In my work as a clinical psychologist, I am faced daily with stories of tragedy, trauma, illness, conflict, and loss. Each therapy session is a window into private suffering.
“Isn’t it hard?” people ask me. “Isn’t it awful to listen to people’s problems all day long? Doesn’t it make you depressed?” My answers to these questions are: “Yes,” “No,” and “Quite the opposite.” It is painful to witness people suffering, but it is endlessly rewarding to help them triumph.
Rather than letting other people’s pain drag me down, I feel honored that they have shared it with me and privileged that I am in a position to help them cope with it. I am intimately aware of the obstacles people face – and overcome – every single day. Being a clinical psychologist provides me with daily opportunities to participate in stories of healing, strength, opportunity, resolution, and empowerment.
As Thanksgiving approaches, many Americans begin to think about expressing gratitude for the things we take for granted the rest of the year. Consider these:
If you get out of bed next Thursday, give thanks. There are those with depression who cannot do so without herculean effort.
If you are preparing to host relatives in your home, give thanks. There are those with crippling social anxiety for whom a house full of guests would be unthinkable.
If you are planning to travel across several time zones to spend the holiday with relatives, give thanks. There are those with mood disorders for whom jet lag can trigger an episode of mania or depression.
If you are looking forward to Thanksgiving dinner, give thanks. There are those with anorexia nervosa for whom a holiday feast is an object of fear, loathing, and guilt.
If you set the table next Thursday in under five minutes, give thanks. There are those with OCD who cannot relax unless every napkin, fork, and knife is lined up precisely.
If you sit on the couch after dinner to watch football with your uncles and cousins, give thanks.
There are those with bulimia nervosa who will be pacing around the house, waiting for an opportunity to purge unnoticed.
If you settle into bed with a good book later that evening, give thanks. There are those who will be cutting their forearms with a razor to numb themselves from the intolerable emotions triggered by the day’s events.
If you go to bed Thanksgiving night satiated and content, give thanks. There are those whose restless worry keeps them up until sunrise.
If you have never even considered feeling grateful for these ordinary things, give thanks. Our mental health, and that of our family, should not be taken for granted.