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This time of year, we are told to consider everything we have and be grateful for it. It’s a wonderful prospect. A little bit of gratitude can certainly go a long way. But how do you feel grateful for anything if you’re in a flare, newly diagnosed, or merely living with the daily ups and downs of IBD or an ostomy?

I never really fell in line with the message that we must be grateful at this time of year. I’ve been too sick too often to feel grateful in November, but I’ve also felt okay at other times of the year when I have wanted to be grateful but the cultural mood wasn’t there.

I think the idea of gratitude is bigger than being grateful for what you have. I think gratitude is actually in line with an overall coping strategy for living with IBD and/or an ostomy. In fact, I think gratitude is an essential part.

Hear me out: IBD can suck really badly. I know firsthand exactly how much. Endless medical appointments, invasive procedures, mental exhaustion, burnout, constant worry, and physical symptoms that range from tolerable to horrible. I’m not negating any of this.

What I am saying is that it’s incredibly important for us Girls With Guts to take time to realize the good things that we have in our lives to make the tough times more bearable. I’m also saying that gratitude can be as small or as big as you need it to be.

When I think of gratitude, I immediately think of my family. They are the constant that keeps me going in flares and that encourages me during better times. They’re my big gratitude. For those of us with supportive families, taking a moment each day to be grateful for their existence is important. But not everyone has a family, and not everyone has a family they can rely on.

I firmly believe that the little things in life can add up to something beautiful. A rainbow. A beautiful cloud formation. A compliment from a random stranger. These are merely a few examples of possible daily occurrences for which we can be grateful. that we can be grateful for.

There are also things that only us Girls With Guts can be grateful for. A bidet – I would actually be really grateful if we had more of these. Eating a snack that didn’t make you feel bad right after. An easy poke for an IV. If I tried to explain this to someone else, they wouldn’t get it. But we get it. That’s why I’m grateful for Girls With Guts, because we have a community that will help us through the tough times so we can celebrate the good times.

This season, if you don’t feel like being grateful, don’t be. But I hope you try to find the beautiful things in the every day, especially when it’s hard. I hope you’ll come to find that there’s always something worth being grateful for.

Karen Shalev is an educator, creator, and dreamer. A lifelong “professional patient,” Karen understands¬†firsthand the demands those living with IBD struggle with and dedicates herself to disability advocacy. During her undergraduate career, Karen earned recognition for her work through the Abbvie Immunology Scholarship and the Delta Alpha Pi Scholarship. Karen is currently completing her Master of Science in Communication.

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