• La Shawn L. Splane-Wilburn, Founder of Homagi

Is Acceptance A Form of Self Care? If It Reduces Suffering It Is

Updated: Aug 26, 2020

How many forms of self care are there? As many as the people who practice it. When self care became a trend there was this push for all things “beauty”. Everything from fancy bath bombs, to oils for face and body, to luxurious spa trips. It was a lovely idea, but capitalism was in the drivers seat.

As time has come and gone, and our ideals of self care have evolved and become more socially conscience. We have learned to identify what brings us peace and contentment, which allows us to create our own personal forms of self care.

#MySelfCareIsRadical was more than an annual theme for 2019 for HOMAGI, it was a revolution in self care for Black Mental Health Family Caregivers and the unique challenges we face due to systemic and structural racism. There are tools that help us to build the best forms of self care for ourselves based on what our unique needs are.

One of the tools we will use is Acceptance.

The Webster’s dictionary’s definition we‘re using here is, “the act of accepting something or someone: the act of being accepted: APPROVAL.”

Most of our suffering happens in resistance. In caregiving a good deal of our resistance is in accepting We. Have. No. Control.

No control over a loved ones illness, their acceptance or rejection of it, or their willingness for participating in their own treatment and recovery.

We are usually thrown into a caregiver role without warning. There’s no time to prepare. No time to get educated, for many of us, and no time to get help at the start. We sometimes are operating from a place of “reaction”.

The journey to acceptance, before we understand its power, are long, hard and winding roads. Acceptance is a form of liberation, not to be confused with giving up. It’s more from a place of neutral observation. A great analogy would be the old used car salesman walk through. Kick the tires. Open the hood. Walk around the car and look for damage or to determine just how much work is required to get it “up and running” the way we need it to. In the case of caregiving? Someone else bought the car, and dropped it off for us to figure out how to get it running. We need to have an assessment done. Once we have the diagnosis, now we set about contacting the qualified persons to do the work. There’s an exception to the rule. its not our car, and we don’t get to sign off on any of the approvals, without the expressed consent of another party. Our money and resources can be used, but we may not have any say in how much it costs, or how long it takes for the repairs. There’s an extreme amount of anxiety in that.

Our Loved Ones Aren’t always accepting of their new diagnosis. Sometimes they have been living under the condition of deteriorating mental health, long before they have a crisis. Long before they told anyone. With so much to learn, still an issue for even neuroscientists, genealogists, biologists, psychiatrists, psychologists, and Medical Doctors, it’s no surprise that as lay people we don’t know what to do.

Stigma still creates such a barrier to education and care, so a diagnosis is like a banishing outside of society. People hide and are ashamed for having what is a very physical illness. It can also take years before an individual can have a treatment plan that brings relief. Even then the success eventually comes up for review again once the body adjusts to the medication, or renders the treatment no longer affective.

Those are all factors that can impact how a Loved One recovers and learns to live with their illness.

Acceptance is a very serious factor in mental health recovery and management. Acceptance by the Loved, one of course, is very necessary to have any measure of success with treatment. The Caregiver(s) accepting the diagnosis of a Loved One is also important.

When a caregiver isn’t happy about a lovEd one getting a diagnosis, is ashamed, or believes is more a sign of weakness than a actual physical illness, they can cause a Loved One to hide. I have seen instances where the caregiver has resistance to discussing a diagnosis because they feel it incriminates them as a person. A Caregiver May question their role in the loved one becoming ill. Centering themselves versus focusing on the reality of a loved one having a hard enough road to navigate to recovery, without the weight of reassuring the caregiver they aren’t to blame. In instances of abuse, that could very well be the factor however, and the acceptance for the role in someone else’s pain, followed by accountability is the responsible thing to do.

If someone doesn’t have the proper support, or an environment where they can heal without judgement, they are less likely to have long term success in treatment and recovery.

Treatment and recovery looks different for everyone. There are no two Caregiver experiences that are alike, even if the individual they care for have the same diagnosis. There are other factors like age, social, cultural influences, addiction, length of time living with the illness and so much more. A Caregiver who’s able to focus more on the type of support their loved one says they need, versus what they believe the Loved One needs, is more likely to be an asset versus a hinderance to their loved ones success.

A Caregiver who seeks out ways to learn, ways to care for themselves, and to refine their role to fit and respect their loved ones need for independence or any type of normalcy they can enjoy; is more likely to create less suffering for themselves and their loved one.

Acceptance as self care may be tougher than it appears for some Caregivers and that’s okay to. Finding help from a therapist, speaking to other seasoned or veteran caregivers are great tools to help us along this road to acceptance as self care.

As a seasoned caregiver myself I can tell you the moment I accepted my sons diagnosis, what he wanted his support to look like, and that he was responsible for staying in treatment or not staying in treatment, a very heavy weight lifted. I didn’t have to figure out what was the next move, only how I would accept it or allow myself to be an asset to his progress. With that acceptance comes the realization that my loved one was responsible for staying compliant with their treatment and recovery plan or not.

Acceptance can lead to liberation, if we allow it to.

Do you have other Mental Health Family Caregivers to learn from? Have you considered joining a support group for caregivers or a peer support team?

Stop by our online community of Mental Health Family Caregivers and join in discussions or create your own discussion. It’s called “CareFULLY” and it’s free as it will always be. https://www.homagi.org/forum

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