In today's economy, it's easy for people to sink into despair. Throughout my life, there have been times when my psyche has been overtaken by waves of despair and melancholy. I remember my grandmother down in the dumps, unable to go through her normal daily activities. Many of my relatives, including me, have been on anti-depressants for long periods of time. For me it's been twenty-one years. Those little pills have made a big difference in my life, but I and others in my family still suffer from sometimes crippling anxiety. One relative had repeated anxiety attacks, another is plagued by obsessive thoughts. We have even had suicides in my extended family and I know of many others who were in so much pain or were so overwhelmed that life did not seem worth living.
Most of my clients take medications for depression or anxiety. Are we all just weak? I think neither I nor most of my clients are weak, in fact I think most of my clients are incredibly strong. But, life can be hard and sometimes seem unbearable. Depression is oftentimes something which cannot be conquered through sheer force of will. Sometimes we need some help.
In the past few months, my mother almost died from coronary artery disease. She is recovering. Four days before my mother got sick, I had a planned ACL reconstruction of my left knee. When my mom called with chest pains, I had not even been cleared to drive, but drive I did - straight to the emergency room.
This week, my husband and I had our hearts scanned for calcium deposits, and my husband's heart needs attention. He is 60 and has worked out, running and exercising throughout his life. He majored in physical fitness in college. He has an appointment with a cardiologist this week. We are worried.
Today, I happened upon a car wreck and as I whizzed past, I noticed I know and love the woman, a relative of mine, who was in the wreck. She was distraught and somewhat injured. I always dreaded the thought that the sirens I heard would be the wreck with a love one being hurt. This time, the scenario I dreaded occurred, and it was awful.
In life, there is so much that happens that is painful and scary. A breadwinner loses his or her job in the recession, a loved one is diagnosed with cancer, a friend dies. There is a lot in life about which to despair. But everyone on this planet has much about which to rejoice. Just in my family, my mother who was almost left by doctors to die, but instead had quintuple coronary bypass surgery and is recovering splendidly. I was preparing myself for the worst, but I am thankful for the additional days, weeks, and, hopefully, years we have left together. My mother is sharp, smart and determined. My relative in the wreck is going to be fine. My leg is healing well.
A few years ago I was at a dinner with a large table of friends. I was drinking wine and trying to talk, and I swallowed my piece of steak so that I could get back into the conversation. But instead of talking, the steak lodged in my throat. Without the quick thinking of a friend who knew the Heinlich maneuver, I might not be here. It is freaky to realize that I owe my LIFE to my friend. Not coincidentally, I am now a vegetarian.
My son was very large before he was born and in a posterior presentation. I had great difficulty in giving birth to him. My back labor hurt like hell. At one point, the nurse gave me oxygen to breath during the delivery. I tore the tube from my face. In my pain I did not consider that the oxygen was not for me, but for my son. Fortunately for him, he is smart and talented in spite of my actions. Likewise, my daughter's throat was severely constricted by the umbilical during her delivery. The doctor, alarmed,told me to push even if I did not feel like it. During the seemingly slow motion of the delivery, I was sure I was not pushing hard enough and that the cord my body created to nourish my daughter would cause her brain damage. She was born, and I worried. My worries were unnecessary. She is smart and feisty and talented.
I think about my mother's first cousins who fled Nazi Germany as teenagers after the death camps killed their parents. My mother and grandparents left a couple of weeks before the crackdown on Jews. We are all lucky to be alive.
I know it's corny, but I still remember the lyrics sung by Doris Day, I think. They go something like this, "When I feel lonely and I can't sleep, I count my blessings instead of sheep. You'll go to sleep counting your blessings."
We all are blessed, even if we are not religious. It's all a matter of perspective. Being rich, popular, or beautiful may seem important, but they really are not. Having people who care for you and about whom you care, helping others, believing in yourself, these are the real blessing of life. Remember - you'll fall asleep counting your blessings.