Grateful.

The actual history of Thanksgiving is sometimes hazy for me. Something about pilgrims and Native Americans coming together for a feast but the details are always different depending on which historian is retelling it. From where I stand, the gift of giving thanks is present throughout all my days even on the bad ones where finding the good feels like an impossible feat. Those are the days I’m usually grateful for Prozac and its ability to stabilize my moods and thoughts.

I am grateful for this blog and the conscious effort I put into it. Blogging is, in actuality, a way for us “outcasts” to exercise our freedom of speech. Even if negative comments spring forth like weeds, kill them with kind words. Writers everywhere make the choice to put themselves out there, to bare their souls despite the public’s innate desire to critique. Without places like social media, our words would be left unsaid, our thoughts balled up in a corner of our mind essentially left to fester and bring about a state of mania. Thank you, brave writers and artists and musicians and crusaders for your boldness, honesty and truths. I am grateful to my readers. You keep me going when I second guess my decision to put myself out there. In turn, I am grateful for the stories you share. We fight the good fight together.

I am grateful for my body. It is a true wonder. Legs for running, arms for balancing, lungs for breathing, a mind that whispers “keep going”. While running my first half marathon, I hit a wall around mile 8. With a long stretch of road ahead of me, I squinted toward what I had hoped would be a sign for the next mile marker. I had a rather good turnout of friends and family to support me but I won’t lie and tell you I didn’t think about quitting. Suddenly, a young man with 2 prosthetic legs came up on my left as we all banked left at a turn on the course. The back of his shirt read “No Quitters Here”. This human with two legs not his own was charging through the race as a champion and I wanted to quit. I silently thanked this man as I picked up the pace and headed for mile 13. I thought about this man quite often even though the race was over and how his perseverance probably pulled him through a lot of life’s uphill battles. It is all too easy to take our physical bodies for granted. I sometimes catch myself now when I complain about having a cold or am feeling like I want to skip working out. Our bodies are magnificent. They are extraordinary machines capable of putting us through so much. Be grateful for this and treat your body well.

And since we’re on the topic of working out, I am also extremely grateful for the yoga practice. The studio is one of my most sacred places. It’s my time to devote a full hour (or 3) to breathing, releasing tension, letting the day drip off me with each bead of sweat that hits the padded floor. It is also the space where I am at my most vulnerable. With so many poses acting as heart openers (chest expansions, floor bow, camel pose), we literally open our hearts to the sky which can cause bouts of dizziness, nausea, sometimes a good cry. Yoga has given me the gift of calm and the gift of being in tune with my body, mind and soul. A few weeks ago, it was a particularly cold night. The class was full as it usually is once winter hits (can’t blame us for wanting a little summer in the middle of a cold front) and our teacher for the evening asked us to close our eyes and feel grateful. Be grateful for this warm studio, the familiarity of your mat, the breath, the means to practice yoga, the willingness to keep coming even on cold nights like this one. And she’s right. Yoga is becoming a prescription for those dealing with mental illness. Without yoga, I would have endless mind chatter and a constant feeling of anxiety. I’ve learned to channel those stressors into more productive ways through breathing and meditating and holding certain postures when the urge strikes me. And when you’re hanging around in handstand, you have the advantage of looking at things from an entirely different perspective. 🙂

But perhaps what I am most grateful for is my depression. Ugh, I know, mental illnesses are NOT supposed to be something we’re grateful for, damn it! In hindsight, my initial diagnosis after my breakdown was a blessing. I hit a low and had to pull myself out of it, learn to deal, learn coping strategies. I wrestled with the possibility of being “that” girl for the rest of existence, the one with mood swings and an impossible person to interact with. For me, hitting rock bottom meant starting all over again. It meant letting go of a relationship with someone I was planning a future with. It meant facing the things that brought me to the edge in the first place. It meant cutting out some friendships. And it meant redefining the person I thought I wanted to. Through mental illness, you become hypersensitive to your own emotions and the emotions of others. You grow keenly aware of what you love and what you don’t love. You get really good at saying “No” and you value the importance of “me” time. Through depression, you learn a lot about independence because, chances are, friends may not understand what you’re going through and therefore do not have the time for you anymore. This is absolutely OK. You learn to trust those deserving of it and you find a little humor in the darkness of your illness. It’s only naturally to laugh at your crazy every once in a while.

In addition to the aforementioned, I am also grateful for the “standards”–good friends who’ve morphed into family, an inspiring role model of a mother, a crazy-awesome and simultaneously whacky family, adventures, books, my college education, a good job. These, for me, are the things I’m grateful for all year long. So as a challenge, I invite you all to see the good throughout your daily life. Whether it’s a stranger helping another stranger or a good cup of coffee or captivating novel, be grateful for even the smallest of things. I wish nothing but good vibes and pumpkin pie to my friends here, there and everywhere. Thank you for being a part of this wild ride and making it a hell of a fun one at that!

Many thanks, even more hugs…

B.

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