23 Nov Thankfulness in the struggle
Lying there, tears streaming down my cheeks, I felt myself dissolving into my bed with shame. How could I feel this bad when I have so much to be grateful for?
One of the most frustrating things to be told when you are suffering from depression is, “think about all the things you have to be grateful for!”
I get it. In theory, practicing thankfulness is a great way to shift your thinking to focus on the good and not sink deeper in your sadness. But in reality, it can also lead to feelings of shame for not being able to will all the good in your life to make the darkness go away. Depression doesn’t work that way. All the wonderful and good things in your life cannot magically make the difficult things disappear. It is more complicated and layered than that.
Here’s what I try to do when I’m fighting with the darkness. I try to allow thankfulness and gratefulness to lift me as far as it can…which is pretty far sometimes. Sometimes just shifting my focus is all I need to change the direction of a downward spiral. Getting up and making an effort to enjoy what I can most definitely help. It’s always a good place to start.
A few years ago on Thanksgiving weekend, I was not feeling well. I was in a funk. Often depression symptoms for me feel flu-like. I had gone into my room to lie down but I could hear my family out on the lawn playing a game. The people I love were outside and just hearing them playing and laughing flooded my heart with gratefulness but I started to cry. How could I feel this bad when I had so much to be grateful for? I started to feel sorry for myself that I didn’t feel well enough to participate.
Then, I made a decision. I got up, brought my blanket outside with me, pulled up a reclining lawn chair and laid there instead, soaking in the scene of them playing and laughing together. I didn’t feel better physically but I allowed gratefulness to lift me as far as it could take me and it was enough for that day.
There have been other times though when gratefulness and thankfulness are not enough. In those times, I need to accept the fact that even while I acknowledge all the things I am grateful and thankful for, it is not the antidote for the battling depression. I came to accept this fact:
I can be thankful and struggling at the same time.
I spent many years not allowing myself to admit that I was depressed because I thought I had no good reason to be. It prevented me from getting the help I needed to bring me to the place I am today, where the rough patches are few and far between.
Be grateful. It will help but give yourself grace if it does not immediately make everything better. Let gratitude take you as far as it can. Then pray for guidance for the next step to get the help you need to take you the rest of the way.