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No, I’m Not Grateful. And That’s Ok.

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Last night something strange happened. I came home from the office, picked up my laptop, started typing several emails for work and then my body just said…no.

I don’t even know how to explain it. It was like this rush of nothing came over me, I couldn’t move, and my body just shut down. On top of that extreme ‘no-ness’, my throat has started closing up on regular intervals, I’m struggling to digest anything, acute pain is radiating throughout my body, I’m dizzy as all hell, and my head is about ready to explode. I feel like I could sleep for a year, but unfortunately I’m not one of those lucky spoonies that sleeps. I’m one of those that has to stay awake and suffer through it. The bastards.

Note to self: do not cry hysterically with frustration when you’re wearing mascara that is made from fruit. That stuff does not stay put. Trust me. 

I know why this has happened. I’m doing too much.

I’m working my real job, doing all the things for Nutritiously Natasha, the Plant-Based Picnics and the Health Bloggers Community. And I’m trying to look after myself and have some semblance of a social life. Oh, and Im studying to be a health coach at Integrative Nutrition. I know I’m supposed to rest a lot and I think I’ve been fooling myself with how I do it.

My boss actually sent me a really great email from a friend of hers and it had a huge amount of information about pacing. I’ve always told myself that if I’m not going out then I’m resting. If I’m in bed, I’m resting. But actually I’m just doing all my work in bed. Resting actually requires switching everything off and allowing your brain to switch off too. This is something that I’m going to write about more next week as I think it’s really important for me to learn how to do it properly. Because, clearly, I’m terrible at it.

And now as I am back in my childhood bed, I woke up this morning thinking ‘fuck being grateful’. I’m flat on my back and I have to put everything on hold. Again.

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I’ve been reading more and more posts recently about how people are finding a great deal of comfort once they’ve accepted what’s wrong with them and become grateful for everything it has brought them. And as much as I want to get it, I really don’t.

It has taken an extremely long time, but I’ve finally accepted (in my own way) that I am unwell. From lying about it and hiding it as much as I could, I now actively take steps to make sure that I am doing what is right for me – whether or not ‘society’ understands. I talk about it, I write about it and I try to do everything that I can to mitigate relapses. Except for what’s happened now, but we’ll ignore that for the moment.

When it comes to being grateful, I just can’t be. I understand why many speak like this, though. I really do.

If I wasn’t this unwell, I probably wouldn’t have done any of the things that I have done since I was eighteen. If I was well enough to have gone to drama school in New York when I wanted to, I would have. Instead, I have had to constantly find new paths to follow that are right for me at any given time. And they have changed so many times.

I have lived in France, studied International Relations, started a couple of youth politics projects that did extremely well, been flown to India to meet Richard Branson because I was an entrepreneur to watch, been to the royal wedding in Bhutan, found a love for food, become an Instagrammer, written for amazing publications, found a job that is amazingly supportive and challenging, and met all these people that I never would have if I was living in New York desperately trying to make it as an actress.

I’ve become a more tolerant and understanding person, a strong person, and hopefully a person who can be of support and comfort to others who are going through similar things. I think I have achieved a huge amount considering my…challenges…even though it doesn’t always feel like it.

TL;DR? I’ve done things that would never have happened to me if I’d have gone off to New York at eighteen.

But would I give all of that up and my right arm to be healthy? You bet I would.

Well, probably not my right arm. Then I’d still be disabled and that would defeat the whole purpose.

But you know what I mean.

I was talking to my dear friend Maxine about this subject as I was writing this post. I wasn’t sure if it was just me who felt like this. Am I just an inherently negative person? And she just summed it up perfectly:

“Sure, we may become stronger people because we’ve had to deal with this stuff, but for most I think we’d tolerate being a little less strong to avoid the pain we had to go through to get there…”

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The nature of chronic illness is that even when you’re doing everything right (again, let’s ignore my uber busy-ness and how much I’ve been pushing myself recently), you can still have a relapse. This has happened to me more times than I can count, and it’s depressing as hell because it’s a slap in the face that reminds you that your body has other plans for you. It’s actually a lot harder when you’re doing everything right for this to happen because it feels so insanely unfair.

The trick is not letting it get you down (even when you’re prone to the deep-darks), pushing through and making the best of the situation that you can. And this, I think, is where I think you can be positive about your health without being grateful for your lack of it.

A number of people on Instagram have told me that it’s my mindset that is making things worse. And yes, I appreciate that the mind plays a huge role in how you’re feeling, but it’s an entirely natural and human response when something bad happens out of the blue to not be ok with it. I’m not going to pretend that I am because that’s what I’m supposed to do.

I think it’s totally ok (and normal) to get down when something happens to your body. To grieve for what you wish you could do. It becomes unhealthy when you let those feelings start swirling and they start to entirely take over.

I usually give myself a day or two, and then I get back up on the horse and think about the things that I can do to help my body recover as quickly as possible. Of course, the nature of depression is sometimes it’s almost impossible to do that, but there’s a trick to learning ways that work for you to help you snap out of it. That’s why I spontaneously buggered off to Paris at the end of October! It helped more than I thought it would.

One thing I have found I have found quite difficult, and sometimes isolating, is that in the wellness community there is a huge tendency to a more spiritual and ‘high vibe’ approach to life. I am finding this with my course at IIN. I can be watching a video about the health benefits of community and surrounding yourself with happy loving people, doing a job you love, and all that jazz that makes a huge amount of sense…and then suddenly there’s a whole spiel about the divinity that’s inherently inside all of us and living life in the flow of abundance.

Huh?

While I understand that this works for many people, equally it doesn’t for others. And while we are taught about the importance of bio-individuality when it comes to the food that we put in our bodies, this strong focus on the other side doesn’t take into consideration those who just inherently don’t connect to that.

And this is all tied into that weird thing that I’ve found on Instagram about people having an opinion about the way you live your life – be that the diet you’re finding works for you, the lifestyle choices you’re making, or the way that you respond to different things that happen to you.

I’ve said it many times before and I’ll say it again. We are all different and the ways in which we respond to situations are different. And there isn’t a right or wrong answer.

I’ll never be a spiritual person (fun story: I’ve never felt a connection to god or any kind of spiritual anything, but I thought if I could (out of academic curiosity) it would happen on the sabbath, new year’s eve, by the wailing wall in Jerusalem. Nothing happened. Except I slipped on one of the wet stones and dislocated my knee. It was definitely a sign) and I’m not an inherently positive person either. It’s just not very ‘me’.

What gets me out of bed is being productive and doing things and being engaged and excited about the work that I’m doing and surrounding myself with people who challenge me. I find it incredibly healing to create, explore, experiment, and do things that are practical and tangible. For some people, that doesn’t work. For me it does.

I appreciate that I need to learn how to rest and how to pace and how to find ways to not let myself get too run down because I will hit a brick wall (hello!). But. And it’s a very big but. There’s no judgement. I just want people to know that it’s ok to feel what you’re feeling, and the things you find are the most healing and beneficial are the right things for you. You don’t have to be grateful. You don’t have to not not be grateful. Be as grateful and accepting and happy and everything as you want or you can be. Or not.

I’m sick of feeling guilty that I’m not grateful.

I’m Natasha. I’m bloody ill and it sucks more than I can articulately put into words. But I’m working with it and doing the best that I can right now. And that’s all anyone can do. 

17 Comments

17 Comments on No, I’m Not Grateful. And That’s Ok.

  1. abi
    December 5, 2014 at 1:55 pm (3 years ago)

    i totally agree. i am currently clawing my way back from that evil brick wall and no – just be ungrateful, be whatever is natural to be and have faith that when the time is right the ‘real’ ‘well’ you will come shining back through. but i reckon you have to be pissed off and not grateful for as long as you need to – you can’t rush these things… and no one can ACTUALLY understand what you are going through. very few people understand what it is actually like to have to limit and control every sodding aspect of your whole like, including pleasures taken for granted by so many people, but NOONE knows what it is like for you. so take your time. don’t let a single person judge you or make you hurry along. you will be back when you are ready.
    thank you again for your inspiration because i wouldn’t know how to get away from my brick wall if it wasn’t for you and the low histamine chef.

    Reply
    • Natasha Lipman
      December 5, 2014 at 2:25 pm (3 years ago)

      I think there’s a limit there, right? You’re allowed to feel angry and upset and pissed off. People don’t get it (but talking to people who do definitely helps), but we all experience everything so differently. But at the same time, you can’t let yourself get overwhelmed by those feelings, because that’s when things can take the negative turn for the worse and impact your health! Taking the time you need to work through those though is the most important thing, so you can jump away from that horrid brick wall when you’re ready.

      Thank you so much for your kind words, I’m glad I can help you in my own little way!

      Reply
  2. Tali
    December 5, 2014 at 2:04 pm (3 years ago)

    Thank you so, so much for this post. I have been struggling with depression for most of my life, and it seems to be, because I’m not going down the antidepressants path either, that all I have available in terms of getting help is: Change your crappy mental attitude, or you’re on your own. Every single therapy I’ve tried, every single book, every single support group and forum I’ve joined and blog I’ve read seems to have some edge of woo-woo positive-thinking subculture-y discourse, rather than just, find out what works for you and do what you have to do in order to make that happen to the best of your ability.

    It just doesn’t work for me. It doesn’t work for me to be told to feel something I don’t feel, or believe something I don’t believe. It doesn’t work for me if I’m told that’s the ONLY way I’ll ever feel better. We are experts on our own experience if on nothing else. I have been happy, and it was when I felt in control of my life and was doing something I loved, believed in and felt proud of. It was just not during a Kundalini-awakening meditation or a group mantra session.

    I find all the positive talk to be ultimately, kind of uninspiring. It seems one dimensional and just not real. I don’t need to be positive to be happy, that’s another thing I know about me – I need to be engaged. I have felt enraged and been happy. I have felt confused and been happy. I have felt heartbroken and been happy. Positivity just means nothing to me. I want to find out about ways of living more authentically and fully, yes, not ways of living more positively.

    Reply
    • Natasha Lipman
      December 5, 2014 at 2:37 pm (3 years ago)

      Hi Tali,

      I don’t think I could have said it better myself. What you wrote really resonates with me. And it’s strange, because the people who are supposed to help you understand and figure it out are the ones that can make it worse by forcing something on you that doesn’t feel right. I don’t know why I’m not spiritual and can’t feel certain things – I just don’t. I never have. Why should I have to feel guilty and explain more than that?!

      I hope you manage to find things that work for you – a little bit of positivity is good in helping you deal, but it’s finding the balance between that and the negativity 😉

      Reply
  3. Jenni
    December 5, 2014 at 5:11 pm (3 years ago)

    What an honest, genuine post. Thank you, I struggle between being reflective and accepting of my chronic illness to being completely over, and angry with how it dominates and completely controls every area of my life. I also struggle with negative thoughts and guilt towards my own depression/anger and inability to be productive or accomplish more in life when the truth is i am simply disabled by my body to do more and thus don’t have a choice! Its hard for those of us with high expectations for ourselves to roll with the crippling illness lifestyle :(. I try to be grateful in order to cope but sometimes as you said In grief of my old self/life I don’t give a rats ass what I’ve learned or how I have probably grown and just wish it could all go away and I could have my health back and start again.
    Thanks for this, I hope you are back on your feet again soon!
    Cheers

    Reply
  4. Jean
    December 5, 2014 at 8:04 pm (3 years ago)

    You have put things very well, here. For many years, I tried to pretend I was ‘normal’, but I’m not and never will be again. I’ve tried to explain my limitations, get people to understand why I can’t do this or go there or ever, ever, ever plan ahead. Now I just tell people that if they are not willing to make allowances for these things over which I have no control, then they should just cut me out of their lives. I’ll understand. No one has yet, so I guess it’s okay. Two things I’ve learned:

    Listen To Your Body

    Make time for a twenty minute lie-down when things are busy. Lie down with eyes closed. Set a timer. It does help. Reading while lying down, or watching tv is not the same thing at all.

    One more thing. Try to have as much fun every day as is possible, even if it’s just laughing at LOLcats.

    Reply
    • Natasha Lipman
      December 5, 2014 at 10:12 pm (3 years ago)

      Laughing at LOLcats is definitely ok to do everyday 😉

      Reply
  5. Liz
    December 5, 2014 at 8:31 pm (3 years ago)

    I struggle with this so much and I think it’s because I haven’t fully accepted my illness. I have ok days and really bad days. I actually remember the three days in the last two years where I felt good all day. I wake in the night (had insomnia for 11 years) and think about how different my life is now.

    I’m slowly learning not to listen to everyone else’s opinions. I’ve lost friends because people know that I’ve gone away for the weekend (no matter how much of a struggle it was) and question why I’m suddenly ok to do that when i couldn’t go out for their birthday etc, so yeah I get really angry. I get angry because I can’t have the career i wanted, don’t know if I could cope with having children, can’t make plans. I wish I’d appreciated the healthy me so much more.

    Then again if someone were to say to me I’ll never get better I’d tell them they were wrong. There must be a touch of optimism lurking inside my brain.

    Reply
    • Natasha Lipman
      December 5, 2014 at 10:11 pm (3 years ago)

      It’s good to know that it’s there 😉

      Reply
    • Jean
      December 6, 2014 at 8:36 pm (3 years ago)

      I think that after awhile, you have to label the people who condemn you for doing this but not that (the
      that usually being what THEY wanted you do to) as toxic friends. Avoiding toxic people is one of the best things you can do for yourself. I had to miss a friend’s birthday one year, and at another gathering some time after, he kept nagging me about it. I finally said, in front of all his friends, that I felt bad enough for missing the fun without him trying to make me feel guilty for it. He has been much more understanding since. Sometimes you just have to tell it like it is to people, and even then, they may not get it. It took me years to get another friend to understand that you can’t ask me a month or even a week ahead to commit to something. You have to ask me on the day. Years of explaining this various ways before she finally got it. She rearranged my kitchen for me once. She put everything where it was convenient for her, not me. She kept digging at me for ages about how many spoons I have. ” No one needs that many spoons”. I finally explained that sometimes it’s more than I can manage to get the used spoon to the sink, let alone wash it for next time. “Oh, I never thought of that”, she replied. You have to keep telling them, drop them from your life, or just put up with the constant pressure to be the person they want you to be, rather than the person you are. I choose, finally, to just let people like that go. You also have to let go of tact. Tell them about it, call them on it, whatever it takes. Your needs are just as important as theirs, and the concessions should not be just on the part of the person who is ill or disabled. If you want me in your life, you have to be willing to work within my limitations. If that’s more than you can handle, cut me out of your life. I can deal with that.

      Reply
  6. Ollie Neveu
    December 5, 2014 at 9:11 pm (3 years ago)

    Let me give you a giant virtual hug Natasha! When I was 22 my body had enough and completely shut down on me, and then moved very little for the next 2 months – not entirely unlike what you are going through now. I’ve been through quite a healing journey over the past three years, and I am one of those people who would categorise their health challenges as something they are grateful for. But – it’s much easier to be said while you are on dry land then flailing around in the rough seas of a war with your body. All healing is a process, and the shit thing about social media is people comment on your journey. It is wonderful that people have been able to heal, and grateful etc but if you are currently on your knees for the umpteenth time and can’t see a way out, then I understand how seeing everyone else’s gratitude and positivity, and being told you need to do the same can be frustrating. When it’s hard to cultivate feelings of gratitude and positivity around your situation, I found what worked best to get me out of a funk was watching pug videos on Youtube or Owen Wilson movies. (No lie – I think he’s amazing). Anything that could make me laugh would create a sense of positivity without me having to be like yeah I am like so totally grateful for not being able to get off the couch today (side-eye). Also – Harvard University has done some amazing studies on the mind body connection which I saw recently in a documentary made by an auto-immune sufferer who like today I think said she is now cured? Anyway, if you can check it out SLASH I can lend you my copy of the DVD . xx

    Reply
    • Natasha Lipman
      December 5, 2014 at 10:10 pm (3 years ago)

      Aww, thanks Ollie!

      The thing is, it’s not that I can’t create positivity and happiness and gratitude for things in my life – that I can do. I’m not an airy fairy happy classy type of person, but even when things are shit I somehow manage to create. But I don’t see it as coming from a place of positivity – it’s just what I do. What I don’t feel, and I will never feel (having spoken to many people about this today) is grateful for my illness. I’ve read so many things about people saying that they’re grateful for what their illness has brought them. I can acknowledge things that the illnesses have brought me…and I can be grateful for things in my life and awesome things that I do. But that doesn’t mean that I’ll be grateful for the illnesses themselves. I think there’s a bit of a distinction there, and it’s one that many people don’t seem to make! I totally agree that there is a mind-body connection, but there’s a way of approaching it in a non fru-fru kind of way, that is still, unfortunately, missing in many parts of this world!

      Reply
  7. Simone
    December 6, 2014 at 3:57 am (3 years ago)

    I’m Simone. I’m bloody unwell, and have been for a decade, and I am absolutely NOT grateful for my illness. All the gratefulness in the world won’t make it go away. One foot in front of the other every day.

    Reply
  8. Sandy
    December 6, 2014 at 10:20 am (3 years ago)

    I was first ill when I was 14. That was in the 90s. I have had periods of wellness, but this last bout has lasted on and off for several years. I am very, very slowly improving, but the number of times I’ve overdone it are uncountable. I’m a mum with three children, one of whom has special needs. I can’t help overdoing it. Trouble is when I hit that brick wall it puts extra pressure on my husband, and he has enough pressure with his work trying to earn enough to support a family.

    For me, my faith is a huge part of who I am. I know that I have learned things along the way that I wouldn’t have learned any other way and I have come to regard those gifts as like scars – they never go away and sometimes they are painful. They leave a lasting impact. But they are part of what makes me me and there’s no point wishing things hadn’t happened; they did. I can’t change that. I reckon there’s nothing wrong with being fed up. It’s perfectly human! It’s when it turns into bitterness and resentfulness that it eats away at you. Being thankful can be helpful, but it’s not a magic wand. You can be both thankful and fed up. You can be just fed up, or sad. I know no one has asked me for my advice, but if anyone is interested in the insight from someone who’s lived with this cr*p for years, it’s this: allow yourself the grace that today is today and tomorrow is another day; one day at a time.

    Reply
  9. Louis
    December 7, 2014 at 8:58 pm (3 years ago)

    Here’s my thoughts. Being sick sucks, no doubt. And being told that we need to be positive in a time where our lives are at such a low isn’t helpful. But the positicity thing that everyone talks about has a lot of validity behind it and I can attest that changing my outlook on life definitely makes me feel better and be happier and grateful and more outgoing and have higher self-esteem all of the other things that having a grateful and positive attitude brings. Here’s the thing though. It took a shit ton of work, consistent effort on my part to force myself to say out loud how awesome I was every day and to proactively tell myself, even when I didn’t believe it, that I am worth taking up space in this world. I consistently wrote down and said everything I was grateful for every day and took massive action in my life to step out of my comfort zone and instill these beliefs into my mind. I literally addicted myself to positivity on purpose and every time anything happened that I didn’t like I reprogrammed my mind to think that they are reference experiences and I will learn something from them and grow as a person and there’s a purpose for it. All of the blogs or books in the world wouldn’t have changed my way of thinking if I didn’t proactively act in a way that was against what I was feeling. I studied NLP and even though I didnt do EFT, it is an actionable step to try to change our state. Youve probably tried a lot of things in an effort to help your health. I mean, you’re clearly putting in massive amounts of effort. I just felt like writing what I was thinking. Btw, I’m also in IIN and am glad to see that you’re in it too.

    Reply
    • Natasha Lipman
      December 8, 2014 at 12:03 pm (3 years ago)

      Ah, see, here’s the thing. Maybe I didn’t make it clear enough in my post. I am fully aware of how awesome I am and how many positive and good things are in my life. And that I’m totally fine with. What I’m not grateful for, and will never be grateful for is being ill. That’s what this post is about – seeing people who say that they’re grateful for their illness and what it has brought them. I can be grateful for the resulting things that has come, but not for the illness in general, and I would give it all up to not feel so ill all the time!

      Again, it comes down to the individual. I’m glad you’ve found some steps that can help you :)

      Reply
  10. Regula @ Miss Foodwise
    December 15, 2014 at 9:10 am (3 years ago)

    You are totally right. How can you be grateful for being ill. I don’t get it either.
    The only thing I can say is that with being ill, it made me realise how short life is, and that I need to do what I love to do. I needed to slow down, change my hectic life. Rest. So difficult. Many people don’t realise how difficult it is to rest, because having to rest kinda feels like your defeated by your illness for a while, and you don’t want to obey your illness, you want to rule it. You want to keep going, and go to the limit. And then you realise… you really do need rest, and rest makes you have the ropes in your hand, because with enough rest the illness can’t take over so much.
    I don’t tell people of my illness… not much really. I sometimes mention it but don’t give attention to it. Because so many people still don’t get auto immune illnesses. they just think your weak, lazy, whatever… The times people have told me I should just go and do some serious sports. They didn’t get that that could kill me. They didn’t believe. So many people just can’t grasp the seriousness of this, the pain, even if it’s just sore muscles, because it is nearly constant, it becomes pain. The fuzziness in the head.
    I am not grateful for this disease. Ik would give my right arm too. I just want to be healthy and I am angry healthy people often don’t reaslise how bloody lucky they are.

    Reply

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