Mental Health, mental illness

Gratitude and how it has Changed My Life

gratitude2
my reminder bracelet

Sometimes I do things because I have to, and not because I want to. At times I do things when I’d really rather be doing other things.

This is not an uncommon thing, right? I know of people who hate their jobs, but continue to work. They need the money to live.

This summer, work has been a priority for me. We have no income for about a month other than what odd jobs I pick up: babysitting, pre-grading papers for a professor. Summers in the past, I would have likely moaned endlessly about this. I think it is the true necessity of it that gets me feeling so grateful: We are desperate for the money. A day of babysitting buys us meals for the week. Pre-grading an hour of papers goes toward keeping our lights on this month.

In August, I go back to my regular job, for the public schools. I will miss my free time, but I’m so looking forward to not worrying about money constantly.

Growing up, my grandma used to always tell me to have an attitude of gratitude. I can hear her voice in my head even now. Therapists have repeatedly suggested I make gratitude lists to see what is good in my life. Even little things: The clouds were pretty today. I was able to chew my meal because of my strong teeth. The trash was collected.

I made lists like that a lot. It was honestly really helpful. Sometimes I struggled to begin, but once I got started listing small things, the ideas flowed. Then again, there were many times where I was in such distress that I thought things would be easier if the distress ended, but since there seemed to be no end in sight, I wanted to cause one.

A small, silly example: I hate hiccups. I once expressed that if I could choose between never getting hiccups again or losing my singing voice (which, not to brag, is one of the loveliest things about me), I would choose never getting hiccups again. My mom thought that was pretty silly. I’m grateful my wish didn’t come true.

A bigger example: When I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia at 13, and for years after plus some time before, I suffered from severe knee pain. When I learned a heal-all surgery was not going to be an option, I told my mom I wished I could just have my legs amputated. My life would be easier, I thought. She disagreed. I’m grateful I did not make a permanent decision based on what turned out to be mostly temporary pain.

During my teen years, I suffered extreme mental anguish in the forms of depression and anxiety, and I couldn’t get past the thought that I would be better off dead. Everyone disagreed. I am again grateful I did not succeed in a permanent decision based on what also turned out to be temporary anguish.

The lesson I’ve learned is: besides the fact that I tended towards the (very) dramatic, I am so grateful for my mother’s words of kindness and sanity throughout all this. I am grateful that I am alive and well, that today I have the ability and the opportunity to work and earn money. I am grateful for my loved ones, dog included, and friends. I am grateful I have a roof over my head with air conditioning and lights and windows that open and doors that lock. I am grateful for our car, even thought it’s been acting up. I am grateful for my appearance, although I don’t always appreciate it. I am grateful for arms and legs that work and ten fingers to type this with.

I am grateful for life, even when it throws things at me that I’d rather not deal with. Like the car breaking down. Like our financial strain and every little (or big) annoyance that stems from that. I’m so grateful that this is all temporary, and that I have so much to live for.

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