Reflecting on the Benefits of Gratitude as a Vasculitis Patient
As a kid, my mom would make me write a thank-you note to anyone who gave me a gift. It was an attempt to teach me gratitude, but I hated writing in cursive, which made my hand cramp up. I thought the process horribly old-fashioned and tedious, but I did it — begrudgingly.
Today, handwritten notes seem quaint, but this is sometimes what gives them meaning. It’s less sterile than a text or email, and shows I went to the effort of gathering paper, a pen, an envelope, and a stamp. If I go to the trouble of addressing, writing, and mailing a card, I must really mean whatever message I’m trying to convey!
Adult me has to admit that I actually like tackling thank-you notes now. Handwriting allows for more creativity than typing. It makes me slow down and think about what I really want to express.
Best of all, it’s good practice in gratitude. And as a longtime vasculitis patient, I have many reasons to be thankful.
Unlike hope, which embodies buoyancy and forward thinking, gratitude is a settled feeling. Knowing I’ve shown gratefulness to a person or situation gives me a sense of peace and balance. If I want to believe in “good vibes,” it’s fulfilling to know that I’ve pushed some positive energy into the world.
It’s not just a superficial feel-good action, either. Science has proven that practicing gratitude affects our mental and physical health, and even lessens depression and anxiety. For that boost alone, it’s worth a try!
I like to play a mind game with myself on the days I feel blue or grumpy. For every negative or self-pitying thought, I cancel it out with a positive one. It goes like this:
- I don’t feel well today … but at least I have over-the-counter meds handy to control the symptoms.
- My energy is pretty low … but at least it’s not a busy workday and I have some time to rest.
- I’m under the weather … but at least I have my dog’s company to lift my spirits.
- I have to make time to go to the lab today … but that’s what keeps me on track so I know my disease isn’t flaring.
The fact is, some days my life is much better than my attitude deserves. And as far as vasculitis is concerned, I am really doing well. That’s something I never take for granted.
Of course, I’m most grateful for remission, a status I’ve held since 2013. But the lengthy process to reach that point involved several steps that also inspire thankfulness. For example, when I first became sick as a teen, my family happened to live less than an hour from the Cleveland Clinic, one of the world’s leading vasculitis care centers. Also, I chose a career that allowed flexibility during the treatment and recovery process.
My upward trajectory toward better health was steady and consistent, and I was surrounded by a reliable and kind healthcare team. Both then and now, my life has been filled with friends and family who understand the challenges of coping with vasculitis. The value of a good support system should never be underestimated!
Some days, it’s easy to get bogged down in the mire of medical details and feel stuck. Gratefulness reminds me to look up and take in the landscape around me, and realize that my daily obstacles are just a small part of it.
Lately, I’ve been experimenting with different ways to show gratitude. Thank-you notes and verbal expression are just two forms. I also keep a notebook where I can write down encouraging messages for myself to look back on, and often that includes affirmations of gratitude.
Any of these options helps mitigate the difficulty of my situation. It reminds me whom I’m surrounded by and can lean on for support. And most of all, it helps keep life in perspective.
Though living with vasculitis isn’t easy, I choose to have a positive attitude. Among the challenges, there is so much to be grateful for.
Note: ANCA Vasculitis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of ANCA Vasculitis News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to ANCA vasculitis.