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It’s Time to See Mental Illness From a Different Perspective

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Many think that we who live with mental illness are “crazy.” They think we’re “completely off our rockers” and are incapable of feeling or thinking anything other than our mental illness. But I’ll tell you something — most of us don’t think of ourselves as just our mental illness. There are some days, I’m sure, that we admit defeat and drown in our maddening minds, but beneath the surface — sometimes deep below — we know we are not what we feel and what we think. We are much, much more than that. The trouble comes in making the rest of the world believe it, too.

We are not just sorrowful beings who were cursed in this life to struggle with our own states of mind. In fact, there are days I don’t think of my mental illness as a curse at all. Sometimes, I’m even grateful for it. Yes, grateful.

It allows me to see inside myself, through a much more translucent mirror. What others are afraid to confront in themselves, I confront in myself on a daily basis. When others see weakness or insecurity in themselves, they often run far away from it until they can no longer feel it. But those of us with mental illness, we feel our feelings with such depth and an urgency that running away from those things is not an option because for us, the saying “wherever you go, there you are” rings truer than for most.

But being unable to run away from the very things that scare you the most in life isn’t always a bad thing. I’m sure that if those of us who live with mental illness had a choice in the matter, we would much rather live without it. But since most of us can’t, we learn to live with it. We find what works for us, eventually, and we learn to accept our mental illness as a part of us. And we begin to see, shall I say, the advantages and unique aspects of living with a mental illness.

First of all, most of us are never bored because mental illness forces you to live inside your head and see things different from the “average” person. And while living in your head can certainly lead to a problem in itself, it means your mind is constantly full of creativity and curiosity — things which are never bad. And channeled properly, it can result in some pretty interesting ways of thinking and looking at the world. As it’s been well documented, some of the most brilliant minds in history — the greatest artists, scientists and philosophers who etched their ways into the history books by challenging and changing our way of thinking — lived with, in one way or another, a form of mental illness.

Second of all, for some living with mental illness, it can create a heightened state of awareness — both of yourself and your surroundings. You see things with more clarity and feel things with a greater passion and are much more conscious of the world around you. When those of us with mental illness hurt, we tend to want to search out those who hurt as well, to know we’re not alone and to find comfort from others, which leads to a greater sense of empathy and compassion. We learn what a few simple words of encouragement can mean or how a simple act of kindness can help ease the pain. We never overlook or take for granted a small gesture of understanding.

And, those of us with mental illness sometimes have a higher appreciation and put a greater value on life because we know how quickly it can end. Many of us, sadly, have attempted suicide or have teetered on the edge of it and have come back to realize just how sacred life really is. Though we live with mental illness and suffer in its tight grasp and have seen just how dark life can get, I believe seeing the dark can often allow us to see the light. They say if you’ve never seen just how dark it can get, you can never see just how bright it can get either.

With all this being said, I’m not blind to how it can be a difficult, overwhelming and debilitating thing we are forced to live with. Some of us have found a way to coexist with our illness, some of us are still learning how, and there are those who are no longer with us because it became too much to bear. As a person who has lived with mental illness the majority of my life and understands its effects it can have, not only on the person living with it but for those loved ones who have to live with it as well, I understand that, for some, seeing mental illness from a different perspective isn’t easy. But as I’ve always believed, even the worse things that we had happened to us, through no fault of our own, have a reason for happening.

And it’s up to us to find that reason.

Photo by Kairat Murataliev on Unsplash

Originally published: February 16, 2019
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