What Giving Tuesday Means To Me

Today is Giving Tuesday! And with it, I thought I'd tell a little story. If you asked my 15-year-old self to tell this story, or even my 25-year-old self to tell this story, that girl would look at you with a squinted brow and a raised eyebrow. Telling my story took time, and telling it today, on Giving Tuesday, will (I hope) allow you to see just how important this day is to me.,.

After being diagnosed with a rare, incurable health condition, I spent a lot of time in denial, not thinking about it or what it meant for my future. But that didn't mean I was "present". In fact, it meant the opposite. It meant I was always thinking about or making up some other problem to have. It meant the kind of anxiety where I'd frequently take NyQuil just to get out of my own head for a couple hours. I lived this way for many years...

Fast forward about 10 of those years, and I started to feel like I needed to get my sh*t together. By now, I'd become sick in other ways. I had serious gastrointestinal issues that I thought were just something else wrong with me, but really were a product of my chronic stress. Doctors kept prescribing me medicines I didn't want. I couldn't keep seeing life through a negative, stress-clouded lens. Something deep down inside of me (I'll call it my soul) knew that life was a gift and not as difficult as I was making it.

But when I started to seek help and camaraderie, I went to a support group with thousands of people who have my same condition. I read about people who were not much older than me and totally blind. I cried. Some time passed and I tried to give it another go. I read a lengthy argument about "who has it worse". I cried. The negative energy was not only palpable, but it visibly spread like a contagion. It made my stomach hurt. I left the group.

But the support group dynamic I had witnessed never stopped bugging me. It was obvious that people living with diseases (like mine or any other) have a lot of stress. It's also obvious that stress makes us physically ill. I got really upset thinking about how sick people were making themselves sicker by placing themselves in a negative environment like that. What's worse is when I started to think about how many people's home lives are stressful, negative environments...

Fast forward again and my friend Nell and I decided to make a group that wasn't stressful, that wasn't negative, but was still for people with illnesses to gather and talk about what's going on for them. While these other groups focused on WHAT you have, we started to focus on WHO you are beyond it.

That group grew and we found out there were lots of people interested in having this conversation of learning more about how to lead a more mindful, healthy, happy life with disease or disability. There's no denying it is stressful to manage a medical condition – your own or someone else's – but there's also not much you can do about having it. What you CAN do is change the way you see it and respond to it.

In a nutshell, that is Beyond My Battle, and today is the BEST day of the year to help us continue to spread this message.

Your gift will help us develop resources that educate individuals and their families on how to manage their emotional stress and move beyond the sadness, fear, loneliness, and frustration. These resources are accessible to anyone, anywhere, because often when you're living with an illness or disability you can't easily go somewhere to receive help. Our tools, essentially, come to you.

Any dollar amount helps us continue to build and deliver our offerings. I know that I personally spend probably $25 each week on mindless food or drink, and I also know that today I'LL be taking $25 of my own money and giving it to a charity I care about. This is the true gift of being human – to help one another.

You can click here to make a quick, secure donation online. Thank you so much.

Martel Catalano