Day 14: Give five things you are grateful for.
1. Friends and family
You don't realise how important a support network is until the moment you need it. I've spoken about the friendships gained through the common ground of ill health (joining in mad schemes and otherwise...) but I don't think I've necessarily given those who have always been there the credit they deserve. I won't sit and list, this isn't Myspace and we're not 12 any more, but you all know who you are and I feel very lucky to have you. I remember a school teacher once saying to me that we have different friends for different reasons - so whether you're a friend I come to for advice, someone I only see once or maybe a handful of times a year or someone I just want to be silly with, it's all a part of that same support system and you're all equally appreciated.
If I sat and listed all my go-to books, films and games which make up my own particular brand of much needed escapism, I'd be here all week and you'd all be asleep for sheer boredom. More to the point if you've been reading for a while or read back across my earlier entries I'm sure you'll have formed a pretty good idea of what they are. Suffice to say as something of an introvert I have always needed time to myself to "recharge", and this has become an absolute necessity since becoming ill. Contrary to most peoples perceptions on introverts I'm a very sociable person - I just need quiet time to recover afterwards. Working on limited energy to begin with has made this even more important.
3. Comparative luck in the severity spectrum
I'm sure from reading this blog you've gathered life isn't a picnic compared to when I was well, but in the spectrum of the bigger picture it could be a great deal worse. I'm not bedridden, I'm not disabled and I can hold down full time work and a social life of some kind (albeit with a less than perfect sickness record, but expecting anything else would be foolish). I decided some time ago I could sit back and grow bitter over the negative impact on my life, or I could reflect and be grateful for all the things which aren't happening to me that people I know with the same condition suffer through. I don't think it always comes easy, but perspective is a very helpful tool in safeguarding mental well being - as mentioned in the previous day's question and answer.
The medicine of the gods as far as I'm concerned. That isn't to say it works for everyone and doesn't have side effects (of which I am thankfully free) but after a week or so of building up in my system I had my first full unbroken night's sleep in around six months. When I woke up in the morning with my alarm I could have wept for joy. It wouldn't be true to say I don't have bad nights any more, and I still have days when I wake up without feeling refreshed in the slightest, but for me finding a way to get a full night's sleep was probably the biggest and most important step.
5. The Retired Bridgeburner
A name combining a play on a love of Malazan, a stubborn attitude and medical retirement, this blog came into being in response to a realisation that a lot of people were too frightened to talk about what they were going through because of negative and hurtful reactions from people around them. I've had a share of that, but I realised helping to stop people from feeling alone was far more important than worrying about the opinions of the ignorant and the petty. Writing the blog has been cathartic and enjoyable for me, but also I find it difficult to put into words how happy I am with its success and the overwhelmingly positive response it receives. I said when I started to write that if I made just one person smile or feel a little bit better then it would be worth every bit of negativity anyone could throw at me.
If my Tumblr inbox, comments on here and personal emails are anything to judge by my whimsy seems to have helped far more than that one person.
Knowing that is almost better than everything else in this list.