When Having Gratitude Feels Just Too Damn Hard
I’m going to let you in on a little secret … I’m not always as positive and accepting as my fellow Autoimmune Sisters when it comes to living with a chronic illness (or series of illnesses, more accurately).
This entire month, the sisterhood has been sharing its favorite tips for finding gratitude in our collective diseases: From using your five senses, to focusing on the ‘cans’ rather than the ‘cannots,’ to tapping into the benefits of meditation, mindfulness, and movement, these tricks really do work. As a matter of fact, I incorporate most of these practices into my own daily routine and, for the most part, I’m at peace with my condition. But if I’m being totally honest (and if you know me IRL, then you know that I am nothing if not brutally honest), sometimes I’m just not feeling it.
Yep, I said it. Sometimes, I don’t want to be positive. I don’t want to accept my illness. I don’t want to feel grateful about what my disease has given me rather than what it has taken from me. Sometimes, I want to wallow. I want to cry big, ugly tears and feel sorry for myself. I want to bitch and moan (and more honestly, scream and curse) until even I’m annoyed with myself. And you know what? That’s okay.
Let me say that again for those in the back … IT’S OKAY TO NOT BE OKAY EVERY DAY.
The truth is, living with an autoimmune disease is hard. Hard AF, actually. Not only is it taxing physically, it’s taxing emotionally and psychologically — Not to mention socially, financially, and whatever the -ly words are for married life, family life, friendships, and business/work. Sure, we have the heaviest load to carry, but our illnesses saddle our loved ones with unexpected weight as well, and that only adds to our misery, with feelings of guilt and shame. Put all those pieces together and some days it’s just too much.
BUT THAT’S OKAY.
Having lived with this disease and it’s complications for well over a dozen years now, I’ve learned a lot about myself. I know my triggers and limits, understand what serves me best, and can recognize flare-ups early enough to shorten them (most of the time). But the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that I don’t have to be positive and accepting all the time. I’m allowed to be mad and sad and even a little depressed sometimes because, frankly, having a chronic illness (or two, or three) sucks.
Yes, most days I’m killing the gratitude game. I concede to my condition and appreciate both the big and small things this disease has given me. (I’ve even written about it in the past, both seriously here on autoimmunsisters.org and a bit more tongue-in-cheek on my own blog, Lauren in Charge: Diary of a Midlife Mom with Moxie and Muscle.) But some days I’m better served surrendering to the suckery of it all. Alone in my private pity party, I embrace the suck. I acknowledge it, sit with it, and really feel it … no matter how long it takes. Then, when I’m ready, when it feels right, I release it and shift my mind once again to a place of acceptance, which is where I prefer to be.
With acceptance comes gratitude … but only after embracing the suck.
AUTHOR’S DISCLAIMER: I am not a doctor, physical trainer, registered dietician, or health care provider, and am not licensed to give medical or nutritional advice. The purpose of this article is to share personal experiences and/or current research in order to educate, inform, and support readers. It should not be taken as medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult your doctor and/or professional medical team to determine if the ideas discussed herein are appropriate for your individual circumstances.