Is there anything positive about having a mental illness?

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Is there anything positive about having a mental illness?

Having a mental illness is difficult, challenging and supremely negative in many ways.  It can cause untold stress and ruin or end lives. At first glance it doesn’t seem like there is anything positive that could be gained. When you are living with the awful reality of it, every day can seem like its suffering for sufferings sake.

I can verify from my own struggles with anxiety and depression that both have been dreadful experiences. However, during recovery periods and times of wondering what the point of it all was, I realised there were positive aspects I could take from my difficulties.

The mental health journey is one I would have preferred not to take, but in travelling this road I can’t deny I’ve learned a lot about myself. I’ve questioned everything and pulled myself apart in therapy in an attempt to understand and help myself better. Its been interesting and fascinating to learn why I am the way I am.  Depression forced me to look at everything in my life that wasn’t working and to get better, I had to make changes.

My problems put me in touch with a part of myself that maybe I wouldn’t have seen had I never struggled in this way. I’ve learnt self-awareness and I’ve begun to question my thoughts, actions and beliefs. Now I know who I am and what drives me, plus I have a wealth of experience in dealing with my demons. Without mental health issues, I may never have got to know myself so well, never made positive changes and never reached the point I’m at now of feeling I’ve evolved through a thousand lifetimes.  I’ve changed and grown to the point where I feel I’m a different person entirely. I’ve certainly had value for money out of my existence on the planet, that’s for sure!

I look around and see people who have stayed pretty much the same their entire lives and  I’m glad that I can see such a process of learning and growth in my life. In spite of the circumstances which caused the illness, I would rather be like this than be someone who never scratched the surface of their existence.

Mental illness has made me search hard for purpose and meaning in life as depression is the absence of both. In order to get through it, I had to find out what the point was, for me. To survive it, I couldn’t coast along and if I ignored these feelings, my depression was made worse.  It’s made me work hard, not only to overcome my problems but to achieve things in life. I’ve found both motivation and ambition through feeling so bad.

The worse I felt, the bigger the personal changes I made to get myself out of it. Depression made me take more risks. When you have felt so bad that you don’t want to live anymore, you don’t have anything to lose. I’ve pushed myself in the direction of all my goals because the worst-case scenario was never as bad as the feelings I’d already felt.

I also think that my problems have given me a compassion and empathy for others that I may not feel so intensely had I never struggled myself. My experiences meant I forged deep connections with others who were struggling and I now have a strong desire to help people understand and work through their difficulties. Without depression and anxiety, I may never have noticed or cared about other people’s problems to the extent that I do.  I may never have found myself in a job I love, supporting young people or found that writing this blog could help me and other people too.

I’ve also learned to live in the moment and appreciate the here and now. It’s not always easy to know when depression and anxiety will strike, how long they will last or how badly they will affect me this time around. These days, if I’m feeling good, I savour and appreciate those times and try my utmost to make the most of them.

We know that the present is all we have , but I don’t think we always hold onto each moment and make a conscious effort to notice and experience it.

I’m more able to appreciate the small moments of joy and hold onto them to remember during the bad times. Having chronic health issues also has further reinforced my ability to be completely present in every well period of my life. It has given me perspective. I don’t need a lot of money, possessions a car or fancy holidays. Today, a bright sunny day and a great piece of cake are enough to bring a smile to my face.

The fact that I’m 42 and I’ve not killed myself from depression has given me confidence to deal with anything else life might throw at me. In the midst of a bad depressive episode, I find it difficult to say anything nice about myself, but now I’m well I can see that I must be strong and determined otherwise I would never have got through it. Having anxiety in particular has given me tenacity; each minute of feeling so awful is stretched out to feel like a lifetime, so I’ve had to learn how to ride it out and develop good coping skills.

To be honest, I was concerned when I started this blog that I wouldn’t find enough positive things to mention. I’m surprised that I can see so much good in such difficult circumstances. I know there isn’t always a point to what happens in life, but I’m glad I’ve found the point of what I’ve been through.

Can anyone else see positive outcomes of having a mental illness?

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10 responses »

  1. “The fact that I’m 42 and I’ve not killed myself from depression has given me confidence to deal with anything else life might throw at me.” Wow…I have felt this way many times Laura (accept I am 37.) This is a wonderful post. I too think there are good things that come from mental illness…we evolve, grow and change as a result. Keep on fighting! I am right there with you! 🙂

    • Hi Vanessa, I’m sorry to hear that you have also struggled with depression but glad to hear you think there are positive things to come from it. Thanks for saying my post is wonderful! I will always keep on fighting and it means the world that you stopped by to let me know I’m not alone in the fight 🙂

  2. “Mental illness has made me search hard for purpose and meaning in life as depression is the absence of both.” That could be a very helpful definition.
    We can sometimes look back and find that something good has come out of a difficult or painful time in our lives. Is the secret being able to find the positive? Having suffered we are better able to help others. Sue

    • Hi Sue, I think looking for the positives can indeed be the secret to surviving what life throws at you. It’s not easy to do however and I certainly couldn’t have written this from the depths of depression. It was only after recovery I thought it would be an interesting experiment to try and find positives in the worst experiences of my life. They are there if you look for them. I agree, we are better equipped to help others if we have suffered ourselves 🙂

  3. Mental Illness has allowed me to foster so much more compassion and love for others who are struggling. My own mental illness has allowed me to reach out to others and possibly help them through their own struggles. My mental illness has given me the biggest heart I could ask for and has allowed me to see how really beautiful the good days are, even if they are few and far between.

    • Hi inconsistentlyyours, it is wonderful to hear that through your mental illness you have developed love and compassion for others. I agree, the good days can be amazing in comparison to the struggles but the icing on the cake is noticing and appreciating them as they happen. Thank you for stopping by and commenting on my blog 🙂

    • Hi OhTemp, I’m so glad to hear you have the support of an understanding and like-minded community. Finding people who understand can be a lifesaver; mental illness can be a very lonely place. Thank you reading my blog and commenting 🙂

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