Thanks Giving, may be an American holiday but it is a holiday I do like to personally like to celebrate it. Because of what the holiday stand for: gratitude.
My first visit to the East Coast five years was a real eye opener for me. I had spent since 2010 mourning my swimming career. I had also spent a good four years wasting time, in a cycle of self-pity. Blaming the world for my pain and suffering and wondering what crimes I had committed to deserve this?
It was the wrong mental attitude completely. I was around friends who had a career path, were able to go out, socialise and be a normal 20 something's. I was becoming troubled with unpredictable and unexplainable symptoms. Unable to manage work, had lost my identity, my passion and my purpose.
My trip to the East Coast wasn't just about the sights and the amazing places we did visit. It opened my eyes to PEOPLE. It was the first time I had really been around a group of adults and not just that the people you come into contact with. The stories they tell, the memories they share, the culture differences and for me I realised that everyone is going through SOMETHING. Everyone has weathered storms. It isn't just sunshine and roses. I hadn't committed a crime, it is life we are dealt a hand of cards and we have to make the best of them. We can't put blame, we can't 'EXPECT' anything & we can rewind time.
I came back wanting to know more, travel more so I could keep engaging with people, picking up advice, wisdom and listening to their stories. Using my pain in a positive way to help others not use as an excuse to self-pity. I realised that socialising didn't have to involve a club and drinking alcohol. I wasn't boring because I enjoyed a nice meal out in a restaurant with good conversation. I realised I was gaining wisdom from the people I was meeting but that actually- I was wise myself. My swimming days although not pool based now, will never leave me because the lessons I learnt, the person it shaped me into will never leave me. I had to take comfort from that fact.
I then opened my eyes to all the good around me that for so many years I had sounded out. Only focusing on the bad, how the world had wronged me. I began to appreciate the support, love and little things in life. Although I will openly admit there have been a few times I have wanted out of this life. My willingness to never give up, accept defeat and stubborn heart will never let me. I began to realise that you are the key to your own happiness. You are responsible for adding the sun in your skies. NOBODY ELSE IS. Everyone else just adds the sparkle.
I then always vowed I would practise gratitude like it was my religion , always reminding myself of the top 3 in each day I was thankful for. So, for this year's Thanks Giving although I will be celebrating it a week late, I will be having dinner with two amazing chronic illness warriors that over just the last few months have become really amazing friends and I CAN'T WAIT.
This holiday is also very important as yet again travelling has lifted me out of dark hole I was getting myself into. I was allowing the unexplainable symptoms and my health over-ride my life.
I am open about my health, I talk about my symptoms, my journey and so on. Except I hate being stuck in hospital. I couldn't be someone spending their life in and out of hospital. Even with declining health I want to live. I don't want to look back at an empty life. With a bucket load of regrets and no memories made. You only get one shot at this life. You have to make the most of it. I want to be as positive as possible and encourage others to get out there living too.
Life is the hardest job any of us will take on. You aren't special, you aren't immune from the challenges. You have to understand these facts to be ale to change you mindset and have a brighter outlook.
YES my health is annoying, it is heart-breaking, painful and makes life REALLY HARD. But without it I wouldn't have faced all the fears I have and continue to, have had all experiences I have, become the person I am, made the friends I have, built up the businesses with new skills that I have AND SO MUCH MORE. There is far more to be grateful for in my eyes than be negative about. That is what it is important. Mental mindset is so important. My physical health does take a beating but when you have a strong mind your world is brighter. Far more full & sparkly. That is what we aim for.
So here are the top 10 things I am most grateful for in my life:
1. To be alive!
2. My amazing family.
3. AMAZING friends, off & online.
4. My travel business, being my own boss & helping other's travel more too.
5. All the memories & opportunities.
6. My determination, passion, discipline & stubbornness to never give up.
7. For the support I have to keep thriving.
8. To be at home and not in hospital.
9. My strength without it, I probably wouldn't leave my bedside.
10. To you ALL sharing your stories with me everyday because you inspire and empower me.
Think through your top 10. Write them down, share them with a friend. VOICE them proudly. KINDNESS, LOVE AND SUPPORT truly cost nothing but can make someone's life light up.
A BIG thank you to BBC RADIO LANCASHIRE for having me on the show yesterday. A big thank you to Sally for inviting me on. I had a fun time ( like always!) Thank you for supporting me and helping me raise awareness!!