The 5 Reasons I'm Thankful for My Mental Illness

It’s Thanksgiving in the U.S. — the time we gather together with our loved ones and reflect on all we’re thankful in our lives. Having a mental illness is usually not something most people would be thankful for. However, I’m thankful for mine because it taught me five important things.

1. Before my diagnosis, my life consisted of work, sleep and repeat. There would be weeks where I didn’t take one day off from work. I never took the time to rest or to have fun. After being diagnosed and going through subsequent treatment, I had to quit working altogether for a long time. I had to learn how to rest, take time for myself and keep myself busy. I am back working now, but I also take vacations, use my days off and sometimes even play hooky.

2. I appreciate my family now more than ever before. Over the years of treatment with highs and lows, my family has stood by me and supported me 100 percent. I used to take them for granted and not do simple things like return phone calls or go visit them. I’ve seen other people whose family abandoned them because they could no longer cope with the person’s mental illness. I now take the time to say “I love you” and return those phone calls.

3. I’ve learned to live on less. Before my diagnosis, I thought I “had” to have that car, cell phone and dinners out. When I went on disability due to my mental illness, I realized I could no longer afford those things. I now do things such as utilize public transportation, clip coupons and make dinner at home.

4. It’s taught me to empathize with people more. Before my diagnosis, I didn’t really pay attention to how other people felt or what they might be going through. I just kind of brushed everyone off and assumed they were just fine. Now I take the time to reach out to people I know may be struggling or having a rough day, just to let them know I care.

5. My mental illness has taught me to embrace my life. My mental illness demons have driven me to suicide. By what I believe is the grace of God, I am still here on earth. Nearly losing my life has shown me I have only one chance to live my life.

Every day I embrace the moments I’m living right here and right now, as this is the only chance I’m given.

If you or someone you know needs help, please visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one thing people might not know about your experience with mental illness during the holiday season, and what would you say to teach them? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Share Your Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.

Related to Mental Health

33 Things We Won't Say We're Thankful for Out Loud

It happens at Thanksgiving dinner tables across the country — someone proposes everyone should say what they’re thankful for out loud. Maybe you got a promotion. Maybe you’re thankful your family is together or that someone’s health has improved. But what about those things we don’t say out loud? Things we’re thankful for but may not feel quite [...]

4 Things to Say to a Mom Raising a Child With a Mental Illness

Isolated. Cut-off. Forgotten. That’s how I sometimes feel as a mom raising children who have mental illnesses. Friends and family don’t know how to help, so they don’t. Here are a few easy things you can say to brighten up the day of a mom whose life has changed because of mental illness. 1. “You’re a good mom.” [...]

Kate Middleton Made a Big Statement About Children’s Mental Health

In what the media have deemed her “biggest speech as the Duchess of Cambridge” to date, Kate Middleton addressed school leaders and mental health experts at a Place2Be Headteacher Conference called “My Head is Too Full.” Place2Be is a UK-based nonprofit that provides emotional and therapeutic services in schools. Their services reach 105,000 children, addressing issues such as bullying, domestic violence, neglect and trauma. [...]

35 Tattoos That Give Us Hope for Mental Health Recovery

Because our mental health is always with us — and because tattoos can be a permanent reminder of where we’ve been and where we want to go — we asked our Mighty community to send pictures of their ink inspired by mental health challenges. If you think the tattoos are amazing, the stories behind them are [...]