Healthy Living

The ABCs of Gratitude: Reflections of a Multiple Sclerosis Warrior

Sometimes, it can be difficult to be grateful. Instead, it’s easier to get bogged down by the negatives, and ignore that there are still beautiful positives in life. It is especially easy for this to occur when chronic health issues are in the picture, but Teresa Wright-Johnson decided she would find a way to remain thankful.

Teresa's story

Teresa is both a multiple sclerosis warrior and a congenital heart disease survivor.

When she was born, she had a heart murmur and an aortic valve defect. As a result, she has been through many open heart surgeries and cardiac procedures. However, she fought through.

In 2014, she was diagnosed with MS. While this was initially difficult for her, she is under excellent care, and has seen her struggles as a calling.

With her health struggles, and her background in criminal justice and social services being a retired senior parole officer, she believes that she was put on Earth to empower others, and show them just how much they can achieve despite their struggles, just as she has.

She actively dedicates herself to community service, and is active within many organizations, including Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc.

She fully recognizes how dark life can be sometimes, and she wants to be a light to those who cannot find their way out. Not only does she do so by her acts of community service, but through her writing, poetry, and speaking.

Teresa's alphabet

Teresa decided to take the time to write down her "ABCs of Gratitude" to look to whenever she was feeling down, so she could always remember her goals and why she has a reason to persevere. They actively help her through her lowest times, and encourage her to find the way out of the difficult times.

She points out that gratitude is not always easy, but is a difficult exercise that takes time to master.

Appreciate your life. I realize that I have only one life. I have to live this one as best I can.

Be Encouraged. Whenever I think about how difficult life is, I remember that I was born to survive.

Care for yourself first. This is self-explanatory. I am the keeper of my mind, body and soul.

Diamonds never lose their value. Illness will never diminish my intrinsic value. I will always be Teresa. MS and chronic illness does not define me.

Expect great things. Regardless of what happens in my life, I have great expectations.

Faith is more powerful than fear. I accept that I will experience fear at times. I am human. However, I believe that my faith outweighs my fear and it makes me stronger.

Grace is sufficient for me. I am neither perfect nor infallible. I am a work in progress who has been given the gift of life.

Have hope. Hope gives me the strength to endure and it is eternal.

Intentional living is a must. I am here on purpose for a purpose. Thus, I live with intensity and intention.

Just one act of kindness can brighten someone's day. I remember that a smile or an encouraging word can go a long way. I aspire to be the person who leaves someone with a smile.

Keep going. No matter how long the road or how heavy the load, I will not stop. I speak these words into my spirit every day.

Love conquers. Every time. Every day. Every instance. I choose love.

Make each moment count. No matter what, I try to do my best. I realize I will never have this moment again.

Never compare yourself to another. I am an individual, unique in design. To liken myself to anyone is self-defeating and emotionally depleting.

Optimism is golden. A positive attitude is good for the mind, body, and soul.

Peace is prosperity and its benefits are immeasurable. I am inclined to make better decisions when I am in a peaceful state. I also [believe] that protecting my peace entails withdrawing from people and circumstances that compromise it.

Quality outweighs quantity. I was once fixated on the number of years I'd live to see. Death was a recurring theme. I recognize that my preoccupation with dying was preventing me from fully living Today, those thoughts may visit at times, but they pass. What is of utmost importance is the manner in which I live and what I accomplish with the time I have now. My life is about legacy.

Realize that you are born to thrive. My gifts and talents are exclusively for me. I am obligated to use them appropriately. I will prosper through pain, illness, and adversity.

See the possibilities instead of the problems. When self-pity arrives to count my woes, I consider and chronicle the defeats. Problems are inexorable. At times a winning attitude is essential.

Take all the time you need. I am entitled to feel, grieve, and experience life on my terms. No one gets to decide that for me.

Understand the process. There were conditions in my life that ventured to void me of everything I believed to be true. Challenges that jeopardized my physical, spiritual, and mental health. My spirit has confirmed that these obstacles were allowed. They are part of my process, and eventually I will reap the rewards of labor that exceeds human comprehension. I am living with authenticity, compassion, and purpose. Through the process, my vision has been realized.

Value your loved ones. I would not be who I am today without the love and encouragement of a strong support system. I am immeasurably grateful for those in my life who are uplifting an supportive.

When needed, ask for help. I ascertained that I am not an island and there are times when I need assistance. Illness at times causes me to question my independence. I struggle with pride and a strong will. I am discovering that pride has its place, yet so does vulnerability and the discernment to recognize when help is needed.

XOXO unsparingly. A little reach here, yet the sentiment is genuine. Neither I or my loved ones will live forever. My time with them is precious and I want our memories filled with hugs and kisses galore.

You are worthy. I am worthy of love and respect. I am worthy of the freedom to live without discrimination based on my race, health, gender, or religion. My value does not come from the opinions of others; it comes from deep within.

Zealously live your truth. I am bold and empowered. My story is copy written and my life is trademarked. No one else can live or speak my truth. I will continue to share without fear or condemnation.

Next time you are feeling down, you may want to look back to Teresa's alphabet, or even create your own. Teresa's new alphabet can be an inspiration to everyone, regardless of whether or not they have multiple sclerosis. It creates a framework to focus on the good on your life, and to spread it to others.

What is your favorite letter in Teresa's alphabet? If you were to make your own, what would yours be?