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How Mental Illness Changed My Perspective on Life at 19

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I got sick young. I’ve been mentally ill for more of my life than not. For so long I felt lost in the world, unable to hold onto the constantly changing reality into adulthood. I felt the world spinning around me and I was stuck, unable to move and thought this was the way it would always be for me.

But something clicked in the last year. I’ve become OK with my illness and it now lives alongside me, sometimes even quite a bit behind me, instead of on top of me like some sort of iron cloak. I realize now what I’ve gained from mental illness.

At 19, I have a very different perspective on life than my peers. My number one priority in everything I do is finding happiness, or some sense of feeling OK, in the least. While many around me stress about university grades, careers, friendships and relationships, those things just don’t seem to affect me because the one thing I’ve learned through years of struggle is that everything really does work out. It gets better. Somehow, it all falls into place. I know now that I’m not frozen in an ever-spinning world but instead everyone is moving through life, myself included, all at a different pace. And it’s OK. It works out.

I am in no way saying I am glad to be mentally ill. I’m not. My life would be much simpler if I could function like those around me. But I am aware of the silver linings that have come of it. I am kinder, more compassionate and know that anything that compromises my happiness is not worth my time. I know that the years of struggles I’ve been through have defined me and made me stronger and I know that I have the strength to face up to whatever life needs me to. I know how much the kindness of a stranger can impact your life forever and to never underestimate your value and influence. Kindness really does save lives and so can sharing your story. It was something that simple that saved me when I was 15.

Our pasts may be dark and they may have been hard, but they have made us blossom. I didn’t see this for a long time, and on some days I still don’t. But when I do, I see strength and bravery and power, not just in me but in every single person, and especially those with a difficult past. In darker days, draw upon this strength to celebrate your small victories and use your bravery to carry on. Because the world is a better place with strength and power and bravery, and with you and me in it.

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Originally published: January 22, 2021
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