What It Means to Be Thankful When You Have Depression

After writing about gratitude earlier this week (including my tips on how to have a better relationship with gratitude), I thought more about Thanksgiving. Specifically, I reflected on the word thankful and what it means to me. Thankfulness and gratitude don’t come easy to me, and I know there are plenty of people who it doesn’t come to either. Over the years, I’ve learned some things about thankfulness and living with depression that I’d like to share this Thanksgiving day.

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Five Ways to Improve Your Relationship With Gratitude

Since this week is Thanksgiving in the US, I’m thinking a lot about the word gratitude. Being in the mental health space, I heard this word quite often. One of the most common tips for people dealing with depression centers around finding gratitude in our lives. There are many ways that people can find gratitude (and I hope to make a post about that in the near future!), but what isn’t talked about as much is that people’s relationships with gratitude can be tricky. There’s a fine line to balance if we feel like we’re being forced to look on the ‘bright side’ if we’re struggling to cope with mental illness. That’s why, before I reflect more on this word and what it means for me, I want to share some of the ways that you can improve the way you view gratitude and your relationship with this tricky concept.

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What I’m Thankful for This Year

I’ll be honest – these next few months are one of my favorite times of the year. Even though the wintertime can be difficult for many reasons, I separate the holiday season from those negative thoughts that I fight throughout the winter months. To me, the holiday aspect of these next few months is a lot about thankfulness, gratitude and reflection. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I’d like to share something I am very thankful for this year, which was the opportunity to learn new techniques to manage my mental health struggles. Here’s a bit of what I’ve learned!

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I’m Thankful for My Mental Illness

A few weeks ago I was sitting in therapy (more on that next week!), and something occurred to me. My therapist said she’s amazed how I’m able to get so many things done despite my mental illness, which made me think of two things.

The first was that yes, I am high functioning despite my depression, but it took me six years to work up to that success. The second thing was that I’d rather be a motivated person who didn’t like himself than someone who had a ton of confidence but never got anything done.

And as we turn to a season of thankfulness and gratitude, I often think about how grateful I am for my mental illnesses. Sounds weird, right? Stay with me.

Living with depression and anxiety has taken a lot away from me. But it’s also given me so much. It’s given me strength. It’s taught me resiliency. It’s taken me from being plagued by my mental illness to becoming a force in the mental health community, and an advocate for everyone like me.

My mental illness has taught me that no matter what life throws at you, you have a chance. It might not be the best chance, or an opportune one, but it is a chance. And it’s what you do with those chances that counts.

I’d like to add that this viewpoint didn’t happen overnight. I’d knowingly lived with mental illness for more than six years before being where I am today. I’ve had highs and lows that I honestly can’t even believe. But I wouldn’t trade my experience for anything in the world.

It might be confusing to read that, and it’s kind of confusing to write, but it’s true. I’ve long held the belief that everything happens for a reason. Most of the time people have that belief when good things happen to them, but I think of it more when it comes to adversity.

So this Thanksgiving, as hard as it might be, try to be thankful for everything. Every good thing, every bad thing. Be thankful that everything that’s happened to you has made you the person you are today. I’m thankful for every bit of what life has thrown my way. It’s made me the person I am – a person I am damn proud to be. Happy Thanksgiving.