Being chronically ill or in pain is not, generally speaking, particularly awesome. It isn’t always terrible, but sometimes it is, and people aren’t exactly lining up to be gifted with the eternal joy and enforced co-dependency of being sick for most of their lives.
Also, chronic illness and pain aside, I am not a hugely positive person. I am sarcastic and cynical and live with the mentality that, if I expect the worst, at least I can prepare myself for it, and if it doesn’t go as badly as I’m expecting, I’ll be pleasantly surprised. I have kind of a dark sense of humour. I understand that this type of disposition makes you more prone to depression and a short, nasty, brutish life, but it’s a hard thing to turn around.
I’m probably slightly more complainy and pessimistic on this blog than I am in real life, because I feel like I can vent about the negatives to the faceless internet in a way that I can’t always to the people who love me, care about me, and worry about me. Plus, they get sick of hearing it by virtue of being stuck with me a lot more often than my readers. Having this blog as an outlet for when I am struggling or things aren’t going that well is important, and serves a purpose for me.
However, I don’t want it all to be doom and gloom here. There is research in the positive psychology and resilience realm which indicates that individuals with chronic pain and illness who practice mindful gratitude – taking time to note what is good in their lives and for what they are grateful – have better outcomes.
(Side note: this topic is something I have encountered in my studies, but a quick search turned up these two pieces of related research for anyone interested:
I don’t want to pretend it is always (or even ever) easy to be grateful for my illness and pain, but there are things in my life which I am grateful for and proud of, which have come about as a direct result of my spinal problems and autoimmune disease. So, I will be making a concerted effort to, once a week, make note of them here. Sometimes there might be lots, sometimes only one, but this is me making myself accountable for my own mental health in the face of adversity.
This week, I am grateful to have a mother who understands what I am going through.
I am grateful to know how deeply my partner cares for me and wants to help me.
I am grateful to be much better than I used to be at prioritising what is truly important and to have finely honed time management skills.
I am grateful to have access to the internet, which facilitates connection and entertainment when I cannot leave my house, or my bed.
I am grateful to have grown in patience and to have a less judgemental attitude than I used to.
I am grateful to have a significantly increased capacity for empathy for those who are distressed or suffering, which will make me a better psychologist, in addition to making me a better person generally.
What are you grateful for?