For those of you who know me well, you will know that there are two things about me that are fact. The first is that I have had through no fault of my own apart from perhaps an inherited karma, a very difficult life (to put it mildly), and it goes on. The other is that I have maintained my sanity and ability to continue breathing through expressing gratitude.
That doesn’t mean I am fine. It doesn’t mean that I am unaffected. I suffer from severe c-PTSD and each day is a struggle, which you can read about here: https://toulamavridoumesser.wordpress.com/2016/02/29/only-dead-on-the-inside/
However, I am truly grateful for pretty much everything in my life including all of the horror. Am I so grateful that I am glad the horrors happened? No, of course not but fighting reality is the first step to madness.
Gratitude can literally improve your life and your outlook for the better. What do I mean? Well, on a basic scale, taking the time and making the effort to notice all of the things in your life that you are grateful for, fills you with a sense of abundance. You feel calm and peaceful. In fact, I use this ‘trick’ to enable me to fall back to sleep in the middle of the night when thoughts are racing through my mind and my heart is pounding out of my chest. It works. That and a sip of water and you will soon be back in dreamland.
Gratitude, due to it its ability to slow your heart rate as you focus on the things that lift your heart, can also help with all sorts of things from regulating hormones to enabling you to stop overeating. If you are feeling more content and happy, of course you will have less cortisol etc. racing around your body.
What is most interesting to me regarding gratitude and those who have the right attitude towards it, is that it’s oftentimes those who appear to have the least who are the most grateful. Take this past week, for example – the world was treated to not only two hours of Harry and Meghan’s Oprah interview – but also non-stop TV and media coverage of the same.
I chose not to watch in full (my stress levels couldn’t take it), having gleaned all that I needed to from the extensive coverage. The one thing however, that struck me was that I saw no signs of gratitude in anything that was presented. Perhaps I was busy putting the kettle on, or missed an article in one of the many newsapers I read online, and if that’s the case, please accept my sincere apologies. What I thought I saw was excess coverage of two of the most privileged people on the planet complaining and blaming rather than counting their blessings. That’s heartbreaking.
They are not just privileged because they are part of the wealthiest and most powerful family on earth but because they are relatively young, have their health, have an abundance of friends, have found love with each other, have an incredibly beautiful home, money in the bank, access to the healthiest foods and health care available, ability to travel as and when (even during a worldwide pandemic), and most important of all, they have hope. But not a word of gratitude did I hear.
What really struck a chord with me is that they have one perfect child and another on the way and instead of focussing on that, we were bombarded with so much distress, which has really knocked me for six, triggering my own mental health issues.
We had 5 miscarriages. I won’t share the gory details of those. We sold our home and spent all of our money on many rounds of private IVF (because I was just a couple of months too old to get it free on the NHS). Instead of growing older knowing that we have the joy of children and grand children to look forward to and to leave the spoils of our lifetime endeavours, our family stops here.
When I was pregnant those five times, the hope was all encompassing. We immediately started dreaming of who this little being would be. Would they have my dark eyes and J’s perfect nose? Would they have his curly hair or my mediterranean locks. Would they be olive skinned like us, or would J’s Jamaican genes give us a child with darker skin and his blue eyes? We really didn’t care one way or the other – who would?
We were so excited by all the possibilities and above all else, we were grateful that we had been given another opportunity, where perhaps this time we would get to bring a brand new human into the world, who would hopefully be healthy, happy and the best of both of us. Sadly, it wasn’t to be.
What struck me more than anything watching the clips and reading the transcripts of ‘the interview’ was just how much gratitude appeared to be lacking from the proceedings. It was a two hour stress-fest. Rather than discussing the absolute and overwhelming joy of carrying a healthy baby, M said she had felt suicidal (after a prompt from Oprah), because of the distress of learning that her child would not be a prince. A child that would not be a prince due to a law passed in 1917. It wasn’t created (as we might have surmised from the wording of the comment) specifically to keep this particular child in its place. That this much wanted baby would not be carrying the burdens of being elevated to a life that wasn’t bringing its parents happiness was surely something to be grateful for? Tagged on to that was also a commment (said at a time which appears to be in dispute but far before M was ever pregnant) about the colour of a future baby between H&M. How sad that instead of revelling in her pregancy and all of the incredible things that were to come, M instead appeared to attach to things could not be changed, which had a severe effect on her mental health.
The basis of the Serenity Prayer is to accept the things that we cannot change. Fighting a losing battle is exhausting and depressing.
There were a great many other awful things that these two felt had befallen them that made life so incredibly difficult, that they had to escape…and who am I to criticise that? We’ve probably all felt an overwhelming desire, or even a need to escape, maybe once, or maybe frequently but haven’t had the means or opportunity to do so. Instead, we are stuck in our mundane lives, facing the challenges that life has and continues to throw at us and we do our best. Fortunately for them, H&M had the power, network and the means to create a new life without the constraints and difficulties that most of us would face.
Gratitude won’t cure mental health issues, so if you have any issues at all please do get them checked out professionally.
Those of us who regularly practise gratitude tend to make the most of every positive (and sometimes also the negatives that propel us to make positive changes) but life can still be a struggle. A massive struggle. Gratitude doesn’t remove obstacles, it just changes our perspective of them.
Feeling suicidal is no joke. Attempting suicide is a whole lot more serious. I know from experience of having a mother who tried more than once, who I am grateful to say is still with us, albeit with severe dementia and Alzheimer’s.
If the purpose of the Oprah interview was purely to create drama and controversy to a worldwide audience, (who quite frankly have had enough of their own difficulties during the past year), then it worked. As mental health spokespeople, if it was to share details of their personal struggles, then as someone who also struggles, I would have been grateful during those two hours to know more about what helped them turn their situation around, or helps them manage on a day to day basis.
If I had two hours to make a significant impact on the world, how would I make the most of that opportunity?
Happiness is contagious, so sharing in their gratitude about their wonderful new life and successes would have been so uplifting at a time when we could all do with a boost.
H&M, I do hope that I just missed seeing you express your gratitude but if you have any issues in doing so, please let me know. I will gladly send you each a copy of my book. Or you can head over to Amazon.
Here’s the link: mybook.to/AttitudeofGratitude
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