We don’t have Thanksgiving here in Australia. At this time of the year, we’ve just escaped from the craziness that is the Spring Carnival and we’re on the downhill slide to Summer, holidays, Christmas and long, sunny, lazy days.
But my social media feeds have been full of my US friends and their Thanksgiving celebrations, which is always lovely. The lists of what people are thankful for are beautiful and thoughtful and make me smile. I love that people are thankful for such different things. I love that people feel loved and grateful for what they have. I love that people are acknowledging those around them who make their life special.
I started to wonder what happens when we are not thankful for anything. What happens when we can’t – or are unable to – think of anything to be grateful for?
There was a time in my life – a number of years ago – when I was really unwell. I had problems with my stomach and experiencing constant and terrible pain. Eating caused pain. Not eating caused pain. Food started to scare me – which, in itself, terrified me, because my life has always been so focused on food as a means of celebration. Food for me was only ever associated with love and family and friends and sharing and fun times.
Not anymore. Suddenly, it was all about pain.
And at that time, I really struggled to feel thankful for anything.
I started spiralling because when I was unable to feel thankful for anything in my life at that particular moment, I started to struggle seeing anything to feel thankful for in the future. I think that’s the thing that gets you through tough times – the promise of ‘this too shall pass’ and believing that there are better things to come. I didn’t feel that way. I only saw darkness.
There was one night when I was in hospital where I just could not stop crying. The pain was terrible and nothing was helping. The pain killers that had provided some relief stopped working and I was starting to feel that this would never end.
And I wanted it to. I really, really wanted it to.
I felt that at that moment, there was nothing good; nothing worth feeling happy about. But even more, I wasn’t sure that I ever would again. JK Rowling’s Dementors are perhaps a perfect explanation of how I felt. In fact, I remember when I read Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and came across Harry’s first encounter with the terrible creatures that I thought ‘I have felt like that.’
That night remains one of the darkest in my life, and today when I think of it, I still can feel the blackness and the emptiness. I can remember how it enveloped me and threatened to capture me forever.
When I think of it now, the thing that stands out most is how my family must have felt seeing me like that. I feel such guilt that I put them through that – they could see how desperate I was; how awful I felt. And they were unable to do anything to help me. Helplessness when a loved one is going through such a terrible time is awful.
In that moment, when I couldn’t see out of the darkness, I honestly felt that I had nothing to feel grateful or thankful for. Of course, this wasn’t the case. I had so much in my life at that moment, and the promise of so much more.
I’ve never ever felt that way again. That’s not to say there have not been tough times. When I miscarried I was probably the saddest that I ever felt, but I never felt the hopelessness.
I’m not going to write my list of things I’m thankful for – it is a long list! But I will indeed think about it. Today and frequently.
Today’s Friday music was sent to me yesterday by my wonderful friend Biagio who I met in Berlin at the first EASD Bloggers Summit. Biagio, who is involved in the diabetes online community in Italy, is joy personified and knowing him is certainly one thing for which I am very grateful. Enjoy!