Self Gratitude 

There’s one constant in our everyday lives. At the end of the day we end up in bed. Though that bed may vary depending on a given situation. Typically it will be our own bed, either shared with a partner or simply laying by ourselves. Other times it may be a couch, a chair, a bed at a friend’s house or hotel away for work or on vacation.  At times perhaps a bed in a hospital. Ultimately we end our day with our head on a pillow.

A thought came to me last night as I lye next to my wife. You see a few years ago I developed an incredibly rare skin disease on my legs, arms and sections of my back. This disease is called Pyoderma Gangrenosum. A mouthful I know. As the name infers, PG is a form of Gangrene, flesh eating disease. It develops in persons who have a history of autoimmune diseases, most notably Ulceritive Colitis which I had in the past. One doctor even likened PG to being Ulceritive Colitis on the surface of the skin. 

After an extensive trial and error of medications to bring it under control, in the end the drug that worked was called Cyclosporine. This medication is used to aid organ transplant patients after their surgeries. Still amazes me, out of everything this is what actually slowed the progression of the disease. Once brought under control a lot of the infected areas of my body fully recovered. On my left leg, upper arms and lower back I have some mild residual scaring. On my right shin however, I was left with very thin, sensitive tissue. The slightest bump will still put me through intense pain. Understandably I am cognisant of this leg in doing all I can to protect it. However I cannot cover it with a shin guard or other form of physical protection due to the tenderness and sensitivity of the skin. 

Taking this into account it is inevitable that I will bump the shin or someone else will mistakenly bump into it. Having two small children I am surprised how infrequently this occurs. Usually when bumped, it’s due to a mistake I have made or when I loose my balance. Yesterday I just so happened to experience one of these mistakes. The result is a downward scrape about three inches in length. Which may not sound to painful but on such impacted tissue it is very painful. 

Last night, as I lye in bed I began to laugh in my head about the many times I have found myself in this very situation. Lying in bed, in pain with nothing that could help to relieve the pain. I recalled when I was in grade school and had broken my leg, both fibula and tibula, and how the pain seemed intensified at the end of the day laying in bed. Trying to find the perfect position where I could fall asleep. In junior high school, I was racing another kid to a bus, I slipped on a patch of ice, landing on my right elbow. The fall had broken the tip bone of the elbow, a figure eight wire and pins were inserted to maintain the integrity of the joint. Again, I had to find a reasonable sleeping position as sleeping on my  right side was not an option. 

As I was laying in bed recalling these past experiences a thought occurred to me. All the times I  had layed there in a bed, I had always become saddened by my circumstances when I have so much to be greatful for. Goes without saying I was not actively practicing self gratitude. Like many, I knew of the concept although had not invested time or dedicated thought into what it really means in my life. I started to think of my past “bedtime experiences” and made a mental list of what I had to feel greatful for at that particular time. Immediately my mind went to being back in that hospital bed with Ulcerative Colitis which caused incredible stomach pains, attached to TPN and not being able to move around comfortably. Rather than laying in the bed consuming myself with thoughts of what bad things could possibly come next, I could have felt gratitude for living in a country where modern medicines and medical procedures were readily accessible. Gratitude for having an incredibly supportive family by my side at most times. My mom was up every weekend and always made a point to stay updated by the doctors. At times she had to advocate on my behalf as I was unable too. At the time I felt an immense sense of gratitude, and obviously still do to this day. When my father and his partner came up from their home in Florida. Having the two of them there really made a significant change in my mental state. Again, grateful they were there with me during this experience. 

During the entire experience of Pyoderma Gangrenosum, the only sense of gratitude I felt was towards my wife. For the longest time she was the one doing the dressing changes to my legs, fighting the battles with doctors as their initial diagnosis was off. When I think of all that she went through m I’ve always told myself there is nothing I can do to repay all that she has done for me. I am quickly reminded by her, “In sickness and in Health”.  As the disease began to slow down I did begin to feel grateful that there was no need for skin grafting to patch my right leg. If it weren’t for the medication taking hold I would have required grafting within one week, maybe two if I were lucky. 

I now realize more than in the past, just how important “Self Gratitude” truly is. This is not to say practicing this skill will correct the trials of life, it simply means it will help save some negative emotions from boiling over. As I have matured, been married and had children of my own, I have a deeper understanding of maintaining perspective through the trials of life.

Whether you are reading this while facing your own trial or not at the current moment. Keeping a sense of perspective of any given situation along with understanding we always have things in our lives to be truly grateful for. Though not always hugely significant things, there is always something to be grateful for.

It may take some quiet deep self reflection to identify the smallest of positives in a darkest of times. To help recognize the positives quicker I believe we must practice “Self Gratitude” habitually even in our happiest of times. By doing so, there is a great sense of appreciation for the little things in life that may go unnoticed, due to the fast pace of modern lives.

Which ties into one of my most often referenced lines from a great movie;

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