Today is Thanksgiving, and a good opportunity to reflect on what one is thankful for. So here is my list:
We don’t typically think about this much, but I do. I nearly committed suicide at 21, and again at 32 – and ever since the first time, I have seen my life as a gift. As far as I’m concerned, I died then, and was given back my life by the kindness of several people, including strangers. Life is a great blessing, and we don’t appreciate it often enough.
2. Mental health.
I am grateful for this every day. Without the medications I’m taking, I experience severe effects from the bipolar disorder: visions of being horribly tortured, mental pain akin to having all my skin sanded off with sandpaper, a general sense of being in acute danger, and becoming compulsively suicidal. I’ve had days when I couldn’t leave the house, days when I couldn’t even eat. They don’t all happen all the time (though they often do), and I’m aware that they’re not “real” (rational), but that doesn’t stop them from being extremely unpleasant. I am genuinely surprised that I managed to survive 20 years of being undiagnosed, because the effects on quality of life are severe. And I’m one of the fortunate ones; the mortality rate for my brand of bipolar disorder is very high, and a lot of us wind up homeless. I survived, and friends have kept me going.
Fortunately, modern science is a wonderful thing, and I have two medications that together keep it pretty much entirely under control. For the last five years, I have had essentially no symptoms. This is also a great gift, for which I am truly grateful. Every day.
3. Physical health.
I have friends who are in wheelchairs, who have crippling knee problems, or who have Addison’s disease, Crohn’s disease, or cancer. I am grateful to have a body that is healthy, and does pretty much what I want it to.
I didn’t have many of these in high school, but ever since college I’ve been surrounded by people who genuinely care for me, and without whom I would not be alive. I am grateful to have them in my life.
I was lucky enough to be born into a family where education is prized, where my intelligence, curiosity, and creativity were encouraged. While my childhood was far from happy (my mom and dad fought a lot, and my dad had struggles with alcoholism), my parents cared about me, and did their best to give me every opportunity. That’s more than a lot of kids get.
6. Creativity, and the money to express it freely.
I have a wickedly creative and funny streak in me, for which I am grateful, and a considerable tolerance for risk. That has allowed me to express myself in all sorts of humorous and artistic ways.
But I also have a well-paying job that allows me to free myself from (most) budget concerns, without which I could not fling myself into arias in so many different fields. I am extremely grateful for that. I’m not wealthy but I am comfortable, and that’s a wonderful thing.
7. The ability to notice, and appreciate, all the things with which I am blessed. Many people focus only on what they don’t have. This makes them much less happy.
Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you all enjoy your day.