Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Life with Mental Illness

I read an interesting article today by a woman with bipolar:

Mental illness does not mean your life is over

Johnson writes this:

"My road has not been easy. But if asked whether I would take away the illness at the expense of the lessons learned, I would have to say no.
"I would choose to be hospitalized yet another time. I would deal with the self-harm, drug and alcohol abuse, shame and fear because it has made me who I am. I still live with these challenges daily."

I think that is an admirable position to take, but it doesn't fit everyone. It certainly doesn't fit me. I live with incurable mental illness that has impacted my quality of life since I was 12 years old. Would I choose to be hospitalized? Self-harm? Overdose? All for the sake of learning a lesson? Absolutely, unequivocally, no. I would give up my illness in a heartbeat. In a nanosecond. When I think of all the time that has been spent crying, miserable, wishing I were dead...why would I choose to go through that, if I had the choice? Why would I put my parents through that, since they are the ones who sit in the hospital waiting room, who foot the medical and therapy bills, who cry whenever I cry? Why would I choose to do that to them? Why would anyone even suggest that?
I can accept that I have a mental illness, and that I will always have one. I can accept that it has shaped who I am, and that I am a different person than I would have been without it. I am more compassionate and tolerant and humble. I am also more fearful and impatient and angry. I am less open-minded. I am less entitled. Sometimes, I am less myself. I can accept all this, and I can still live a full and happy and productive life, but I can also say that I didn't want it to be like this. I can still wish things had been different. I can still believe that I would have been a good and strong and fulfilled person without having gone through this struggle. Without being sick. And I do believe that.
I understand what she means. And her perspective is an empowering one. And she is absolutely right that a mental health diagnosis is not a death sentence. But it is not something anyone would choose. And her words do not match my experiences in the slightest.

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