read about, and converse with, people who have also struggled with depression.  Through this experience, it is evident to me that we are meant to have good relationships in order to have a thriving life.

“No man is an island,” wrote John Donne.

When dealing with depression, we flee from the very thing that can help us the most.  Yet, we still try to live on our island when we are suffering, when we most need to live in community.

Why is it so hard to ask for help?  Elena writes, “Acceptance is not surrender; it is simply the opposite of refusal”.

When I was in the pits of despair, I didn’t want to ask for help because I thought that would mean I would be admitting defeat.  I thought that by accepting I had a problem, I would be raising the white flag and surrendering to the enemy.

I felt like I was holding on by one thread; it was the fact that I didn’t give up yet.  By accepting I had a problem and asking for help, I thought I would be severing the only tie that was holding me to life in this world.

If you look in a Thesaurus, however, you will not find the word “surrender” as a synonym for “acceptance”.  I don’t know how they got tied up together in the first place.  I think it is probably because it is used for “accepting defeat” or “accepting limitations”.

When you accept that you are struggling with depression or any other mental health issue, and you ask for help, it does not mean you are defeated or limited.  It means you are brave, realistic, and it means that you don’t want to give up!

For years, I thought I would be accepting defeat if I asked for help.  But accepting that you need help is not accepting defeat.  When you ask for help, you are calling in the reinforcements.  That is not surrendering; it is quite the contrary.  Instead, you are calling in for support or back-up in order to strengthen the mission.  It doesn’t mean you are weak; it means you want to win the battle!

Acceptance is not surrender.

Acceptance is receiving; it is the gift of enlightenment.
Acceptance is acknowledging, or responding to the truth.  It is approval and affirmation.
Acceptance is belief, a conviction in what you know to be certainly true.
Acceptance is confidence and trust in oneself.

Acceptance is not surrender.

Accepting that you need help and asking for it is one of the most honest things you can do for yourself.  By asking for help, you will not fail; you will receive approval, affirmation, trust, love, and truth.

Now that’s not so scary now, is it?

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