We hear so much about the negative side of having a mental illness, all of the stuff that can go wrong, the medication changes, the medication side effects, the lack of understanding, etc. Sure, that’s all part of it, but there’s so much more to it. Just as we are NOT our illness, these negative parts are NOT the whole of the illness either. There is so much good that can be accomplished as a result of having a mental illness…here are just a few.
1. Life is NEVER boring! There is always something going on (be it bad or good). It makes for an interesting life.
2. It can open doors you never thought existed. For example, I have been given many opportunities to help shape national and local legislation that have greatly benefited mental health care and mental health education. This would not have been possible were not for my lived experience with mental illness.
3. There is an increased capacity/ability (even responsibility) to help others. Through sharing my story, starting support groups, and even writing this blog. I am able to help others. That knowledge of not being alone in your mental illness is huge.
4. It can enhance your creativity. I never thought of myself as particularly creative, but it has been brought to my attention that I am. I create stained and fused glass pieces, do photography, and write, all of which take some degree of creativity. I am currently working on a stained glass depiction of Bipolar Disorder. When it’s done, I’ll post it to see what you think.
5. We have a very different outlook on the world. I know people may see different as a negative thing, but I don’t. It is our way of thinking and seeing things that can bring about change. Change can be good.
6. You find out who your true friends are. You may lose a few friends or many along this journey. Those that leave are not bad/weak people. They just knew they may not have been able to handle it and be the support that you needed. The ones that remain are the ones worth keeping. Their bond is stronger than steel.
7. Once you’ve become more familiar with your illness, you don’t have to be enslaved by it. You can build on your strengths…knowledge is power. For instance, I have been able to use my education background to work with at-risk youth (elementary – high school) in my local school districts. Since I can empathize with these students, I am able to help them achieve academic goals. I’m also able to help them cope with what they are going through. As many teachers will tell you, we’re not just teachers. We are counselors, friends, sudo-parents, the list goes on and on.
8. It can strengthen a family. It does not have to be a death sentence to the family unit. I know this is not always the case. For me, it was very touch and go in the beginning for my family before education and understanding kicked in. It was extremely difficult (to say the least) at times. In the end, what has come out of it is an incredible family bond. They may still not fully understand everything that I go through, but they don’t have to. They love and support me. That is all I need.
9. It doesn’t have to be a disability that prevents you from doing what you love or have to do. In my case, I am a credentialed teacher. I know that being in a classroom of 30-40 students is just too overwhelming for me. So, the classroom isn’t for me, but that doesn’t mean I can’t work in education. I have been working with my local districts as a Home Hospital Tutor for those students that can’t go on campus due to illness or are not allowed on campus. It’s one on one teaching. It presents it’s own challenges, but I’m still in the field of teaching. Find your strengths and make them work for you.
10. What is your #10 good thing about having a mental illness? I would like to hear it from you.