How a simple task — the Gratitude Journal turned my life around

Replacing negative thoughts with positive affirmations isn’t easy

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

I was drowning in despair. I got a phone call that my mom was being rushed to the hospital. She had tried to commit suicide. At first I was in disbelief. I had spent time with her the day before, and I did not see any signs of depression or issues.

I grabbed my purse, car keys and cell phone and jumped in my car. I swear the more I thought about her and what she had tried to do, the angrier I got. My little Geostorm was doing 80 on the freeway! I didn’t figure out why I was so angry (my gut reaction) because I had to get to the hospital to see if she was going to make it or not.

When I arrived at the hospital, I found her in ICU. In hushed tones, they explained that my mom had swallowed formaldehyde and the only reason she was alive was because the formaldehyde was so old. She found it in her husband’s work area. He had been a carpenter in his working life and had tools and chemicals in his little work area.

She had written a note, which they gave to me. I sat in the chair in her room. I leaned my head back against the wall and just shut my eyes. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to read the note she wrote. I knew I would have to read it to understand how she got to this point. After reading the note, I knew I did not want anyone else to know what that note said. Especially her husband.

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One of the ICU nurses gave me a little guardian angel pin. Tears were flowing as I accepted the small gift and pinned it to my blazer. When you are the strength in the family, you have no one to turn to for support. I found myself in such a low state. On the one hand, I wanted her to survive, but I wasn’t sure how what she had done would impact her life if she lived.

In my personal life, I had filed bankruptcy. We were going through a recession. Tech companies totally shut down. Since I worked for HP, I knew they would lay me off. Having the tech companies shut down affected everyone. My husband also lost his job. We were both on unemployment. We depleted our savings. If we were to make it, we had to go where the jobs were. Since I am a California girl, I knew that I had to go back to California.

With my mom in ICU, my personal life in turmoil, I knew I had to clear my head. With my step dad having Alzheimer’s, he wasn’t in any condition to make sound decisions; I was the power of attorney for my mom, so the decision making fell on my shoulders.

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Moving back to California had to take a back seat. My mom had clarified in her do not resuscitate paperwork that she did not want to be on life support. She took a turn for the worse. Now I had to deal with the doctors on when to pull the plug. Talk about stress. Not only did I have to explain to my step dad what was happening; I had to deal with the doctors and family members on both sides of the family.

I am here to say that she pulled through. While she was in rehab for continued care, I was looking for an Assisted Living establishment that would take her in. Explaining to my step dad why she wasn’t going home after they released her was very hard. I wasn’t sure how much he could take in.

Not only was I working to get my mom settled and cared for, I had to figure out if I should stay in Oregon or move back to California.

The decision to move to California wasn’t easy, but I knew I needed to go where the jobs were. I knew I had to find work, I also knew I had to get away from all the turmoil, find myself again and make informed decisions on what would be the best way to make a monumental move.

I came down to California and stayed with a cousin. Being away from everyone was the right call to make. I had time to think things through and figure out what I wanted to do. I started listening to Oprah Winfrey. She was starting a new workshop to help us change our way of thinking. I was to purchase a journal and write 5 things each morning and evening that I was grateful for.

How was I to write 5 things I am grateful for when I wasn’t grateful? Actually, this scared me. I am an optimistic person. I see the good; I am creative in working through issues. I knew I needed to change my life around. For the life of me, I did not see how writing 5 things I am grateful for would change my life.

The first three weeks morning and night I wrote, “I am grateful for the sun shining” 5 times in the morning and five times in the evening. Three weeks! Man, was I in a dangerous place mentally.

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Guess what happened the fourth week. Yep, I started expanding what I was grateful for. The next thing I was grateful for “the birds are singing.” It may not sound like much, but think of it this way. In that last 3 weeks, I had never heard the birds singing.

I honestly thought that if one more thing happens I was going to run from the room screaming at the top of my lungs! The thought of a nervous breakdown literally scared me.

I hung in there. Gradually, I could identify 5 different things I was grateful for each morning and evening. What a game changer. By this time, I was walking my dog in the mornings. I woke up on a positive note, and I went to bed thinking positive thoughts.

Yes, I got a job in the tech industry. We moved! I rented a townhouse in Rancho Murieta and never looked back. My husband was here in California 3 days only and got a job! He couldn’t believe it. The tide was turning.

That simple task of writing 5 things I was grateful for in my gratitude journal, turned the tide for me. It wasn’t easy; how can something that sounds so simple make such an impact?

Oprah was my lifesaver. The gratitude journal was my entry into writing. Replacing negative thoughts with positive affirmations was just the beginning.

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