It helps to look at the positives. As often as I can in this crazy challenging life I look for the lessons and then I share them with others. (That should be my blog tagline!) Living with mental illness is a result of some incredibly dark times in my distant past, although distant they are very much still a part of my every day. Mental illness does not just go away, taking a tablet doesn’t cure it, and sometimes no matter how many things you try to ‘manage’ it, it simply just becomes a part of life forever more.
In my case, for those who are not familiar with my story, mental illness includes depression, anxiety, PTSD and panic disorder. I was 16 when my 36 year old Mother had a horrific car accident. She never really recovered from the most traumatic brain injury you can imagine. 5 years after the accident she was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer and went on to live with that for another 6 years. 11 years of unimaginable pain, for her and our family, until she died in the year 2000.
Most humans would walk away from this with scars. In the year 2000 when the cancer took her from us it was only then that our scars began to show. They had been there from the moment she suffered the brain injury, we went into survival mode and we were not looked after as her Carers. I spent 11 years in a haze of denial, addiction, substance abuse and self loathing. Thankfully a lot more now exists to care for the Carers.
Looking back on the years of living with mental illness, I can finally see the brighter side (most days) and the life lessons. It has taken a lot of reflection, hurt, discovery and hard work, the greatest life lessons usually do involve at least one of these things though!
10 Lessons Learned from Living with Mental Illness:
♡ More people than you realise are struggling
So many are hurting, at various stages of their own darkness and mental illness. The more we talk, the more light shines where it is needed most.
♡ Kindness matters
Kindness is an essential part of living with mental illness, for those of us in the thick of it it literally changes the way we see things.
♡ It is better to say something than nothing at all
Please don’t ignore us when we are in our darkness. Send a text, write a note, leave a message. Please say something.
♡ It’s not a sign of weakness to ask for help
It has taken me a very long time to find this lesson. The resilience of needing to step into a seriously adult caring role at the age of 16 thrust me into a fiercely independant place. Contemplating suicide and deciding that I truly wanted to survive was the point for me when I realised I needed help.
♡ We are all responsible for removing the stigma
Mental illness is not a dirty word. We need to treat mental illness the same way we treat physical illness, it is that simple.
♡ The workplace should be a safe place for those living with mental illness
I have experienced discrimination, confusion, unfair treatment and judgement in the workplace due to my mental illness. I have also experienced unconditional love, generous support and complete acceptance. All work places need mental health strategies in place to support their workforce compassionately.
♡ Your children are like sponges
My little man is a direct reflection of my ability to manage my mental illness. He can sense my bad days, he cries for me and with me, he is changed through me and I do my best every day to remember this.
♡ Medication has a role to play for some
Medication has a place in the treatment of mental illness, I honestly believe that. Everyone is different though, and only a medical professional has the ability to advise you on treatment. Medication is not weakness.
♡ It is possible to live a good life
If I can survive, so can you. If I can find the light, trust in the lessons and make it through the darkest days, so can you.
♡ The more people who share the better
There is no such thing as over sharing in regards to mental illness. The more of us telling our stories the better.
Do you or someone you love live with mental illness?