Tuesday, May 07, 2013


When I first became disabled, I struggled with depression and anger. In a well-meaning effort to help, friends and acquaintances often told me I should be grateful my life wasn't worse, often accompanied by stories about others whose disabilities were worse. It has taken me almost ten years to at least partly understand why that didn't help, and in fact made me feel unheard, and yet frustratingly unable to articulate why the comparison idea was anathema to me, and to come to a greater understanding of the power of gratitude when life seems at it's worst.
Gratitude for not suffering what another suffers has never felt right. Sort of like using another’s pain to make myself feel better. 
Gratitude for being a good place in my life compared to where I used to be, sometimes, but simple gratitude is best, I think. 
Gratitude without any comparisons at all helps joy grow.


AlisonH said...

Yes. Oh, Diana, yes, thank you.

I had a friend maybe 20 years ago who went back to medical school to add rheumatologist to his resume. Finished up, started a new job, moved several states away.

About five years ago I heard a patient tell of a patient she knew who'd quit going to him: he'd told her to buck up, that she didn't have any organ involvement with her lupus and a lot of other patients had it a lot worse.

I've been trying to imagine the guy I knew saying such a thing. Maybe at the end of a long day of worrying over good people he cared about, wishing this one would be grateful for how good she had it?

But what a wrong approach in that moment, or at least in how he said it and how it was heard by the patient (since I wasn't there). Each of us needs to be heard where we are, not where someone else is. We need validation in our experiences to help us be ready to validate others to come in whatever they're going through.

Gratitude is something that comes over time, sometimes lots of time, with chronic illness, and it cannot be forced on someone who still simply needs to be heard and understood.

Anonymous said...

Very well said.

Anonymous said...

Very well said.

Don Meyer said...

I don't remember anyone ever saying that to me. On the other hand, when Amalie and I started going to the therapy pool (which, incidentally, is where we met Alison) I saw many people in much worse shape than I, so I did say to myself that all things considered, I was better off.Now it's about 20 years later, and I'm in considerably worse shape, and I still feel that I'm better off than many people.

Kym said...

Beautiful words, Diana. XO