7 Reasons I'm Absolutely Glad I Have A Mental Illness

 
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LIFE SELF-LOVE MENTAL HEALTH LGBTQ+ TRAVEL

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not exactly a breezy existence.

While my diagnoses only came in 2016, I’ve suffered from mental illness for the last seven years. I have a specific type of OCD, Pure O or Harm OCD, as well as generalised anxiety disorder and a weird thing called SPOV (specific phobia of vomiting).

There’s hauntingly dark intrusive thoughts, traumatic panic attacks, a generally anxious disposition the majority of the time and, of course, a whole web of coping mechanisms. But despite all the bad that’s come from having sub-par mental health, there are a few reasons why I’m actually grateful for it too.

 
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I Know Myself Better

What better way is there to get to know yourself inside out than really examining the intricacies of your own brain?

When you’re faced with some of your lowest points, whether in therapy or just trying to get navigate through whatever daily struggles you may have, it’s almost inevitable that you’re going to be left with a greater understanding of yourself than before.

You begin to understand what triggers you, what makes you feel better, why you react in certain ways, and where your own boundaries lie.

It's Made Me Feel Stronger

I do not think that mental illness itself made me stronger.

The fact that I survived so long without knowing about my conditions, without any help, and without giving up; you already need to be strong for that.

So it’s not that having mental illness made me stronger, but it has made me feel stronger. I recognise now the strength it’s taken to get to where I am, to a point where I can write something like this, and there’s something very empowering about that.

I’m More Compassionate Towards Others Because Of It

I think when you’ve struggled yourself, it’s almost impossible to not feel for anyone else who might be struggling too.

It’s why certain minority groups spend time with people who are part of the same group; because they all have a shared understanding of what each other are going through.

It’s one thing to sit and listen when someone needs you to, but it’s another thing altogether to whole-heartedly relate to what they are telling you.

I’ve Met So Many Different People, And Even Helped Some Of Them

I’ve actively chosen to make the topic of mental health somewhat of a focal point in a lot of the work I do.

I write about it, I’ve created photography projects about it, and videos too.

Perhaps because of this, I’ve met so many people I otherwise wouldn’t have.

From city-workers to artists, Europeans to South Americans, I’ve witnessed first-hand how mental illness doesn’t discriminate between race, or class, or gender, or sexuality.

Individually we all face our own problems. But together we can learn. Together we can heal.

I’ve been lucky that people have gotten to see my work. I’m continuously humbled every time I receive a message from someone telling me that something I’ve made has helped them in some way.

But that proves why we need to keep telling our stories, and continue to hear each other. Because there are still people who need help.

It's Made Me More Grateful

There’s no better way to make you feel more grateful for your own life than witnessing the suffering of others.

There have been many times where people have told me about their experiences with mental illness, from eating disorders to attempts to end their own lives.

These stories hit me hard, not least because they make me realise that my own problems could always have been worse.

It's Brought Me Closer To My Loved Ones

When you start questioning how to try and live a healthier life, the topic of honesty often comes up.

When you expose your whole self, not just showing up as the person people expect you to be, but actually telling people about the ins and outs of your problems, it can feel like a vulnerable position to be in.

When I started telling my loved ones about how my mental illness affects me, suddenly they understood things better. They understood my bizarre compulsions, my coping mechanisms, and even my choice to become vegetarian!

Honesty doesn’t have to equate to vulnerability. In my experience, it mostly brings people together.

I Wouldn't Be Who I Am Today Without It

I remember vividly the last line of an interview I once did with a girl who suffers from depression.

“I wouldn’t be who I am today without depression… And I love the person I am,” she said to me.

It was the first time I’d heard someone speak positively about their mental illness, and it really hit me.

It was so refreshing. If ever I had needed a reason for the years of struggling my mental illness has inflicted onto me, that was it; because it made me who I am today.

We are the walking products of everything that has happened to us in our lives, good and bad. And I like to think that there is good and bad that we can take from everything that happens to us.

That’s what this list is. A small list of good to counter the sizeable one of bad.

Mental HealthNick Arnold