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Why I Believe Mental 'Health' Is More Than the Absence of Symptoms

I believe health is more than just the absence of sickness. I believe it is more than just physical health, mental health, social health or spiritual health. For me, health is well-being. We all have “health” at some level. I live with mental health conditions. Most would say my mental health conditions are “under control.” I am able to work two jobs, have meaningful relationships and generally seem from the outside to be “functioning.”

I often hear people talk about individuals being “symptomatic” or “not symptomatic” as though these are two mutually exclusive categories. It is very rare that a day will go by when I do not have “symptoms.” My mind races, my attention jumps from topic to topic, I have tics, I get stuck on things, anxiety, obsessions and so on. I work with my symptoms and accommodate them. I refuse to allow these to hold me back.

My symptoms have given me energy, creativity and ability to think outside the box. Without my symptoms, I wouldn’t be the person I am. At times, they can also be overwhelming. My obsessions and anxiety can burn like a fire in my mind that I have no way to put out. The same thoughts. Over and over and over. Sometimes people stare at me because they can hear me say the same word under my breath repeatedly. Tic. Tic. Tic. Tic.

Does this mean I’m sick? I don’t think so. Does it mean I’m symptomatic? Maybe. Does it mean I need support? Yes. But I’m living a meaningful life anyway. My challenges do not define me nor do they confine my lifestyle. I am creating an place where I can thrive. Some days are harder than others, but I’m working with it and that’s what matters. I am healthy.

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Thinkstock photo via Ralwel.