Giving Thanks: Developing an Attitude of Gratitude

  • In this blog entry, I'll write in a free-form way about giving thanks even though we have troubles so hard it seems we have nothing to be thankful for. Perhaps in embracing victories, however big or small, we can be healed. The classic expression is "stop and smell the roses." Too often on an ordinary day even those of us without schizophrenia fail to take time to be grateful for what we do have. We look so long and hard at what's not working that we fail to see what is working.


    Why is an attitude of gratitude instrumental in healing from the schizophrenia? We can choose to press on even though it's hard. To hope for a cure - and not accept your limits - results in frustration and an unworkable recovery. By limits, I'm talking about certain things you know are beyond your reach. For me, that would be marrying and having a family, so I don't even try for that.

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    How, you may ask, can I be thankful for this illness God gave me? Why do I not see him as a cruel and unkind Creator? Quite simply, I've had troubles all my life, and so I've come to accept them. I also believe God doesn't give us anything he knows we can't handle.


    I don't believe faith cures schizophrenia, or that reading the bible and attending church will "save us from the demons." So many people would like to plant the idea that prayer solves everything. I don't pray for outcomes; I seek God's guidance in how to act to give me strength.


    Honestly, I'm grateful for chemical intervention that works. The illness will not go away unless we take the medications. Treatment works. I learned this the hard way when I went off the meds and had to be re-hospitalized in July 1992. Unfortunately, because an effective medication causes weight gain, so many people are tempted to discontinue it. I also take the drug companies to task for claiming the atypicals work better on the negative symptoms: if the newer pills did, why would so many people write in to me about loved ones who lack the motivation to get off the couch?


    In those instances, how can we be grateful? Maybe we can't see any good in having schizophrenia, but part of the reconciliation is to mourn the loss, and open our minds to new possibilities. Dr. Xavier Amador, in his Lessons Learned column in Schizophrenia Digest, talks about this. I also recommend his book I Am Not Sick, I Don't Need Help, which coaches you in how to talk to someone who is in denial about needing medication.


    On the other hand, part of the myth of functionality is that people who are doing well have it easy, and don't need help or aren't justified in seeking it. That isn't true. Forums exist where people can get support for the ongoing struggles, like here via SharePosts or on NAMI's message boards. These are safe havens. Here at the Connection, I want my blogs to be a happy place you go to after a hard day. I want you to be cheered by what I have to say.


    I could tell you I get panic attacks on the subway-would that help? I could talk about the persistent, low-grade paranoia that comes and goes-there, I've told you this. And so you have the proof: it isn't easy. I just make it look easy. The truth is, I go out there and do what I do every day because I have to. I'm grateful I'm alive.


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    Why am I thankful I have schizophrenia? It enabled me to turn my pain into a thing of beauty for other people. If I didn't have the illness, I wouldn't have decided to spend my life in service to you: to the people I meet who also suffer.


    There is a consolation, I think, and that is knowing that we get to decide how to respond to what happened to us. Ironically, upon hearing the diagnosis, we can find out what's important to us. Nowhere is the trend toward "simple living" more profound than in recovery from schizophrenia. We get to decide what to keep, what to discard: when it comes to attitudes, relationships and the things that either give health or take it away.


    As I've said, I want the online community to be a forum for inspiration, a happy place where you can curl up with the blogs and take comfort. I literally soldier on because I must, because I feel beholden to my family, friends and even you, to stay healthy. If I didn't take the meds, I wouldn't be able to do all I do. And though I do take them, I feel better than I have in a long while, even though other people claim the pills rob us of our feelings. I haven't experienced any numbing, so either I'm lucky, or it's a myth that the drugs make you feel differently.


    This Thanksgiving, I truly give thanks for all that I have. My obstacles have made me who I am today. Again, I would rather not give voice to how difficult it is, and so maybe I do you a disservice.


    Until the day when schizophrenia is just a memory - an obsolete illness - I wish for you the courage and strength to carry on. The number one thing I'm grateful for this year is the opportunity to write this blog.


    Best wishes,


Published On: November 21, 2007