I grew up in self-preservation mode. I was closed off, shut down, and mostly withdrawn because as long as I maintained those ways about me I was much less likely to get hurt. It caused me to be very un-self-aware. I would just kind of do and say and act with no real regard for anyone else because the only one I knew how to think about was myself given that I was always in protect & defend mode. It was a very superficial, surface of life existence.

Underneath there was some sort of light, a heart, a spirit that lived muted underneath all these layers of armor and pain. The innocent, happy, and full of love little girl who was crying, screaming, begging, clawing to get out, to be seen and heard, to shine as she was meant to. Little did I know that the fight for my life through mental illness was also the fight for my spirit, for the being I was truly meant to be and the life I was meant to have.

Looking back on the literal hell mental illness dragged me through by the hair, your think I’d wish that my life had gone differently. I don’t. It might sound backwards but that battle has taught me so much. Its given me so much. It’s made me who I am today. It’s given me purpose. It’s why I’m here writing now, trying to build this project and give you hope. I found my life’s purpose thanks to mental illness. 

The biggest, most important lesson it gave me was that the fact is, I’m incredibly deep. Not in a new age, self involved way, I just run deep as a living being. I had no idea! I dont know how else to put it and I don’t know any other way. It’s a high maintainance temperament but it’s who I truly am at my core and it took me most of my life to uncover and understand it. Deeply empathetic, passionate, free spirited, energetic, loving. I don’t wear it all on my sleeve either, I wear my heart on my face, on my entire being. I’m a terrible liar and actor so I’m hard pressed to try and hide it, therefore I accept it. It’s opened up a whole new reality for me that has given me so much.

What it also means is that I feel pain, sadness, and heartbreak that much deeper. But I’ve known deep dark days, feeling all of the aforementioned so strongly and deeply I’d lie in bed for hours or days and wish over and over that I could just get up an walk away from my body, mind, and emotions. They were really doing me a disservice and it felt so helpless. But somehow I knew it wasn’t ME, it was just my humanness that was severely malfunctioning which meant there HAD to be some light at the end of the tunnel. Except that tunnel was essentially located at the center of the earth and I was going to have to dig my way there with a spoon and then swim through magma to even reach the pain and begin the excavation process, building this tunnel to the light. Alone. Eventually it became a challenge that I’d unwillfully committed to but knew that if I chose not to, I wouldn’t just lose a challenge, I’d lose my life.

In spite of all the emotional turmoil I tried my hardest to intellectualize mental illness and it’s place in my life which helped me to understand the concept of illness not truly being a part of who I am at my core, but just a condition of my humanness. That helped me begin to dissociate from the pain, anger, guilt, sadness, what I called ‘my demons’. It was a rough process laden with two steps forward and one step back. Demons don’t want to let go, they’re too busy working tightly allied with our ego to take over our minds and emotions, thereby exploiting our innate human fragility and making us sick, destroying our lives. It’s a confederation of mind-f*ck, and it’s as real as the sun rising every day. I was just too determined toward that light to give up on myself at this point.

Now here I am today having made it through the trenches to the other side. I still battle, almost daily. Life isn’t easy for me, I still have a disease. But I’ve also got all these incredible lessons from my journey that help me every single day. Tools and attributes I used to be totally devoid of. So when I look at it that way, I’m actually able to (mostly) see my illness as having given me all these gifts that I can use to make mine and others’ lives better.

Mental illness has taught me:

  • Grit (courage, bravery, spirit, strength of will, fortitude, resolve, determination, tenacity, perseverance, endurance)
  • Compassion
  • Empathy
  • Nonjudgement
  • Love
  • Acceptance
  • Gratitude
  • Depth
  • Truth
  • Authenticity
  • Self reliance
  • Strength
  • Open-mindedness
  • Spirituality
  • Connection
  • Discernment
  • Decision-making
  • Adaptability
  • Faith (non-religious)
  • Kindness
  • Humanity
  • Problem-solving
  • Forgiveness
  • Clarity

And I have to credit ADHD with keeping me consistently entertained. All that said, it’s given me a whole new perspective on my illness and how I can use it for good. So once I accepted it and learned from it, it was kind of hard for me to look that gift horse in the mouth. Even at the times I’ve wanted nothing more than to take a sledgehammer to that gift horse’s face, I’m forced to stop and look around me, look within and recognize all that I’ve been given on my journey through mental illness.

Peace, love, and wellness.

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