When we are faced with challenges, it’s hard to believe that something positive will come out of these periods of darkness, but there is. Sometimes the most important lessons in life hide in places we would never think to look. These are 9 things mental illness has taught me about life.
1. An Authentic Life Is a Good Life.
Living with a mental illness has taught me the power of authenticity. An authentic life is a good life. When we hide our truth from other’s, it’s impossible to be satisfied. Being honest about who you are, no matter the opinion of others is the foundation for happiness. Pretending to be someone else doesn’t prevent pain, it increases it.
2. Our Mistakes and Struggles Shape Us.
I was barely 20 years old when I was taken to a mental hospital and diagnosed with bipolar disorder. At the time I thought it would ruin my life, but those experiences are what shaped me into the woman I am today. It’s our struggles and mistakes, both past and present, that shape us.
3. Smiles Can Be Deceiving.
Never assume someone is happy based on how they appear on the outside. I was up for Prom Queen in high school when the symptoms of bipolar disorder began to surface. The depression was debilitating, and I felt so disconnected from myself, but I smiled through the pain. Living with a mental illness taught me that smiles can be deceiving and that happiness is easily faked by those struggling.
4. There Is No Such Thing as Normal.
What is normal? The way one person defines “normal” differs from others. People think those who choose to be honest are insane, and others believe those who live according to the rules are nuts. There is no such thing as normal, and labels are meant for jars and handbags, not for humans.
5. The Meaning of Real Friendships.
When you live with a mental illness, you see peoples true colors, and unfortunately, some prove themselves to be disloyal. Luckily there is a silver lining. We learn the meaning of real friendships. The people who are there for us whether we are crying or laughing. Real friends add to your life, even when you are at your lowest. Do not take these friends for granted.
6. It’s Okay to Not Be Okay.
I remind myself that it’s okay to not be okay on a daily basis. The pain we endure in life is hard, and there is nothing wrong with reaching out for help when you need it. Depression has no gender, race or face. It can consume any one at any time. It takes strength to confront your emotions and acknowledge that there is a problem.
7. There Is No Such Thing as Making Plans in Life.
We are expected to follow a timeline, and map out our lives perfectly, but this mindset only sets us up for disappointment. I had plans to attend a big college, graduate in four years, work at my dream job in a big city and then meet the love of my life by age 28 after I was done traveling the world. I am 28 years old now, and I can tell you that my life did not end up as I planned, and I am so grateful it didn’t. Going to a mental hospital, and receiving a diagnosis of a mental illness were not on my list of things to do, however it taught me that there is not such thing as making plans in life. Dreams change and so does our perspective on life. Let your experiences guide you and make goals, not plans.
8. Kindness Has the Ability to Save Lives.
Every 40 seconds, one person dies by suicide somewhere around the world. An act of kindness could have potentially pulled many of these individuals away from the edge. You do not realize the impact of a kind word or action. Kindness saves lives and caring about others only enhances our quality of life.
9. Our Beauty Is Found in What Makes Us Different.
Living with a mental illness taught me that what makes you different gives you character. There is no such thing as a perfect life, body or mind. When I realized the power of embracing my bipolar mind, the part of me that was supposed to make me feel inadequate, I saw that beauty is found in what makes us different.
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