Appreciation, Enjoyment, and Gratitude

I have always done my best to be grateful, in opposition to my mother who managed to find something wrong with everything.  (See 4th of July Monologue)  She could also hold a grudge for many years.  I have done my best not to do that.  I have an early journal entry where I describe her and say I don’t want to be like her and I will never write about her again.

Before I got on medication I was finding it really hard to enjoy things, and I was cross with myself because I thought I was doing it on purpose.  When I finally got to a counselor who specialized in mood disorders, she told me that enjoyment depended on brain chemistry.  Depression brain chemistry prevents enjoyment.  That was a huge relief to me, and I noticed that it was true as I cycled between depression and normal.  I realized that appreciation can be done with the intellect, but real enjoyment requires participation of more of the self.

I’ve had a similar problem with gratitude.  I was talking to a friend recently, who just amazed me by being grateful for everything in her life, even the bad things because they led to waking up.  I envied her.  It is very hard for me to feel grateful for the things in my life that I know are good.  Possibly it’s a similar situation.  I can intellectually list the things I should be grateful for, but I rarely actually feel the gratitude.  Perhaps it’s not that I’m an ungrateful person, but that being able to feel grateful requires the right brain chemistry.

People often talk about the “gift of life.”  I have a hard time with this, and so does my friend Eleanor who lives with very early and multiple trauma.  Sometimes I think she has the hardest life I know of.  I told her I felt like the “gift of life” came to me smashed.  She said she felt the same way.

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