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.