What I’m Thankful For

I know what you’re thinking. Another blog post about being thankful? On Thanksgiving? Pass. And I wouldn’t blame you. But I’m going to take another route.

I’m sure you’ve read it before, but gratitude is almost a necessity these days. The world moves so fast and things are so easily accessible that it’s difficult to stop and take a moment to reflect on things. Whether things are going well or…not so well, it’s important to remind yourself about the good things in your live. For people living with a mental illness, it’s probably a little harder. Let me explain.

People who are already prone to having negative or destructive thoughts find it quite difficult to think of good things that have happened to them. And even when they have, their memory can be so cloudy, so foggy from their struggles that they view those good things differently. I don’t want to speak to anyone else’s experience, but I run into that problem fairly often. There are the staples that we often take for granted. If we have a good family life or are financially stable, it’s sometimes hard to remember that not everyone has what we have. If we’ve been lucky enough to be in a relationship or find that someone special, we forget not everyone has a significant other. And if our mental health is in a good state, we can forget that that’s not the case for people all the time (or any of the time, in some cases).

Gratitude has been something that I’ve struggled with in the past, and every therapist I’ve met (and there have been a few) has suggested gratitude as a good way to bring myself out of the funk that depression can cause. However, there are some downsides to this (believe me). Remembering all that you’re grateful for can sometimes make a person feel that they should be happier because of all that they’ve been given. I’ve been blessed with many things, and when I remind myself of them I can sometimes fall into the trap of not feeling grateful enough to warrant what I’ve been given in life.

I’m not saying don’t be grateful or thankful for what you’ve been given, but if you’re struggling with your mental health and people tell you to be grateful for everything else you have, it’s okay. You’re allowed to be grateful for a good life while still being frustrated that you’ve also been gifted with a mental illness. Wait, gifted? Yes. Last Thanksgiving was the first time that my mental illnesses were among the list of things that I was grateful for. Why? Because I’ve been given so many talents in addition to it, and I can use those talents to amplify my voice and be an advocate for others like me.

I’m grateful for a lot of things in my life. And I’m grateful that I’ve been able to work at what I’m not so grateful for, and turn it into something positive. And honestly? That’s enough for me. At least for now. And that’s something worth being thankful for.

Out of the Darkness Community Walk

When I decided to take part in an Out of the Darkness Community Walk (put on by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention) this past Saturday, I was pretty nervous. I knew there would be people who had lost loved ones to suicide, which is an extremely difficult situation that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. What I didn’t know is if there would be people there who’ve struggled with suicidal thoughts in their lives – like me.

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I was stunned by the number of people that showed up to walk – in a good way!

As I walked down the National Mall toward the Lincoln Memorial, where the walk began, I was met with a sight that made me tear up instantly. Hundreds of people were milling around at registration, at the booths organizations had set up or were just talking with each other before the walk began. The number of people reflected not only how many people have been affected by suicide, but how many people were willing to fight against suicide even after someone had been taken from them.

I’ve struggled with suicidal thoughts for most of (if not all of) my adult life. At this point, it’s just something that’s a part of me, no different than all the other baggage I carry around every day. But something about this walk changed the way I view myself. See, this year the AFSP decided to do something new: honor beads. People were given beads based on their experience. These colors showed each person’s connection to the cause, and it was a wonderful way to bring people together to show them that they’re not alone. I wore green beads, which represented having a personal struggle with suicide or mental illness. And I was honestly very afraid that I would be the only one wearing green beads.

 

 

Instead, I saw hundreds of people wearing green beads just like me. It was a very strange feeling because while I was cheered up that I wasn’t alone, my heart broke for all those who deal with suicidal thoughts – or even attempts. In a way, that was a microcosm of my day. One of the biggest problems in mental health today is this feeling that no one else is going through what you’re going through. Even when you know it’s not true, those thoughts are still prevalent and can affect everything you do. Being surrounded by so many other people affected by suicide, your heart can’t help but break for these people who have lost their love ones to suicide.

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Shoutout to my family (sans two siblings) for walking with me!

But it also gave me hope at the amazing response to tragedy. It gave me hope that even though darkness can hit all of us at one time or another, the light is still going to shine through. I’ve never been more simultaneously happy and sad than I was on Saturday, but I ended the day feeling full of hope and strength. I hope to continue the fight against suicide in as many ways as I can, and Saturday was a very good start.

There’s plenty of different ways to fight suicide. To learn more you can check out afsp.org