Thanksgiving is coming up this weekend in Canada, which means it’s that time of year for me to contemplate what I’m thankful for. Usually I have no trouble making a list, but these last few years I have felt it more and more difficult to put something on the list. It’s not that I’m ungrateful for what I have, such as a great country to live in, a roof over my head, food on the table and money in the bank–I’m incredibly grateful for all these things–but after going through an especially difficult two plus years of suffering from anxiety and depression, the usual list seems to be an empty cliché compared to mental and physical health and wellbeing.
What good is a new book, new kitchen appliance, new toy, new luxury vehicle, or new house if I’m not well enough to enjoy it? Being ill has put into perspective how meaningless material wealth and possessions are when I can’t get out of bed in the morning because the day seems so bleak or when I’m experiencing physical pain from the anxiety squeezing my muscles in a vice or when I can’t stop crying and hyperventilating because the fear has been infiltrating lies into my brain. When gripped in the fist of illness, mental or physical, life tends to lose its meaning altogether.
As I reflect on these things, I’m reminded of Ecclesiastes, a book from the Bible, which explores the meaning of life and concludes that everything is meaningless without a relationship with God. Some people don’t like reading this book because they find its negative message (that all things in life are meaningless) depressing, but this book meant a lot to me in the midst of my depression when I felt like my entire life had lost its meaning. The irony is that a book about meaninglessness helped me to find meaning and set me back on a path towards healing and re-evaluating what I treasure the most.
This Thanksgiving has a new meaning for me and I have more things to be thankful for than I ever realized. While I no longer have a house or a paying job at the present time, I still have so much to be thankful, so here goes the list:
I’m thankful for:
- the love and support of my family and friends who were there for me when the darkness tried to drag me down into despair;
- my husband who held me tightly when I couldn’t stop crying and tried his best to encourage me and keep me afloat, and who gave me his full support when I asked to try my hand at working as a full-time creative;
- my parents-in-law who opened their home to us so we could have a chance to heal and start anew;
- the support of my doctor who gave me the healing medication I needed to have a fighting chance to live with and/or overcome the anxiety and depression;
- the guidance of my counsellor who gave me the resources and encouragement I needed to embrace my talents and giftings and follow a new career path;
- the prayers from our church families over the years; and
- God’s strength which made it possible for me to keep going even when it felt impossible, his continual provision throughout all the years of financial strain, his saving grace when I started to fall apart and the safety net to catch me when I hit the bottom, and last but not least, his guidance down a new path of adventure and purpose.
I’m sure I can come up with so much more that I’m thankful for, but then it might get boring, so I’ll leave it at that and leave you with the following quote to keep in mind this Thanksgiving:
Have a happy and wonderful Thanksgiving filled with love and many blessings!
You are not alone.
You. Are. Loved.
I hope you find love, hope and peace in these words.