In today’s post, I would like to address gratitude and a change in the way we think. One thing that I realized about myself, and I’m sure other sufferers feel the same, is that I tended to focus all my attention on my pain and accompanying symptoms of Fibromyalgia. It was so bad that I found no reason to carry on living and attempted suicide. Thereafter, I spent time in a clinic dealing with my depression. I really didn’t think that anything was going to work but it was my last life line and worth a try. I learnt so much there and it was one of the best things that I have ever done for myself. I would recommend it to anyone suffering badly with depression and seeing no way forward. The clinic, after some time, put me in such a good space that I honestly did not want to leave there and face my life again. Obviously I had to leave but I had to come up with plans to keep me in a good space. I had to learn to live with my Fibromyalgia but not become all consumed by it. So I did a couple of things in an attempt to change my life.
Firstly I decided that I would only live in the present. I would no longer let my past define me or let my future make me anxious. Our future is out of our control and while we are living for the next weekend, or the next month or the next year, we are not living in the present. We are missing out on our lives. Today is the day that I will live in. If it is a good day, then I will enjoy every moment of it. If it is a bad day, then I will say that today was bad, not my life is bad. This was a very important change that I had to make but it has made my life easier is some ways.
In one of our therapy sessions at the clinic, we were asked to write a letter to ourselves, imagining that we were 10 years older. I couldn’t do it because I was in such a bad space that I didn’t want to hear what my older self would have to say to me. I couldn’t imagine that it would be anything positive. I couldn’t see past today and I made peace with that.
I started seeing a psychologist after I left the clinic. One of the first things that he asked me to do was to write my life story out for him. I spent almost an entire Saturday writing my story out and gave it to him at our next session. I was unable to talk about it with him and he understood that. Something strange happened after I did that, I felt a huge relief. I felt that I had honestly let my past go and it didn’t need to affect my present anymore. It was an amazing feeling. In doing that it also helped me to completely live in the present.
The next thing that I started was a realistic list of things that I wanted to do. Some would call it a bucket list but it wasn’t as grand as a bucket list. Some of the things that I wrote were so simple, e.g. “Learn to play a computer game of my son’s choice and spend time playing it with him”, or another example would be swimming with my son on a day. Taking my family to the botanical gardens. All these things that I was not doing because I was too wrapped up in Fibromyalgia and the resultant depression. I made a promise to myself that I would do everything on my list and named it – “Regaining myself and my life”. Every time I completed one of the items on the list, I would make sure to take photos and print them out. Then in a journal book, I would tick off the item as completed and paste the photographs as proof that I did it.
In the interim, myself and my psychologist came up with a vision for my new life:-
To experience the wholeness of the moment, to create happiness by doing my ‘to do list’. To become more centered and grounded … a builder, cementing a new self. Always ask “Does this behavior cement or dilute me?”
I refused to worry about the future as I could only live day by day and that was good enough for me. I obviously put plans in place for my future, like retirement, policies, etc., but as for the rest of it, I only live in today. It changed my life. I treat every day like a gift. I have bad days and good days but they are days or moments and not my entire life.
From there, my next step was to create a gratitude journal. I force myself every day to find three things that I am grateful for. I write them in a journal. After listing the three thing, I then find a quote that speaks to me on that day and write it under my gratitude points. There are a multitude of different ideas on how to do a gratitude journal on the internet, but this one worked for me. It really sounds so simple to do but let me tell you, I at times have such hard days that I think that I have nothing to be grateful for. Then I look around and realize that I am grateful to have a roof over my head, to have food in my stomach, to have a loving family. I force myself to write in this journal every single day. Something starts happening to you when you do this, you realize that although you have an illness that makes living so hard, you also have a lot of things to be grateful for.
I tried to turn every negative thought into a positive, e.g. I’m so tired of being sick, however I am so lucky to be alive, or, I am too exhausted to cook a meal for my family, however at least I have food to cook for them. So many thoughts you can change into a positive. I’m so tired of being bedridden most of the time, however I am so lucky that I have a bed to sleep in. I’m so tired of my brain fog, however I am so lucky to have a loving family that understands me and my brain fog. I really hate the fact that I am no longer the person that my husband met, however I am so lucky that he has stayed with me and supports me 100%. I hate that I have no energy to clean my house, however I am so lucky to have helpers that clean my house. I hate that I can’t do a lot of outings with my family, however I am so lucky that I can watch my family having fun. The list is endless.
What started happening to me was that I started to become a different person. I was no longer the person that wallowed in my misery. I accepted the fact that I had Fibromyalgia, bearing in mind that this took me 10 years to accept, and I started changing my thought process. I started watching my self talk and I actually learnt a lot about myself. It was a wonderful process that started happening. I actually realized that I liked myself. I realized that although I have this illness, I am still able to add value to my family’s life. I learnt that many people are way worse off than me.
I try not to talk about my Fibromyalgia anymore with my family. They try and understand but they never fully will. This is my burden to carry and not theirs. The reason I do this blog is to get my feelings out or to educate people, especially newly diagnosed people or family and friends. If I add value to just one person’s life then I am happy. When I was diagnosed, I was so lost and never had anybody to walk me through it. I hope that I can do this for someone out there.
I will be honest though, there are still many days that I battle to see the positive or find gratitude but that’s okay. That is just one day. I will forever be positive that a cure will be found and I am patiently waiting for that day. I will never accept that a cure is impossible to find. I am forever hopeful.
In my next post, I would like to explain to you how I finally accepted my Fibromyalgia …