I talk about self-acceptance in my recovery guide, Live Life Well.
I'd like to detail this in here because it is the root in my estimation of having a successful recovery.
Recently, I read a book I recommend everyone read: The Diversity Code by Michelle T. Johnson. She tells us that the ideal is the goal of "viewing diversity as the highest form of honoring individualism."
Stigma is a flaw of society because at heart it is a manufactured screening out and rejection of people who differ from a norm. I can debate all day about the value of passing for normal in a world where "normal" is the holy grail yet that would do a disservice to others.
The goal of embracing diversity in ourselves and others is only noble.
I submit that we need to honor each individual who embarks on the road of recovery and celebrate each other for being our original selves.
I've experienced firsthand stigma by other people who have diagnoses. It's sad that people in recovery sometimes have no room in their heart for others traveling down this road. Even with all I've done, if a line was drawn in the sand, I would stand on the side of those of us who experienced brain dis-ease and were cast out of society.
The concept of radical acceptance is useful as it relates to what happened to each of us. Martha Beck in her column in the Oprah magazine suggests that acceptance is the foundation of change. You need to accept what's going on and once you accept it you can begin to move forward to change it. She uses the analogy of an overweight woman who refuses to weigh herself on the scale.
Denial of what's going on serves to halt you from achieving your desired result. It's the classic technique of burying your head in the sand and hoping something will go away because you can't see it. Only: what you resist persists.
I'm a big fan of the book The Diversity Code because in the one sentence I quoted above Michelle T. Johnson gets at the heart of achieving a win-win in your relationships.
Honoring individualism, unfortunately, is not the norm even in relationships where people don't have brain dis-ease. I make the case for honoring individualism.
A second quote makes this perfectly clear courtesy of a greeting card I bought and framed in a picture frame: "Who cares what everyone else thinks. Be true to yourself."
Accepting that you have a faulty brain is different from thinking there's something wrong with you because you have brain dis-ease. It's easy to run 100 miles in the opposite direction to try to prove you are normal. After I was hospitalized the second time, I had to confront the truth. This was the turning point that enabled me to see that I had a faulty brain and the only way it could act like a normal brain was if I took the medication.
Would it be presumptuous for me to state that most people fear there's something wrong with them if they have to take medication?
By accepting what happened to you, you're able to differentiate between who you are and what you have. This is the beginning of living successfully in recovery.
Language is power. I long ago would tell people not to identify themselves as "a schizophrenic" or say "I'm a paranoid schizophrenic." You are not your symptoms. Refrain from labeling yourself.
I read two weeks ago an Internet forum where a guy diagnosed with schizophrenia wrote in to say things got better for him in his recovery when he realized the schizophrenia was only 5 percent of his life and the rest of his life was the other 95 percent.
Michelle T. Johnson urges every one of us to get to know people who are different from us: to, yes, embrace diversity.
Another book I read articulates this in a different way. Susan Cain wrote Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking. She also advocates for living in tune with your nature. I recommend you read her book too.
I would submit that so much of the friction in relationships happens because one person does not accept another person's personality or way of thinking.
That's sad because we have so much to learn from each other. It seems that the ability to live in harmony with others is elusive.
Michelle T. Johnson nails this:
She talks about how people dismiss opinions that they don't like "by using their own experiences and opinions to cancel out the opinions of another person."
"Another way to dismiss another person's opinion is to counter it with another opinion and call that second opinion fact."
Anyone who aspires to be a mental health activist would do well to commit those sentences to memory and refrain from using these tactics with your opponent.
Honoring another person's opinion is the best way each of us has to promote diversity. You don't have to agree with the other person yet attacking him serves no purpose. It's a mark of mental health to be able to listen to what a person has to say even though you might not agree with it.
I realized early on that I don't have to prove I'm right. I just have to offer ideas and information that could help others live a better life. It's up to them whether they think what I say makes sense.
It's why I don't argue with the anti-psychiatry crowd. As soon as I hear the words Big Pharma: I tune out against the inevitable backlash. I will refrain from commenting in an online discussion when another person trots out his anti-medication pony.
So I'll end this SharePost with my contention that self-acceptance is the root of success in recovery. A person who is true to herself in my intuition will be better able to accept other people as they are. If you like yourself, it doesn't matter what other people think of you.
We need to continue to act to give stigma the boot. We kick the stigma to Mars when we decide that hey, each of us is OK just the way we are.
Honoring individualism is the only way to go.
Published On: January 23, 2013