A Search for Gratitude
(during a most uncertain time)
Greetings! My name is Nikki Barlia, I am a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in Coral Springs; and a 1995 MSD graduate.
Last year, I faced my biggest obstacle to date and it wasn’t Covid-19. Today I humbly and vulnerably share some of my own experience searching for gratitude while suffering during the past holiday season. I hope it can help you too.
October 2020 was already months into the pandemic. I had closed my office 3 months earlier. I was finally settling into my new normal working from home. I was providing video therapy sessions from my porch because my 12-year-old daughter was using the living room for school and my husband was using the extra bedroom as an office. The entire world had been facing uncertainty for months. Hypervigilance was the norm.
Then comes a diagnosis of Triple Negative Breast Cancer. I needed a lumpectomy, 8 rounds of 2 different chemotherapy treatments and 33 radiation treatments. My life of unknown just got more challenging. Most of you can imagine my fear - I did not want to face this new reality. I forced myself to think about my loved ones and how much they needed me to fight this cancer.
Christopher Littlefield released an article about gratitude during a time of uncertainty which helped me reframe a lot of my fears and focus on my strengths to fight this disease. Specifically, I found these 10 questions helpful toward cultivating my own gratitude. I wrote out my answers – I recommend trying it for yourself.
1. What have I gotten to learn recently that has helped me grow?
2. What opportunities do I currently have that I am grateful for?
3. What physical abilities do I have but take for granted?
4. What did I see today or over the last month that was beautiful?
5. Who at work am I happy to see each day and why?
6. Who is a person that I don’t speak to often, but, if I lost them tomorrow, it would be devastating? (Take this as a cue to reach out today!)
7. What am I better at today than I was a year ago?
8. What material object do I use every day that I am thankful for having?
9. What has someone done for me recently that I am grateful for?
10. What are the three things I am grateful for right now?
1. I learned that I am not alone. There are many people who have faced this disease and lived. They inspire and encourage me. There are many people who lived with this disease for years. They teach me and help me find courage.
2. I have opportunities. I work from home with my two care takers. I have the ability to pay for treatment. I don’t really love my hairstyle and I have weight to lose.
3. I have physical abilities. I had NO IDEA how physically strong my body was until I went through chemo and radiation. I know now that sometimes it’s not the cancer that kills you but the treatment. When I was at my sickest, I would be grateful for the cold floor or the medicine that was coming to help me eat and sleep.
4. I saw beauty. My neighbors came together to provide my family and I with overwhelming support. Family and friends assisted through the challenges of Covid. Neighbors became family.
5. I am happy. I cut back on work but retained some clients while I was in my own cancer treatment. This symbiotic relationship helped me help others keep things in perspective during such an uncertain time for everyone.
6. I reached out. I spoke with more people from my past than ever before. Rekindled old friendships, followed up with old relatives, celebrated the good times even though it was hard.
7. I am more confident. In myself, my world, my new body even though it still aches.
8. I am thankful. Lotions, vitamins, soft comfortable clothes, my car (I was too weak to drive for a while)
9. I had support. Take my daughter with their family on a vacation because we couldn’t last year.
10. I am grateful for: My health, My loved ones & Today
A grateful mind does not ignore the challenges ahead. Instead, a grateful mind acknowledges that in the most unhealthy and uncertain of times, there is still something to bring us positivity. Something to make us smile and remind us what is truly beautiful to us in the world.
As a human being who has suffered, I know that finding gratitude is not an easy task. It takes awareness, effort, and practice to reframe and redirect thoughts of the negative. But you can do it! For yourself and for your loved ones this holiday season.
During the month of November, Professionals United for Parkland remembers Carmen
Schentrup. Any donations made to the fund will go directly to the most promising ALS research through The ALS Association. Please join Carmen and our entire family in the quest to find a cure for ALS by making a donation today. Our hope is that, with enough help from all of you, Carmen’s dream can be achieved. For more information, visit: https://donate.als.org/give/287300/#!/donation/checkout
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