Acceptance, this one is certainly not easy. For me, this was a process - at many stages in my life, I believed I had accepted my circumstance and moved on, only to be confronted with it again a year or two later. It is only now I realise that acceptance comes in stages and that it is never too late to have revelations about the past.
I am different, age nine.
I realised that I was not 'normal' when I was stuck at home with a migraine, unable to leave the bed and attend a competition that our group had been predicted to win. Being a competitive person, this was a hard pill to swallow, especially when I went into school the next day to find out that we had come last. It was at this point I realised, I needed to come to accept that I was not able to do as much as my peers and as much as it angered me, nothing could be done about this situation. In hindsight, this wasn't a particularly wise thing to accept and resulted in my disability holding me back throughout my life and was often the excuse I used to not venture out and try new things. It's a fine line between being cautious about your condition, and letting it dictate your life, leaving you living with constant fear.
Sometimes shit happens, age 11.
The second form of acceptance was when I had a series of complications resulting in my intestines being punctured and having to stay in hospital a further month. It was hard for me to understand why I always had constant difficulties with my health, it seemed never ending. Why me? Everyone says that everything happens for a reason so what had I done so bad to deserve all of this? With an immense amount of support from my family and the hospital staff, I came to realise that all of these complications were not my fault. The turning point was when I spoke to a volunteer, she made me realise that I could view all of this in a productive way. I have experienced things which many don't have to endure, and I would have rather not enduring, but if I chose to see the opportunity in the situation, it's purpose will become more apparent. She made me list all the positives that had come out of the situation, it was a tough list to begin but together we worked on it and came up with some enormous life lessons. Quite a feat for an 11-year-old!
My scars, age 13.
A girl I didn't know made me aware of this, as she stared at my scars with a shocked expression on her face while I was changing for a P.E. lesson. Although, I was aware that my stomach was different, it hadn't really occurred to me that it was that abnormal, for me that is what I was used to and because my biggest scars are on my stomach and head, they aren't visible the majority of the time. During my teenage years, I always had a love-hate relationship with them. Whilst I believed they were souvenirs of my bravery and courage and reminders of the fact that I should be grateful, I couldn't help but hate how deformed they made my body look. Due to the incisions, it often looks as though I have three rolls on my stomach - not particularly attractive. This lesson took years to learn - I am so much more than my body. It may look different, and it may not be to everyone's taste but that is their problem. They are my best and favourite tattoos.
My operations do not define me, age 19.
This one, I got two actual tattoos for. This was the realisation that as much as my operations are a huge part of my life, they are only that, a part. They are not my whole life. I am not my operations, I am more than that. They are not my most interesting story to tell, I am interesting in my own right. They were no longer going to be at the forefront of what made me, me. I can put them to the side and finally move on ... or so I thought.
Supressing emotions is not the same as resolving them, age 21.
This one took me by surprise. I genuinely thought I was never going to have another operation and that that chapter of my life had closed. So much so that when I ended up in hospital and was told I needed another operation, I responded: 'No, I've already had my 13. I'm done'. Apparently it doesn't work that way! This triggered a range of emotions from my adolescent years which had been repressed whilst I was attempting to focus on the positives. For the first time in my life, I allowed myself to feel the sadness about the youth I missed out on, the guilt of surviving and the anger about the physical pain. In experiencing that, I was able to reach a novel level of acceptance. I believe I now live with true acceptance. Time Line Therapy™ allowed me to fully release those negative emotions and in all senses of the word, accept everything about the adversity I had been through.
To end, I will leave you with a quote from one of my favourite movies: 'That's the thing about pain, it demands to be felt'. Take baby steps in approaching your emotions, it's a process after all.