Article Written by Erica Standley
“Gratitude turns what we have into enough” – by Aesop, Greek Fabulist and Storyteller
In a world where there is always a clamor for more than what we already have acquired, I think that sometimes we lose sight of what we already have.
At the core of our culture, we frame our successes on what we look like, where we live, what we drive and so many other things, that at the end of the day mean nothing if we don’t have substance or valuable relationships. I have learned that for me the most important thing is in my life, that who I am is not what I have.
My identity is not found in stuff. I am not here to shame anyone else. Yet I want to make this point very clear, that when you are down and out, what will matter most will not be how much money you have or the things it can buy you. The most valuable things in your life should be: the people that you love the most, your health, peace and things money can never buy.
My Story Personal Story
In November 2016, I was diagnosed with 2 types of cancer: a topical skin cancer and a rarer form of cancer that had attached itself to my muscle tissue underneath a large growth where the skin cancer had formed. When I went to the dermatologist for the growth, initially I just thought that this was a routine procedure and the growth was benign.
Little did I know, after they ran some tests that this was something far more complicated. I had never experienced such shock or dismay. I was still so young. I had so much life left to live and my fear was that I may die from this cancer. I had never done drugs, smoked or even drank alcohol because of my belief system. I wondered, “Why me? What had I done to deserve such a life altering situation?” I ended up having a procedure done that was more like a surgery as the doctor insisted it be removed immediately.
Ultimately, in this circumstance the wound had gone septic and landed me in the hospital for over a week. I felt like my life couldn’t get any worse. It was a terrifying experience and not really something I would ever want to relive. I was traumatized. Then I was put on a wound-vac in the hospital and assigned in-home nursing visits so that she could monitor the wound properly. I ended up losing my job for taking too much time off of work. I was told that I was replaced. I was also dealing with a chronic illness that had started in my late 20’s.
As my life spiraled downward in what seemed to be out of my control, I began to loop into a headspace of depression. I was plagued with thoughts of, “How could I get in a better frame of mind when all these things were happening to me?” I needed help. I sought out Psychotherapy and I clung to my faith more than I ever had. I have a very strong faith in God and am a devout Christian. I believe that faith heals and I am a huge advocate for mental health practices in tandem.
Once I found a therapist, I began regular therapy sessions to try and wrap my head around what was happening in my life. As a cognitive behavioral therapist, she began to give me things to think about and homework assignments to go along with it. She told me that I had to change my thinking in order to be more healthy. She told me that even though depression was partly the fault of my current circumstance, the prescriptions I was taking, and my health- I could help my situation by being more mindful. I was interested to find out how. She told me to start looking at what I could be grateful for in my crisis. I was taken aback at first, because everything around me seemed to be hopeless. I was jobless, living with my parents, and was newly married, but this was straining our marriage and he was unable to work due to his work visa. We had no money, my insurance had run out, and we were literally living on the kindness of strangers.
My therapist encouraged me to begin journaling. This was a habit in which I was familiar with in the past, but this time specifically for gratitude. She said that I needed to become more mindful of the positive things that were happening in spite of the negative. She instructed me to write down 3 things everyday that I was grateful for before I went to bed every night. She advised that even if it was the same 3 items daily, to journal them consistently for at least 6 weeks. She told me that I would start to see some improvement in my overall mental health. She also proposed that showing more gratitude to those who had been helping me and my husband get through this difficult time would make me feel better, and make them feel more valued. Gratitude was and is a 2 way street.
What she had coached me to do aligned with my own value system and I realized she was right. There’s a verse in the Bible that says: “In every thing give thanks…” (1 Thessalonians 5:18a KJV). This was something that my parents taught me growing up. Now all I needed to do was to begin applying this practical skill to my life.
This was a teaching moment for myself. There were countless amazing things that happened while I was down, that I had overlooked. There were countless people in my life who had stepped up to show me love and support during that time. People had donated time, money, food and anything else to me and my family. Slowly, I began to see, that even though things weren’t ideal, I was still in a much better place than many in my situation.
After a little more than 6 weeks, I saw improvement under the guidance of my therapist. I even was able to write a book about what I experienced in hopes of helping others. Suffice to say, gratitude has become something very near and dear to my heart. I have had many ups and downs since that happened, but I am still mindful and journal nightly about what I am grateful for. Why? Because the wealth that I have in my life goes beyond material possessions. I am more mindful as I communicate with my family and friends, remembering to tell them how much they mean to me.
Above all, I have learned that I have to make everyday a day of gratitude.
About Min. Erica Standley
Min. Erica Standley is from the Kansas City area. She is a Minister, Self-Published Author of The Courage to Beat Depression, Founder and CEO of Sisters of Faith Prayer Fellowship International, Vlogger, Conference Host, Teacher, and Certified Life Coach. She currently is working on her second book set to be released by Dec. 2021 and to host the Sisters of Faith Prayer Summit in Oct. 2021.
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