Heading Into Thanksgiving With an Attitude of Gratitude

It can be hard to be positive with Friedreich's ataxia, but I'm working on that

Kendall Harvey avatar

by Kendall Harvey |

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With Thanksgiving approaching, my family and I have been talking about what we’re thankful for. My 5-year-old daughter, Collins, is thankful for adorable things like her cat named Banana, our swimming pool, her school playground, horses, and of course, her brother, Mommy, and Daddy. My 8-year-old son, Brooks, is thankful for the Houston Astros, his teammates, his classmates, weekends, our church, and his family. It’s a sweet exercise that lets my husband, Kyle, and I see their world through their eyes.

When it’s my turn to say what I’m thankful for, my immediate thought is, “Not much, thanks to Friedreich’s ataxia” (FA). I wish I didn’t have that thought, but I can’t always help my gut reactions. Instead of blurting out this heavy negativity onto my sweet family, I quickly start to list better things, including my husband, my children, our pets, our home, my friends, our church, laughter, and so on.

Just this simple act of listing the things I’m thankful for is helpful in ending my pity parties and replacing that negative mindset with an attitude of gratitude. This seasonal custom provides a much-needed perspective: Even though FA is big, awful, and frequently front-of-mind for me, so many wonderful things are desperate to take its place.

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A Shift in Perspective Can Change Everything

Now, I’m not saying that the simple act of counting my blessings is enough to counterbalance the very real negative impact that FA has on my life. FA and its effects are life-altering, far-reaching, heavy, and considerable. They cannot and should not be overlooked or dismissed as something I can rid myself of with the power of positive thinking.

That being said, listing the things I’m grateful for is powerful and provides the much-needed perspective required to battle through this life with FA. FA will win if I don’t intentionally battle it every step of the way. If I don’t take the time to create a genuine list of what I’m thankful for despite FA, I can lose the motivation to continue fighting with courage. What a tragedy that would be.

I give myself grace when I’m tempted to criticize myself for thinking first of the hardship of FA. After all, I’m only human. We’re wired to sense and fight the danger, and FA is dangerous. But it’s not all there is to me.

I’m so much more than FA and its resulting disabilities. I’m a wife, mother, friend, daughter, sister, and so much more. And the things that I’m thankful for are the reason I fight so hard to build a life worth enjoying.

So my Thanksgiving challenge to all of my fellow FA patients is this: Instead of letting your mind run away with negative thoughts of FA and the things it’s taken away from you, try to take those thoughts captive and list the good things in your life. Especially when it’s your turn to share what you’re thankful for while gathered around the table this year.

I bet you’ll be surprised at all of the good that you have and how quickly the weight of FA-inspired bitterness leaves your shoulders. My prayer for you is that the good in your life will outweigh the FA-related bad in your life, even if only for the day.

Who knows, maybe this exercise will help us battle FA with an extra helping of grit and grace year-round?

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” — Philippians 4:6 (New International Version)

Note: Friedreich’s Ataxia News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Friedreich’s Ataxia News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Friedreich’s ataxia.


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