Wednesday, 11 March 2015

When the Fight is too much - Stop Fighting

I'm a fighter. Some would say I'm stubborn, obstinate, belligerent. Others might use words like, determined, resourceful, persistent. Whatever, if I feel strongly about things I will fight.

It is this character trait which more than any other has kept me going - for those of you who are old enough to remember I am an emotional Weeble - for those of you too young - these were little toys which were essentially egg shaped. The most important thing about them was that 'Weebles wobble, but they don't fall down.' No matter how many times they were dropped or fell over or 'wobbled' they would bounce back and right themselves.

It's okay to be a bouncer, backer - it means that I have been able to survive a lot of challenges and trauma I never thought possible. Like many who suffer from mental illness, there is a core of steel within me which means that I keep going, even when the situations I battle against are seemingly overwhelming. Recently, however, I have found myself feeling weary of the fight. I know that this is part of the fluctuations in my emotional, mental and physical strength as I seek to manage my mental health.

Suddenly, the other day whilst bemoaning the ongoing struggles I've had, including the day to day struggle to keep body and soul together, I found myself saying 'I am so sick of fighting'. Since Christmas, which is so often a period after which I need acknowledge the need to rebuild myself in nearly every way, I have been hit with one challenge after another. It is hardly surprising that I have found myself at a low ebb: Illness, family crisis, uncertainty about the future and ongoing daily financial pressure. Yet, I continue to drain my resources by constantly battling against intractable situations that are beyond my control.

In particular, I have found myself emotionally battered by the prospect of another Conservative government, by a fear of the impact on my well being from their continued assault on the most vulnerable on society. Usually, my interest in politics and current affairs is more intellectual than emotional - which is probably the best way to view our democracy. However, the survival instinct in me has meant that I have been using my precious emotional strength in railing against people who are oblivious of my very existence. So, I have had to stop fighting against situations and environments I have absolutely no hope of changing. As I sat helpless watching political debates and interviews on Television, the emotional impact in terms of my anxiety and anger levels was extreme compared to any likely impact I could have on the situation.

It is one example of the numerous times I have fought against situations that are beyond my control or abilities. Having, been overwhelmed by a feeling of weariness and its associated thought, 'I'm so weary of fighting', I focused on the dishes I was washing and came to the conclusion that I should just 'stop fighting'.

Once again, I have learned another aspect of Radical Acceptance and its importance in helping me to manage the emotional impact of the world around me. I cannot stop my elderly parents from declining in health, I cannot control the outcome of the coming election, I cannot even predict whether or not I am likely to be soaked by rain on my daily dog walks. The only things I can do, is care as much as I can for my parents, use my vote in May to make my choice and ensure that when I do go outside I am prepared with the right clothes for the weather in that moment.

Radical Acceptance means that I need to recognise when I should be Weeble-like, when I should and could fight against injustice. Through my involvement as a Mental Health volunteer I have been able in small ways to help in situations where the environment is not too powerful for me to have an effect. Long ago, during a period working alongside displaced people, in refugee camps in Africa I became overwhelmed by the suffering and need around me every day, as well as the relatively short time and few resources we had to make any impact. A very experienced NGO worker talked to me about how you get it in perspective without such suffering overwhelming us. It may sound trite, but in that context it helped me refocus my efforts into an individual, case by case way of seeing my way through an environment which was far and away the most powerful environment I had encountered at that time: 'You may not be able to change the world, but you can try to change the world for one person.'

If I keep seeing my life as a whole campaign of war, rather than separate battles, some of which are behind me, then it follows that I will always feel as if I am fighting. When I feel that I have to sort my whole life out, and, while I'm at it, to stop all the injustices in the world around me, then it is hardly surprising that I often feel overwhelmed.

Radical Acceptance tells me that I can keep banging my fists against the wall, or accept that it is there, is too big for me to batter, but maybe if I stop fighting and take a step back I may be able to see a door or gap in it, which will allow me through. Or, and this is the most radical thought of all, maybe if I stop fighting against its existence, I can find a way to live with it. I think my attitude to BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder) has been like that. For most of my life I applied the weeble principle to my emotional storms. Because storms come and go, this worked for a time. Until, I found myself faced with environments, people and situations that were too powerful for me to overcome.

Let's face it, I am not a superhero, I'm not even a true Weeble. Sometimes I do fall down. That's okay because who wants to have an egg shaped bottom.

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