PORTLAND – You hear about it at this time of year, the tradition where members of a Thanksgiving dinner party take turns around the table to share their words of gratitude.

Family, friends, good jobs, good health — they all make the list.

Perhaps the key to saying thanks demands this sort of simple inventory, a look at what makes our lives better or bearable or even possible.

For me, Thanksgiving offers a chance to look at a life filled not only with wonder but acute pain — and makes me realize that the latter, the struggle of clinical depression — gives rise to immense gratitude.

Do not be mistaken. I will never give thanks for the 12 years of depression that has shaped so many elements of life for me and my family.

I can’t be thankful for the hurt it has caused me, my husband or our kids, for the financial strains of the illness, or for the relentless tendency of the disease to undermine my feelings of self-worth over and over and over again.

Debilitating disease is awful. Depression is no different.

But as I sit here thinking of Thanksgiving, which we’ve chosen to celebrate this year with just the four of us — my husband and our two teenage daughters — I realize that the depression has given rise to gifts that have been life-changing.

Those gifts couldn’t make me more grateful.

My family: How do you express your thanks to a husband and kids who have tried with all their might to accept the brutal realities of a confusing and sometimes invisible disease?

They’re the ones who have visited me in the hospital, who can take one look and know I’m struggling, who lavish me with hugs and “I love you’s.”

They’re the ones who have worked so hard at their jobs and school, who’ve set and achieved goals, who’ve made happy and rewarding lives for themselves, for us.

Thank you, for being the best role models and boosters I could imagine.

My friends: Depression isn’t fun to be around. After all, it generates an inordinate amount of tears. It prompts isolation and robs good humor.

But my friends never stop being there. They call to ask how I am, they take me on walks and out for coffee, they tell me I’m brave.

All of these people — including the two priests who’ve guided me along the way — genuinely make me feel better. So thanks.

My providers: Yes, I sound like an insurance company, but the professionals who treat me truly are providers.

What they offer goes far and beyond what one might expect; it’s amazing and humbling.

My primary care doctor sits and listens and shares. He never acts hurried and always has a word of praise for my efforts.

My psychiatrist is equally compassionate, equally committed. He reminds me of my successes, encourages me through my struggles, and is always willing to consider new ideas, new approaches.

And then there is my counselor, the perfect word, truly, for this expert, partner, confidant and cheerleader all in one.

She works as hard as I do to battle my disease and she is helping me to discover within myself a person apart from the illness.

One other thing: All three of them smile a lot. I like that. A simple thank-you doesn’t seem sufficient.

I am grateful for things, too, for books and for music, for swimming pools and long running routes.

I am grateful for the yard full of leaves I raked three times this fall, and for our silly little dog that follows me everywhere.

But it’s these people in my life who have gotten me here, to this 12th Thanksgiving since my diagnosis, a holiday I’ll celebrate like most: with good food and good football and good family.

And all the while, I’ll remember these supporters who help me realize that despite depression’s best efforts to convince me otherwise, life itself is something to be thankful for.