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Where There Is Light in the Darkness of Mental Illness

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My anxiety and depression are like two monsters sitting on each of my shoulders, constantly bickering and disrupting my life. One wants my body kicked into overdrive and is hyperaware of every detail of every situation, while the other wants me to feel lethargic, apathetic and hopeless. Every day is a battle of feeling either too much or nothing at all. Although mental illness has been a huge hindrance in my life, I also see it as a blessing.

I’ve felt myself shatter into six million jagged pieces. I stayed broken for a long time. However, when I mustered up the strength and support to rebuild myself, I realized I embody a new identity. I am more aware and accepting of my feelings. I check in with myself more than I ever have.

Crumbling, although terrifying, allowed me to learn more about my authentic self. I now embrace things I use to be uncomfortable with, like therapy, yoga and meditation. I am more content with myself than I have ever been and feel more confident in my strength than I ever had.

I use to let all of my worries and negative thoughts pile up inside of me, shoving them away, hoping ignorance would be bliss. I lived in a constant state of terror knowing they would all come crashing down on me eventually. After years of letting this lifestyle exhaust me, I apprehensively allowed myself to be vulnerable. I noticed each time I allowed myself to release an internal anxiety to someone, it was replaced with a feeling of peace and pride.

Fast forward two years, and I am completely comfortable saying, “I’m not OK.” I’m fortunate to have a strong support network, and no longer feel shame in reaching out to the people who love me. Being comfortable with my feelings and mental illness has allowed my close relationships to become even more special.

Although I have always considered myself to be an empathetic and kind person, facing my own demons has certainly made me more aware of others’ actions and feelings. Instead of getting frustrated when someone doesn’t say hello back to me when I greet them, I think about how they, too, may be struggling with something heavy. I am filled with a sense of understanding that wasn’t always present.

I use to be apprehensive to make new connections because of my shy nature and worry that I’d be bothering someone. However, I now form bonds whenever I can. I remember when I was hanging on by a thread in the deepest valleys of my illness. A simple text could make my entire day and remind me people do care about me. My willingness to reach out to others to see how they’re doing has enhanced my life and created new and closer friendships.

I couldn’t write this article without acknowledging I am now, thankfully, in a healthier place than I once was. In my darkest hours, I never would have recognized the blessings that have come from my mental illness.

Has my life been horribly interrupted by my struggles? Of course. Have I been changed for the better by my illness? My answer is a resounding yes. If you’re not to the point of recognizing the positives that have come from your illness, don’t be discouraged. Where there is darkness, there is always light. It just takes determination, patience and willingness to see it.

Think of yourself as a rock, and your struggles as a sculptor. Your struggles will chip away at you, causing you to feel like you’re losing yourself. You will feel changed, altered and new. You may have lost pieces of yourself, but the end result is something beautiful, something unique.

You can be a beautiful sculpture. Your original structure still exists, but with a new, radiant, stronger presence. Don’t let your struggles break you. Let them be a sculptor. Let them expose the beautiful parts of you that you don’t even know exist.

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Image via Thinkstock.

Originally published: October 20, 2016
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