Gratitude is, in my opinion, something that can only be genuinely felt when it comes from within. No amount of ‘it could be worse’ or ‘you should be grateful that..’ comments from other people will make me feel it. In fact, such comments from people who do not live with chronic daily pain are more likely to generate rage rather than gratitude on my part.
This Christmas hasn’t been easy. I’m scheduled to have brain surgery on 25th January and a blood pressure problem has arisen, so we’ve working with my GP to try and address it in time for the surgery. I made it through Christmas Day itself with the use of meds and a nap mid way. The two days since however have seen me stuck in bed with agonising and very determined head pain. But there is so much that I’m grateful for, so I’d like to take a moment to articulate the things I have going for me.
My husband and daughter: My husband looks after me and my daughter without ever making me feel like a burden. I remember what it was like to live with someone who made me feel guilty about things I couldn’t control, so I know just how much of a difference it makes that my husband is truly strong; he is always on my side and there to keep me from despairing and giving up. Our daughter makes me happy just by being her funny, cheeky, lovely self. Seeing her as happy and confident as other children her age, despite my situation, lets me know that we’re doing something right.
My family: my parents are always there to provide advice and practical support when we need it. They play a big role in my daughter’s life and it is very reassuring for me to know that she has another source of love and attention outside of our home. Other members of the family help me just by understanding my situation – they don’t get upset or angry with me for missing special occasions and are delighted on the rare occasions that I make an appearance.
My friends: my best friend has remained in my corner all these years, even though I’m not much use on the socialising front (or the ‘being remotely normal’ front). She is always there if I need her and is firmly on my side, even when I’m irrational or struggling emotionally. She belongs in the family section really; if past lives are really a thing, we’ve definitely been through at least one life together before.
I’m grateful for the handful of friends who are always pleased to hear from me despite the fact that it can be AGES between calls or texts. That they haven’t given up on me is an amazing thing.
The Essentials: our two bedroom council flat in East London is a blessing in my eyes (though doubtless some people would look down on it). Finding somewhere affordable to live in London is a nightmare so I’m truly grateful for our secure tenancy. We are a few minutes walk from my parents’ place, my daughter’s school, the park, my GP surgery and my favourite nail place💅🏻😊. When I applied for this flat I didn’t know that a few years later I’d become so ill and largely housebound but if I had known, this is exactly the location I’d have picked. The fact that we have some lovely neighbours is a bonus too. When I’m getting stressed because I’m too poorly to tidy up/clean as often as I’d like or decorate as I desperately want to, I remind myself that we have everything we need here.
The NHS: the NHS isn’t perfect; you need to advocate for yourself and stay on top of the admin side of things, as it can be slow. However, I’m grateful that I have access to some of the country’s best neurosurgeons, not to mention my GP who I see regularly and the prescribed meds that I am not charged for. I dread to think what all my treatments over the years would cost if I had to pay for it from my own pocket. I’m also grateful that I don’t have to do battle with an insurance company to get access to treatments; I know this can be very stressful for spoonies in the US.
Benefits system: this one isn’t always easy to feel grateful for, as our current government seems determined to paint the sick and disabled as work shy freeloaders. The systems in place for processing claims from sick/disabled people are in desperate need of reform. I paid tax throughout the decade I was in teaching; I wish people could understand that becoming too sick to work can happen to anyone, including people who worked hard and loved their careers. I’m grateful for the help we receive to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table, but I wish that sick and disabled people didn’t have to fight so hard to get what they are entitled to. The system at present is designed to hinder access to entitlements rather than facilitate it. The stigma around being sick or disabled is absolutely stifling. Still, I’m grateful that we’re not in a Victorian work house kind of situation; but we do have a Tory government, so I probably shouldn’t speak too soon…
Looking back: I remember what it was like to live with someone who made me feel guilty for being sick. I remember what it was like to struggle through work and feel constantly stressed when my boss hounded me about my sickness levels. I remember what it was like to struggle with rent that was ludicrously high and panicking that I’d lose my job and not be able to pay it at all. I remember when being stuck at home in terrible pain meant being alone for huge swathes of time. I remember the desperate struggle to appear ‘normal’ so that I could cling onto the career I’d worked so hard for.
It is because I can remember the times when I felt desperate and alone that I truly value the blessings in my life now. I did lose my career in the end but because of the other good things in my life, I was eventually able to cope with it. The pain can and does crush me underfoot but I know how much harder my life would be if I didn’t have the above mentioned blessings to cushion and support me.
What are you grateful for?
Wishing you good luck and happy days,
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