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Learning the Gift of Gratitude

Gift of Gratitude poster "Gift of recieving" abodyofhope.wordpress.com #gratitude #spoonie

Have you ever thought that you are the best friend you know? Are you the most responsible, caring, compassionate, shoulder-to-cry-on kind of friend who drops everything to be there for the people you love? Have you ever wished for a friend like yourself?

I used to think that. Although I so adored the people in my life, there were times when I felt some of the things I did for them went under-appreciated. When I had problems in my own life, when I needed someone to make me feel better, I felt empty handed. Sound relatable?

I was a doer, a giver, I needed to be needed. I set my life up so that I was the go-to person for all of my people. I was the Olivia Pope of my world. Even when I moved to a different state, within months I was the one person anyone who knew me could count on. I constructed a safety net for everyone else, but when my own life turned upside down in the form of chronic illness, I felt there was no one to lean on.

Even after illness set in, things did not change. In fact, I felt that no one had a grasp of anything I was going through. For the first time in my life, I was desperate for some care from others and it seemed that no one knew what to say or do for me. Looking back now, some people were generous, and a few did reach out to me. I think it’s because I never learned how to ask for help before, I couldn’t recognize a gift of compassion and I was too prideful at the time to see when people were trying to be there for me.

I was so programmed to say, “No thanks” and “I’m fine” when people tried to help me out. I think I probably pushed them away without meaning to. I didn’t fully learn the gift of receiving until later on.

Sometimes tragedy is like this. The harder things get, the more clarity we can find.

You get so accustomed to being self-reliant and needed by others for so long that when it is time to accept help from another person, it’s like a foreign object that you naturally repel.

People who cared about me wanted to be there for me, but I usually shut them down. There were those who never knew what exactly to do or say, but they tried to just be in my life. I know now that the people who stick around in uncomfortable times are keepers.

Letting loved ones know how exactly they can help makes the people around us feel less powerless. If you give your loved ones specifics, they can learn how to better help with your complex needs. Hints and mind-reading definitely doesn’t count.

I know from personal experience that receiving help and asking for what you need can be a humbling experience. It’s lovely to help others but it can be humiliating when you’re the one who needs the help. That is the first thing I had to try to accept. You will have anger about it…try not to take it out on those giving to you. Don’t say things like, “I’m sorry you have to do this for me,” or “you will get tired of helping me,” or “I can tell you don’t want to be doing that for me.” Don’t critique their attitude, or predict future resentments. Instead, lead with gratitude. Say “thank you.” Your appreciation makes others feel positive.

Gratitude isn’t only an emotion, it’s also a state of mind, and a form of personal expression. The great thing is you can choose to be grateful even at times you don’t necessarily feel that way.

You already know how good it feels to do for others. Learn to be a gracious receiver.

Remember, you are worthy enough to accept the very thing you do all the time for other people. If the situation were reversed, would you be there for your loved one in the same way?

It has taken me a while to learn that lesson. I am still learning… Those who give of themselves are always teaching me to be humble.

I had to consider why my life had always revolved around being helpful, yet I could not receive the help offered to me. To top it off, I was too prideful to ask for help.

When I was finally able to say “thank you” and mean it from the bottom of my heart without resentment, anger, shame or fear: gratitude swept over me and lit up everyone in my life like Christmas lights.

Before, giving and being needed was how I defined myself. Learning to receive showed me the love everyone around me had to offer.

This lesson has been such a challenge; I am still learning to receive and to appreciate the blessings in my life, but the gift of gratitude has been a life-changing lesson. I believe learning to receive with a grateful heart makes a person a more understanding, more compassionate giver.

People love you and are there for you, too. Maybe not in the way you want them to be, but they might be exactly what you need. You are worthy of their love and their help.  Please don’t miss out on receiving the blessings that God is trying to bring into your life.

How Years 16-22 Changed my Life at 28

“What’s with all of the appreciation? Isn’t pain and illness miserable…aren’t you suffering every day and lonely in bed? Don’t you hate that the world is spinning without you?” Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had plenty of pity party time over the years. Plenty of my own misery that I’ve crawled into. I still do from time to time. But, I have more gratitude now that is helping me along more these days. Why? How?

I was living my life, being an over-achiever, free-spirit, planner, optimist, perfectionist, social butterfly, spontaneous young person (yes all of those things at once). And boom: gimpy girl, doctors are your new BFF’s, your plans are a joke, and spontaneity is only reserved for your malfunctioning body. Adult life had just begun. The pieces had just fallen into place when they shattered apart so suddenly. I had so much fear about the future. Between all of the doctors ensuring me what a dim future I would have added to the horror stories I would read online, plus my own excruciating pain- equaled a young person very ill equipped to emotionally handle the fallout.

In the beginning, when I happened upon my first story of a child going through the same thing I was, I couldn’t help but draw strength from it. Knowing a child was in so much terrible pain every day, and still going to school and trying to walk or play- had me reconsider my own desperation. In all the times I was so ready to give up, there were definitely moments I would look up stories of children with the same pain disorder and remind myself that they don’t even realize they can check out. They just have to be strong- so they are. Because I’m in the same fight, I should also be strong beside them. Maybe you think it’s perverse, but it helped me. It helps me.

[One note: Others’ suffering does not negate one’s own trials and battles in life. Hopefully though, it can help us gain better perspective. We still must face our own pain intimately. A million other people in pain does not lessen my own struggle or yours. I just want to clarify that is not what I’m saying.]

It wasn’t until more recently, a few years ago when a myriad of other conditions floated my way, including a nasty one called POTS that changed my thoughts even more-so…

Even though I personally became chronically ill at 22 and then bedbound at 28, it is very common for young women of 16 to get POTS, unfortunately. There are teen girls at home and in hospitals all over the world hardly able to stand or sit up wondering what kind of future they will have. These young women are my heroes. Not only have they been teaching me how to better manage my condition using food, technology, and lifestyle choices, they also teach me through their attitudes. They keep pushing, keep trying, and they never give up hope.

When my POTS began something clicked for me. Even though my POTS entered my life with so many other conditions and more pain, making me more debilitated than ever, I’ve felt less grief for all I’m missing out on in life. It opened my eyes to how much I had done from 16 to 22 when my first chronic illness set in. In those 6 years, I finished high school, worked several jobs, had been in love, traveled the entire country, I learned how to do so many things with my hands, I used my body to go on many exciting adventures, and made amazing memories with my friends. I found the love of my life, lived independently, got married, bought a house, started college, and got the opportunity to spend quality time with my family.

For a very long time, I looked back at my life and memories and thought it wasn’t enough. I couldn’t even look at a old pictures without the memories crushing my heart- so I didn’t. It was like losing a loved one; losing myself. But if I can appreciate from 16 to 22, then I can appreciate all of it. What about the children whose illness inhibits their freedoms in life from a very young age? It changes the way I look back. Now I can look back at my memories and pictures and say, “Wow, I’m so blessed! God really allowed me to do so much!” Instead of, “I wish life could be as good as it used to be.”

Being thankful changes everything. Focusing on gratitude takes work though. And I have to avoid that which spirals me into my darkness. If you are toward the beginning of your journey, I don’t believe that mourning the loss of your life is negative. It’s an appropriate response and grieving is a valuable part of the illness journey. It has just taken me a long time to get here, and I have required a great deal of grace to find my way. Blessings to you on your own path.

 

“And I said, This is my infirmity: but I will remember the years of the right hand of the most High. I will remember the works of the Lord: surely I will remember thy wonders of old. I will meditate also of all thy work, and talk of thy doings.” -Psalm 77:10-12

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Thank you to Mitzi Sato-Wiuff at Aurora Wings on Etsy for allowing her very special original Skull Image to be featured here. Please go check out her shops linked below and purchase one of her awesome prints or instant downloads as a gift for the holidays!

www.aurorawings.com

www.etsy.com/shop/AuroraWings

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