TOUCHED BY LYME: The healing power of gratitude ornaments
The following is republished from my blog last year. It has been updated slightly.
Guest blog by Rachel Leland
In November of 2015, I was in month six of what ended up being 13 months of intense mold treatment (on top of Lyme treatment).
I wasn’t allowed to even step foot inside any building that hadn’t been cleared for mold. No shopping malls, no movie theaters, not even a grocery store.
I was a prisoner in my apartment and I didn’t like it one bit. At that time, I could easily list off all the things going wrong in my life—and was hard-pressed to acknowledge anything about it that was good.
One day, I muttered to one of my practitioners that I wasn’t going to hold my breath for any of my various treatments to work. That’s when she gently reminded me how healing it can be to focus on the good, not the bad, in our lives. For days after our conversation, I thought about what she said.
There WERE good things about my life. I was fortunate enough to be living in a mold-free apartment. I had supportive parents. A brother who texted me funny things that happened to him throughout the week to keep my spirits up. A boyfriend who tremendously helped me through the mold treatment and did all the shopping, making it possible for me to stay out of buildings. And friends who came over to keep me company.
And the more I purposely thought about those things, and felt thankful for them, the easier it was to find other positive things about my situation. This all went down at the end of November, and with my new way of thinking, I got an idea of how to decorate my very first Christmas tree away from my parents’ house.
I made what I called “gratitude ornaments,” which were pieces of colored paper with Christmas ribbon attached to them. I made 25 blank ones, and each day leading up to Christmas, I would think about something I was truly grateful for that day, write it on the ornament and place it on the tree. On Day One, for instance, I wrote:
Thankful for my amazing parents who never give up on helping me.
Throughout the month, my tree grew more and more colorful, until by Christmas Day, it was blooming with wonderful, positive aspects about my life. On the good days it filled me with happiness to see all those things I was grateful for. On the bad days, it was a lifeline.
Many times that Christmas season, I found myself standing in front of the tree, re-reading what I was grateful for, to remind me that things weren’t only bad.
On one particularly tough day, I sat at my desk, staring at my blank gratitude ornament, thinking that I couldn’t possibly find a single thing to be thankful for. At this point my food allergies were at their worst, and nearly every week I lost another one of the precious few foods I could still eat. At times, the agony of losing yet another food was unbearable. I contemplated skipping that day and not putting any ornament on the tree.
But I knew that wasn’t how it worked. I had to find something to be grateful for. And finally I knew what it was—I was thankful for stevia. It was something I could still eat and it was the only thing I could use in cooking to make food sweet. So up there on my Christmas tree, along with being thankful for my family, friends, and all these other good things in my life—was stevia.
And I’m still thankful for stevia today!
After Christmas was over, I took down my 25 gratitude ornaments and placed them in a bag labeled Christmas 2015. In 2016, I repeated the process. Now, in 2017, I’ve got my little tree in its place of honor and my blank ornaments are all ready for December 1.
(I’ll give you a hint about something that’s sure to be recorded on an ornament. That boyfriend I mentioned earlier is now my husband!)
I plan to keep all of my gratitude ornaments–forever–so that I can look back each year and see the 25 best things about my life at that moment in time.
And every year, I’ll write down the things I’m thankful for and watch as my little tree gets filled with happiness each day because of it.
Rachel has been dealing with Lyme and related issues since 2005. Now 26, she resides in Arizona. Her blog is Resilently Rachel.
TOUCHED BY LYME is written by Dorothy Kupcha Leland, LymeDisease.org’s VP for Education and Outreach. She is co-author of When Your Child Has Lyme Disease: A Parent’s Survival Guide. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.