Acceptance: Seriously, Has Denial Really Worked?

Living with Depression

“So this is it?! What a life. Every bit of a 10 on the ‘Are you kidding me?’ scale. And, no doubt, more of the same to come. Oh, let me guess – my lot. Great, just damned great.”

Sure seems like that’s what it comes down to for tens of millions all over this planet.

And if you feel so inclined, you wouldn’t be the first Chipur reader to utter similar words of marrow-deep pain and seeming resignation. After all, you may well be in survival mode as you’re living with depression and/or wondering how to beat anxiety. I ought to know – yes, I’ve been there.

Given I just mentioned it, I’d like to home-in on the concept of resignation. What if I suggested it’s just the ticket when we find ourselves in the midst of dire circumstances? “Now hold-on there, Bill, ‘ole pal, ‘ole buddy,” you say. “This is supposed to be a hope and healing blog. And you want me to resign myself to a lifelong nightmare?”

Well, I kind of figured I’d elevate some blood pressure readings. So let’s see what I can offer in the way of antihypertensives.

Go with me here. Let’s say you picked-up a nasty bug, which generated a high fever. You ache, you’re sweating like a fountain, your face is red, and coming up with any notion of life-worthiness ain’t happening. In your mind, resigning to the fever isn’t an option.

But I say resignation – acceptance – is just what the doctor ordered, because it paves the highway to healing. Think about it – the very last thing your 103.5 degree worn and weary body needs is the stress of a struggle with immediate reality. News flash! It is what it is, and denial isn’t going to make it disappear.

But, notice I’ve said nothing about giving-up. Of course you’re going to do all you can to knock-out the fever. I’m simply saying accepting its existence goes a long way toward quieting your mind – your body. And what better way to encourage healing?

So let’s stroll on over to the mood and anxiety disorder side of the fence. Acceptance wields the same super-mighty power. And surely it keeps us from the tar pits of denial. Got to ask, has it really ever worked for the long-haul?

Let me fire this by you. Could you ever learn to peacefully coexist with someone you detested if you denied her/his very existence? I certainly don’t see how. That being the case, how miserable does your life become as a result of acceptance being a foreign concept?

Do you really want to live like that? Come on, isn’t it obvious that peace arrives – and stays – on the scene exclusively within the context of acceptance – even in the most turbulent of times?

If living with depression and/or 24/7 pondering how to beat anxiety is a reality for you, invite acceptance into your mind and heart. Absolutely continue your relief and healing mission as you do whatever it is you do – therapy, lifestyle changes, meditation, guided imagery, meds. Truly, the only tweak here is kicking denial to the curb and turning to acceptance.

Never forget, you don’t have to love your present circumstances, and reality can be a booger. However, accepting that reality sure beats the heck out of the wear and tear of wrestling with the truth, day-in and day-out.

Oh, one last thought. How could you ever hope to remedy your depression or anxiety if, in your mind, they don’t exist?

Are you super-hungry for relief and healing? Reach into the Chipur articles cookie jar. You’re bound to find something yummy and satisfying.

  • Patricia Miller May 20, 2013, 4:00 pm

    Ahh, but sometimes I like my fantasy world with unicorns, talking butterflies and faries that do magic. I wish denial worked, but since it does not, maybe you are right and acceptance would be a more productive way to spend that energy. Thank you once again for a good article that focuses on healing and steps we can take to try to gain mastery over the struggle.

    • chipur May 20, 2013, 5:27 pm

      Ahh, the land of LaLa! As Brian Wilson/The Beach Boys said, “Wouldn’t it be nice?” No doubt, acceptance is just huge, Patricia. Not easy, but huge. Again, how could we ever hope to effectively intervene if we can’t acknowledge the existence of a stark reality? And I’ll reiterate – I’m not suggesting acquiescense/doing nothing about our circumstances. Rather, acceptance is the very first thing we do about them. Yes, gaining “mastery over the struggle” is well put. You’re always so good about participating, and I so appreciate it. Bill

  • Megan Snider May 20, 2013, 5:50 pm

    But isn’t acceptance the same as giving in? Do you accept you’re stuck with this for life or do you just accept the fact that you have the illness? How can you accept something as a fact while trying to obliterate that very newly accepted concept? I can’t separate these ideas from one another.

    • chipur May 20, 2013, 6:23 pm

      You’re one smart cookie, Megan. Maybe too smart for your own immediate good (he says respectfully and compassionately). Accepting – say, a nasty anxiety symptom – isn’t at all the same as giving-in. I’m suggesting acceptance of one’s immediate circumstances – the symptom(s) exist, as unpleasant as the situation may be. And that’s important because we all too often deny the symptoms because they’re so distressful, and we don’t know what to do about them. Yes, it’s about accepting the illness and its symptoms in the immediate. It’s not at all about accepting a permanent arrangement. Keep in mind the acceptance comes first – then it’s on to obliteration. Does that make sense? Bill

    • Patricia Miller May 20, 2013, 6:35 pm

      I don’t see it as the same because I keep doing things to get better…. I just accept the reality of the situation. One example is that I truly enjoy running, however I can’t run every day because the arthritis in my knees is too bad. If I ran every day, pretty soon I could not run at all. However, if I accept my reality and run two times a week and cross-train on other days, I can still build up my distance and get the fun of running that I long for. I also discovered in the process that I like long distance biking. When I made that discovery, it was only a little discovery that I could tolerate the swim enough to do triathlons. Wow, what a sense of accomplishments. Well, that is a physical example, but I do think some connections can be made…… just thinking out-loud here.

  • Megan Snider May 20, 2013, 8:49 pm

    One of the first methods which was purchased for me by my parents (which was a HORRIBLE program, by the way) told me to act as if “all is well” and then “all will be well”. It said not to change anything in your life and keep going as if you were “normal”. In essence, you had to “fake it to make it”. I get the idea of not letting the symptoms terrify you and take over. Is that what you mean by accepting them? Just knowing they are there and that they will go away? And then through this acceptance and having the ability to not “freak out”, then it will die down? Is that right? It’s kind of like asking someone how they are doing. We are always trained to respond, “I am fine” when we may be doing horribly at the moment. It seems natural to fight what we fear. But this is taking the Claire Weekes point of view? Is this saying to “ride it out” and “keep your head down” while waiting for it to pass? I get stuck on very simple points a lot. I am not trolling. I am just wondering what to do because everyone has an opinion on these things and some aspects seem to puzzle me. Accept the immediate but do not transform it into a self-fulfilling prophecy? Yes? No?

  • chipur May 20, 2013, 10:21 pm

    This is such a great discussion. Still, I’m hittin’ the rack. Will comment tomorrow, however…

  • chipur May 21, 2013, 10:07 pm

    Okay, as promised I’ll chime in once more. See how this example of acceptance grabs you. Say you’re zooming down the highway and suddenly you’re hit with an episode of derealization. Well, if you’ve experienced it you know it’s a sensation you’d like to put in the rearview mirror like yesterday. However, I say instead of wasting emotional/mental energy fighting (denying) it, it’s time to accept it as an immediate reality – go with it. I mean, it’s not a permanent arrangement, and tussling with it is only going to intensify the supposed misery. It’s that acceptance that makes the immediate experience much easier to tolerate. After all, it is happening. And then it’s on to your routine, or amended, anxiety/depression intervention regimen. Get it? Bill

  • Kyczy July 25, 2013, 10:40 am

    Acceptance – the first step to healing. I certainly can’t find appropriate remedies if I think to myself “I can’t feel this way I’m a YOGA teacher! I SHOULD be (beyond, over, too mellow, whatever) to feel down, sad, de-energized or overwhelmed.” That is what the Buddha was referring to as the “second arrow”. We deny our own reality, and thereby our SELVES, when we ad to the misery of the moment by denying it . So, yes, “how has denial EVER worked for” me? Never.

  • Cathy | Treatment Talk July 25, 2013, 3:29 pm

    I remember growing up, my mothers line to us was to “Face Reality.” At the time, of course, it was annoying, but now I do see the truth in those words. When we let ourselves continue to live in denial, circumstances can continue to drift down a dark path. Thank you. A reality check is always a good thing.

    • chipur July 25, 2013, 5:59 pm

      Mom’s always right, yes? Appreciate your visit and contribution, Cathy…

  • Lisa Frederiksen July 26, 2013, 2:12 pm

    Love your nasty flu bug analogy and your last line, “How could you ever hope to remedy your depression or anxiety if, in your mind, they don’t exist?” Wonderful post, Bill, and such an important reminder on that critical first step, acceptance.

    • chipur July 26, 2013, 5:57 pm

      You know, I always appreciate your participation, Lisa. Glad you like the analogy. They just sort of seem to come when I wax clinical. I guess, actually, they keep me from presenting as a clincial geek. Clients appreciate them – really enhances understanding and insight. Glad you’re a freqeuent visitor…

      • Patricia Miller July 26, 2013, 7:15 pm

        You aren’t a clinical geek?

      • chipur July 26, 2013, 8:22 pm

        Well, ,we’ll geek and nerd it out together, huh!?

  • herbybell July 27, 2013, 7:34 pm

    What a slam dunk, ultra valuable and healing lesson in moving from resentment and denial to being resigned to acceptance and ambition again. Thanks, I needed that, Bill. Reminds me of J. Krishnamurti’s “secret to life” declaration , “I don’t mind what happens.”

    And you’ve also reminded me what a kick I get out of getting around to acceptance after all of my other parlor tricks push me around for awhile. Sheeese! Great read/post.

    • chipur July 27, 2013, 9:45 pm

      Hey, thanks, Herby. “…parlor tricks.” I love it. But what I love even more is – “I don’t mind what happens.” Doesn’t that say it all? Your awesome to visit and participate…

  • Trish August 3, 2016, 12:29 pm

    It feels like yes ok, I can accept this is what I am and struggeling with and even the trial I am given, but I dont feel my husband can or will accept that, and that some days is the tie breaker!:( Good and helpful article… Thank you!

    • Chipur August 3, 2016, 6:29 pm

      Hi, Trish!

      Really glad you stopped-by Chipur and contributed. You know, I’m pleased to have new comments on older articles. Heck, this one goes back over three years. Appreciate your “freshen-up.”

      Well, first things first, right? Good for you that you’re able to accept your struggle and trial. By the way, I like your choice of words. So you have that most important part handled. Now it’s on to your husband. And that’s such an important piece. I mean, how is someone supposed to embrace recovery when the person closest to them won’t!?

      I wonder if it’s an issue of education. Maybe he can accompany you on a doc appt. Or if you see a therapist, perhaps something can be arranged there. Also wonder if you’ve approached your husband about coming to understand and accept your situation. It may be your perception that he won’t back you, but it could be he’d “break” upon being approached. I don’t know, just some thoughts.

      Thanks again for your visit and participation, Trish. Means a lot…