I’m Grateful But Still Sick and That’s Okay

This happens to me a lot — someone will comment that I need to be grateful for what I have and that I have a wonderful life. And to not be so depressed because of that.

I fully acknowledge that I have an amazing life, and I’ve always had everything I ever wanted, even as a child. BUT I can’t change having depression (and anxiety, a personality disorder and an eating disorder). I have no control over any of that. Just because I live the good life doesn’t mean I’m not grateful for everything I have.

I fight hard everyday to get out of bed, take care of my kids, manage the household, write for the newspaper and blog, and volunteer for NAMI GCC. Some days are more of a battle than others, and I am never not thinking about my depression and how it affects my life and my family’s. But I still count my blessings every. single. day.

I also realize that having a positive attitude is helpful (and being thankful), but it’s not a cure. No matter how positively I think, I’m still going to have a chemical imbalance or misfiring neurons or whatever else causes mental illness. Maybe you say that’s not thinking positively, but it’s realistic and that’s where I live. I don’t normally claim being realistic as an attribute, but when it comes to life and death, I have to. And yes, sometimes it comes down to that during a depressive episode. Telling someone they’re not being grateful is part of the toxic positivity movement, the “good vibes only” wave. A lot of people don’t understand that.

A study released by Ohio State University, suggested that gratitude might not be as helpful as researchers initially thought. The analysis of 27 studies on gratitude examined whether it truly reduced symptoms of depression. It revealed that the impact of gratitude interventions on depression is more limited than past research suggested.

Dude, it’s hard to be grateful when you have a mental condition, such as depression. It changes you — you lose interest in your hobbies, you isolate from family/friends, you can’t always practice good hygiene, you’re so sad that you think you might break into a million pieces, you can be suicidal, and it’s hard going to school or work. It’s just fucking hard. So I get why people aren’t always grateful. Maybe that doesn’t serve them at the time. That’s totally okay.

It’s so difficult to find things to be grateful when you’re in the throes of despair and not feeling gratitude can make you feel guilty and bring shame, making the a depressive episode worse. The only thing that I’m concerned with during a depressive episode is survival, and I know I’m not alone in that.

Here’s more from that study mentioned above: “Go ahead and be grateful for the good things in your life. Just don’t think that a gratitude intervention will help you feel less depressed or anxious. In a new study, researchers analyzed results from 27 separate studies that examined the effectiveness of gratitude interventions on reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression. The results showed that such interventions had limited benefits at best.”

Now, I’m not saying anyone shouldn’t be grateful; I’m saying that it’s almost impossible to do and just because you don’t count your blessings everyday doesn’t make you a bad person or ungrateful. It means you’re busy fighting the “good” fight. I know you’re fighting, I understand it’s hard, and I realize that most people will never understand what it’s like to battle your own brain and body, but I see you. I am you.

Keep fighting. Keep counting your blessings or not. The only thing you need to do is take care of you to the best of your ability, whatever that may be.

Keep swimming, friends.