The origins of Thanksgiving are based in gratitude for bounty, family, friends, those who help us get through the winter. We celebrate being thankful for the harvest and that we will have enough food to survive the winter.
The irony of this holiday is profound when you have a child with the most deadly of all mental illnesses and they are most likely malnourished. They may not be thin, but their brain is starved. Here we have this bounty to celebrate and our child either can't eat it, will eat it and purge or they'll overeat and be filled with shame and guilt.
And everyone is telling you to have a “Happy Thanksgiving” and to be grateful. And have fun. How is that supposed to happen? You likely would rather have dental work done. At least then you’d get novacaine.
So how on earth do you possibly have gratitude? When I contemplate how people in a helpless, hopeless situation find and embrace gratitude, I think of the famous author and holocaust survivor, Elie Wiesel.
If he could have gratitude I knew I surely could. And I have reclaimed gratitude, I practice it daily. I've told my story so that others may come out of the dark forest of pain, fear, hopelessness and helplessness of parenting a child with an eating disorder.
“Whoever survives a test, whatever it may be, must tell the story. That is his duty.” Elie Wiesel
“The one thing you can’t take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last of one’s freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance.”
― Viktor E. Frankl
I say it’s bad news because we have to drag our exhausted, terrified, depleted selves up and make this conscious choice. No small thing for someone who is trying to save a child’s life from one of these complex illnesses that are so misunderstood, parents often cannot get health care professionals to diagnose or treat their child. I hear stories daily such as; parents taking kids to the emergency department at hospitals with a child who has a low heart rate only to be told that it’s okay because their child is an athlete. This only gives the eating disorder power and cuts parents off at the knees.
It’s good news because there is actually something we can do to reclaim our lives from being destroyed by ‘ed’ along with our child’s lives. And, if you need more incentive, it actually can help support our child in recovery when we get our oxygen masks on. Yes, practicing gratitude can be as live giving as oxygen!
Check out the research cited in a Forbes article from November, 2014:
Grateful people experience fewer aches and pains and they report feeling healthier than other people, according to a 2012 study published in Personality and Individual Differences.
Gratitude reduces a multitude of toxic emotions, ranging from envy and resentment to frustration and regret. Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., a leading gratitude researcher, has conducted multiple studies on the link between gratitude and well-being. His research confirms that gratitude effectively increases happiness and reduces depression.
So how do I start to practice gratitude in the midst of this firestorm you ask?
Here are a five tips to practice gratitude that I’ve found useful:
- Just do it. Like Nike tells us.
- Remind myself of the benefits.
- Start small. Be grateful for the basics like clean water to drink or hot showers.
- Get an accountability buddy, a family member or even a coach.
- Be gentle with yourself when you forget, and start again in that moment.