There is this expectation that anyone and everyone who is chronically ill should be exceedingly grateful. Supposedly we have more to be grateful for than anyone else alive because we are STILL alive; grateful that our illnesses or diseases didn’t kill us… (aka: “well you are lucky you don’t have cancer!…”syndrome ).
While it is true that my illness didn’t kill me, I don’t think that should make me eternally grateful or forever in a euphoric high. I am not grateful that I, or anyone else for that matter, has an incurable illness and I think its unreasonable to expect anyone who is sick to always feel thankful and blessed, anymore than anyone else in the world is.
The truth is I do feel glad about many things in my life ie. my friends, my family, my husband, my fur kids, my career, my travels and the many lessons and experiences that life has shown me, but I don’t feel any requirement to be grateful for being sick!
I think this topic aligns very closely with the Positivity Porn that has been thrust upon the ill and disabled. We are expected to be in a state of perpetual thankfulness, gratitude and should be inspiration for everyone else. Its almost like if we dare to step outside these expectations we are not deserving of the worlds acceptance or tolerance!
While I will be the first to admit that I have learned so much, met some amazing people and become acutely aware of how to value the little things, I see this more as a testament to my character and the way I have chosen to cope with life’s challenges. I don’t see it as a mandatory requirement on ALL sick and disabled people. We are all individuals and we each have our own natures and personalities.
If the average person was asked if they would like to learn the true meaning of patience by volunteering to be in a state of constant pain or even lose the use of their legs, most people would flat out refuse! They would rather remain impatient than be disabled and incurably ill!! It should come as no shock then, that the chronically ill or disabled feel exactly the same…
Is it unreasonable to expect people with illnesses to be grateful for their illnesses? Of course it is! Should we be expected to be grateful that our friends and loved ones have stood by us? …Despite us getting sick?? Well… I think that’s rather rude and very disrespectful actually… I don’t think we should be required to be grateful for love and loyalty for something that we had no choice or control over. Its rather like requiring a victim of assault to be grateful that their friends haven’t turned their back on them or abandoned them after they were beaten and assaulted… Or something similarly illogical.
Truth is I am grateful that some of my friends and loved ones have displayed some wonderful character through all this, and I enjoy the days that I am not in as much pain etc… But this is because I love that these things can exist in a world that also has pain, suffering and unfairness in it. It is good that there are good as well as bad events. I love that people can rise beyond certain events and circumstances. True love and friendship can endure any serious event or misfortune and I think its good for everyone to remember this… no matter what their health or circumstances.
Experience is a wonderful teacher and sometimes the harder the experience or more painful the lesson, the more we can value or learn from them. I certainly regard my illnesses as being the most profound event in my life and has made an irreversible impact on it. More than ANY other event to date; including the death of loved ones.
It has shown me things and made me the person I am today! It has also impacted on many of the other people in my life. The truth is that any major event does not just impact one person, it affects everyone in your life to a varying degree. The other people in our lives have the chance and opportunity to learn and grow from our illnesses too, and yes, be thankful, grateful and happy… They have the chance to learn a lot from the effects of chronic illness too, and it is my sincere hope that they will chose to make the most of these lessons as well.
What I am truly hoping is that while my illnesses has forced me to learn many things and evolve, I do hope that it will also make the rest of the world more aware and understanding also. Compassion is trait that everyone can use and value from.
In fact, it would be more accurate to say that the over arching lesson I have learned is how to value things and what to value. Gratitude makes up a part of this.
Anyone who faces serious life challenge, and yet chooses to try and cope with it as best as they can and remain self aware and grow on a personal level, is worthy of admiration and respect, whomever they are…
I am very proud of the person that I have become and who I continue to try and be, not just because I am sick and feel I owe the world to always show my best behaviour… or else! No, I am proud because it is a better path to choose and it will assist me more with the life that lays ahead if I am equipped with these skills and attitudes.
4 thoughts on “Chronically Grateful”
i write five blessings blog each December. So yeah i get it . We have many blessings and I cherish each. Blessings Trish!
I am so glad I found your blog. I have had various medical conditions and surgeries and just found out I also have an autoimmune disease. I’ve been sick and tired most of my life and lately the “need to grateful” is why I haven’t told anyone my latest diagnosis. When I had a series of eye surgeries to save my vision (and I am deeply grateful that I live in a time and place where treatment is possible), my “best friend” told me I was LUCKY because he has a condition requiring him to wear a hard contact in one eye the rest of his life. That I “didn’t understand how bad some people have it.” ( I could not lie down or bend over for 8 weeks and it took 8 months to recover my depth perception.) I try to be aware of the struggles of others, and to quietly accept when people tell me their coworker/cousin/uncle/friend has it so much worse than me because they have X condition that trumps my condition. I’m frustrated and now I have literally a life sentence to the pain and fatigue that makes me “no fun anymore”. So, I am actually truly grateful to feel not so alone. Thank you so much for posting this. ❤️
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Your words are so true. Being in pain is not something to be grateful for and many able bodied people (including) doctors, will often tell us things they have no experience of themselves. It’s just meaningless advice when there is no real experience to back it up.
We have to reach our own place of validation and acceptance… not others… and it may take many years and attempts, or may be a continuous process.
All I can do is send you every best wish on your journey and let you know I (and many others) are here for you when ever you need to vent and share.
You sound like someone who has had many struggles and is still here, so you have extraordinary persistence xxx