Almost every autoimmune group and every social media post constantly reminds those with chronic illnesses to be grateful. It becomes the throw away comment which is used to silence a sufferer up by shaming them into feeling ungrateful during the struggles they face.
I contrast this to people who enjoy better health and how they communicate their lives and struggles. Those who share stories like ‘…lost my job today…’ or ‘…work is so damn busy I have no time to go to (insert event)…’ Those people are usually consoled, empathized with, encouraged but rarely rebuked for not being more grateful.
Why the double standard?
Ironically it is those who struggle with their health on a daily basis that know precisely the value of real care, love, support and kindness that we may be offered; much more than most people I warrant. Yet we face a wall of condemnation every time we try to share a struggle or challenge.
I have also observed that those with better health tend to express their gratitude more frequently during times when they are celebrating an event or person. For example, it is common for those in better health to post or write about how grateful they are at their weddings or on occasions when they achieve an award or something similarly gratifying. Listen to any award speech and you will witness an outpouring of gratitude but are those same people expected to constantly give thanks and gratitude every other day, and especially during difficulties?
People with health struggles are Constantly expected to be quiet and grateful and I believe it is not a fair requirement.
Gratitude, like any other emotion, only has meaning when it is genuine and rarely do we feel grateful for everything, everyday. We are given a range of emotions and experiences in life that we must face and often some emotions are important to work through in order to cope or grow from them, for example grief requires that we express and experience pain and a sense of loss in order to better manage and cope with these losses.
Gratitude is one emotion amongst a myriad of emotions we have as normal human beings but it is the one that tends to be used as a whipping stick for those who have difficult health struggles and often used to suppress and silence them. I believe gratitude was never meant for this purpose and is misused when it’s purpose is to shame or silence the chronically ill.
During my history with health struggles I have indeed felt such profound gratitude that it is often hard to express and it has been the counterweight by which I have balanced myself in some of the hardest and loneliest of times. I would go so far as to say that I experience gratitude much more deeply at this time of my life than I ever did as a healthier person. It carries far more meaning to me now.
I suggest that many people battling illness will also experience gratitude in new ways than ever before. It is the type of appreciation that can only be achieved in times of true suffering and struggle. I feel confident that most people with chronic illnesses are only too familiar with gratitude and rarely need reminding of those things that they should be grateful for.
Society seems intent on using concepts like gratitude to silence and mask the plight of those with chronic struggles. It has been used more often as a tool than a virtue. Memes are constantly being poured upon the ill about being grateful, thankful, joyful and strong in the face of their hardships, so much so that it becomes almost meaningless.
Even fellow sufferers are leveling such trite expressions at each other as though we have been trained to do so like one of Pavlov subjects. The moment we feel sad we must ring the bell of gratitude to quieten and silence each other. We simply become an extension of societies reactions to us and only achieve in silencing each other.
I have always considered myself an advocate for better understanding and appreciation of chronic sufferers and of Autoimmune issues, and I write what I do in the hope of inspiring respect and empathy for an ever growing number of fighters out there. I don’t pretend to speak for anyone else but my commitment has been to raising awareness for all and encouraging others to speak out too.
It is my honest opinion that chronic sufferers do not lack gratitude in their everyday lives but we require more appreciation, kindness, respect and empathy for the difficulties we face. Only then will we experience the lives and the love that we can be even more grateful for.