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12 Surprising Things You'll Learn Living With a Mental Illness

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The journey of mental illness recovery is difficult, rewarding and often a little strange. Recovery can take many forms depending on each individual and their challenges, but it is never too late for anyone to start the journey.

Along the road, people often learn some surprising things about themselves and others. Whether it’s a social view you never knew existed or an inner strength you didn’t know you had, mental illness never stops throwing curve balls. To learn more about the surprising aspects of mental illness and recovery, we asked our mental health community what surprising lessons they learned from living with a mental illness.

Here’s what they had to say:

1. “I’m surprised by how mentally strong I actually am. My journey with mental illness has presented me with many obstacles, all of which I’ve overcome.” — Madelyn H.

2. “How many other people are like me. I mean, humans all have their quirks, but I attract a special brand of quirky people who live with a variety of different mental illnesses. My three best friends all live with depression to varying degrees, one of my besties wants us to coordinate a ‘Manic Painting Party’ when we are both in manic states.” — Emily D.

3. “I’m surprised at the stigma of borderline personality disorder (BPD) when it comes to health care professionals. The treatment received when you have BPD is not always great because a lot of doctors think you are just attention-seeking.” — Nicole B.

4. “Even in my weakest moments, I find I can make it to tomorrow.” — Jeffrey M.

5. “I’ve been surprised about how much animals help. My dogs unconditionally love me without judgment, and always help me through a panic attack.” — Erin W.

6. “I’m surprised how much I’m interested in educating others about mental illness and removing the stigma involved with it — as well as how much more understanding it has made me to toward others.” — Trent T.

7. “How we seem to find each other so frequently. ‘Neurotypical’ people will tell me they hardly ever meet people with mental illnesses, but I find I’m always running into them!” — Rebekah W.

8. “The range of emotions that come with it. I’m usually not a angry person — but as things have taken an even tighter grip on me, the amount of anger has been overwhelming and very unexpected. Trying to control all these emotions at once is beyond exhausting.” — Stacey T.

9. “It has made me a better person in a way. I am less judgmental and extremely empathetic. I try to be kind because you never know what someone may be suffering on the inside.” — Heather T.

10. “After finally being open about my bipolar I realize more people are willing to learn about the illness and accept me. It also makes me more open minded to what others may be going through.” — Kimberly D.

11. “I’m surprised at how resilient I am. I experience audio and visual hallucinations and yet, I am able to talk myself down and realize it’s not real and I’m OK.” — Tricia B.

12. “The number of people who think reaching out when they need help is a weakness — it’s not. Sometimes, asking for help is the most courageous thing you can do.” — Selena W.

Originally published: July 12, 2016
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