Mar 6, 2018
This content contains explicit and sensitive information that may not be suitable for all ages.
Make no mistake; living with a mental illness can be downright hellish.
However, in order to try stay somewhat stable, I find it helpful to remind myself of the good stuff that came along with a devastating diagnosis. I can hear you now, saying “yeah right!” – but hear me out.
The times where you can set into motion plans for recovery
First off, there’s the dreaded therapy. It can be like pulling teeth sometimes, I know. But with that hard work comes the breakthroughs. Those “ah-ha” moments, where you can start to connect your thoughts, feelings and behaviours and make sense of why you do the things you do. The times where you can set into motion plans for recovery (however scary that may be). It makes it worthwhile.
Next, there’s the part about finding humour in it. When I was in the psych ward of the hospital, someone thought it was a good idea to put in an old movie, “One Who Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” – a film about patients in a mental institution. What can you do other than laugh at a situation like that?
Furthermore, if you’ve had the dastardly experience of living with a mental illness you’ve likely had to try and navigate through the muddy waters that is our mental health system. Sometimes the most stigma we can encounter is through the “professionals” that are supposed to be helping us. The nurses that roll their eyes at another “nutjob” getting a hospital bed or the therapists that dismiss our concerns as not being “that bad.”
Been there, done that.
I took the rage that originated from the injustice of stigma and channeled it.
In fact, I’ve been there and done that so many times that I became motivated to change that very system. I went to school for social work and did my practicum at a mental health organization. I became employed by that organization for a period too. I wrote policy proposals for political parties. I created a designated position on my student union council for students with disabilities (including mental illness). I helped plan my university’s first mental wellness week. I took the rage that originated from the injustice of stigma and channeled it into great things.
What I’m most grateful for are the relationships that have originated and blossomed because of my mental illness. This includes finding a best friend with the same diagnosis as me. What started as a twitter follower became a lifelong friend. The most pivotal moment we shared in the beginning of our friendship came when we were carpooling to an event together. We were trying to explain to our other friends in the vehicle what living with a mental illness was really like. As we shared our experiences, we found that a lot of them were the same. “You too?!” we exclaimed. Over those few hours we laughed and we cried and we realized that this connection was unique to us.
We realized that this connection was unique to us.
To this day, despite living across the country from each other, I know I can call her up day or night to talk about anything – especially our experiences living with a mental illness. Had I not been diagnosed with such a disease I would never have had that experience with my best friend.
So while I often find it cheesy to say things like “count your blessings” or “it gets better” – I realize that they truly can have meaning. The next time you’re having a good day, write it down! What made it good? Is it something that you can look back on later when that darkness returns? Chances are, it is.