Now this is a very interesting question – for a number of different reasons.
I think in many ways in the past I sometimes, as I am sure others have, struggled with the idea that my mental illnesses could actually have a positive side to them.
The truth is that mental illness can (and does), in a number of different ways, impact upon the sufferer in a lot of harmful and disruptive ways.
So much so that it can (at times), I believe, be difficult to bring yourself to see or to want to accept that there are associated positives.
Additionally, I personally find that it can often be very difficult to know if some of the positives which I might associate to be as a result of my mental health are actually as a result of my mental health or if I would actually still have them even if I didn’t have any mental illnesses.
And likewise, (and I accept that this might be difficult for some people to understand) I do sometimes wonder which came first? My mental illnesses or some of the positives I sometimes attach to them.
After all, I would ask, “Is it not possible that some of my mental illnesses or poor mental health results from these positives rather than the other way around?”
And in this respect I am talking about such things as; my sensitiveness, my caring nature, my imagination and creativity, the way I see things, and even my sense of humor.
Yes I accept that I often keep those sides of me hidden and/or that they do sometimes get eclipsed by my sense of humor and the fact that often the filter in my brain fails to stop the internal dialogues from being external dialogues (oops did I say that out loud?). But I think folk who know me well will know that behind those things I can be very acutely sensitive to the needs or hurts of others and am very caring and compassionate.
But the question, “Did, for example, that acute sensitiveness, along with things I witnessed happening to others and which I experienced happening to me, somehow affect me mentally?” is, I believe a valid question.
As I have written in other posts – both within and outside of this current 30 Day challenge, I have little memory concerning my early childhood. But I do remember being a very sensitive child and extremely impacted by some things.
I really do consider, whilst it can also be a bit of a curse (so to speak) my sensitiveness to the needs, hurts, and feelings of others to be a blessing. [And this juxtaposed duality in respect of somethings is what I mentioned in yesterday’s post.]
But is it as a result of my mental illnesses and the injustices that I have experienced as someone with mental illness or would I simply be that way any way?
Likewise, I am fairly creative and do have a very vivid imagination. I write – blogs, poetry, articles and novels – I draw, I sketch, I paint and I sculpt. Again is this simply part of who I am, or did my passion for these things arise as a result of my mental illnesses and the circumstances arising from them.
I like to unwrap things rather than just taking them on face value.
And yes, here again it can be just as much a negative as it is a positive.
Especially since I tend to see patterns in things – patterns which others often don’t even notice. And also connections between things. Again connections which others don’t seem to notice. LOL I have to be very careful with this as I have all the makings of a conspiracy theory obsessive. Thankfully though, I have never gone that far.
But for example, as a Christian I love to read my bible. Something which I have done since early childhood and for as long as I can remember. But I don’t simply sit and read it. I need to delve deeply into it. To unwrap it. I love searching related scriptures and trying to truly understand the depth of what is written and the depth of God’s love for us.
I simply love the connections between the different scriptures and seeing how things written about and foretold thousands of years before came to be true hundreds and thousands of years later.
And what about that sense of humor of mine? Again is that a blessing or a bit of a curse (so to speak) and again is it resultant from my mental illnesses or some of the circumstances and events which have resulted from my mental illness. Have I developed or sharpened my sense of humor in order to help me cope with things which would, otherwise, affect me negatively?
The truth is that when I look back over my mental illnesses and the way that it has effected me over the years. Indeed when I look into the eyes of the young child I used to be, I can see so very many negatives and so very many positives.
But I can also see how so many things have both negative and positive connotations attached to them.
And this brings me very neatly to the last three positives which I would like to share in this post. These being a) strength and endurance and b) understanding and c) a whole new world.
Strength and Endurance. Having mental illnesses or even dealing with mental illnesses can be so very draining on a person and at times takes so much strength that it is virtually impossible for those who do not experience mental illness to fully comprehend or understand.
For example: Part of my mental illnesses is the depression. Depression which can be so deep and so heavy and so dark and desperate at times that I truly cannot recognize any hope for the future. The smallest of tasks, even focusing on the simplest of tasks can take so much effort. And the way in which the depressions robs you of and sucks every last bit of hope from you feeds into the suicidal thoughts which also form part of my mental illnesses.
But thanks to the grace of God, plus the support, love and commitment of people in my life, loved ones and close friends. Those who at least try to understand and who see that there is a you worth loving buried deep behind the you who cannot love or even go on living, I have survived this far. Trust me, it has been a long and difficult road and one that has brought with it a great deal of endurance. And that, I believe, has without doubt helped me to become a much stronger person.
Understanding. In my working life, in my ministry, I had the absolute honor of working – along with other client groups – with folk who suffered from poor mental health or mental illnesses. Having mental illnesses myself, gave me several insights into what they were going through. It also, of course, afforded me an empathy with them.
I also understood and understand that, along with all the hurt, all the struggles, all the hopelessness, all the chaos and confusion, and all the darkness which mental illness can often bring to a person’s life there is also a whole plethora of blessings and joys and positives.
And one of the most valued blessings, which my mental illnesses have – I don’t doubt – brought me, is the ability and tendency not to judge others. The willingness to look beyond the behaviors and attitudes that some folk seem to present and to consider that they might just have good cause to present themselves in such a way.
Seeing some of my own behaviors and indeed my own reactions to things as a result of when my mental health declines or gets bad – and let’s be honest, some of those behaviors and reactions leave a lot to be desired at times – had affording me a better understanding that sometimes we all mess up or behave badly or incorrectly.
I mentioned above, that there were three last positives when talking about the best things resultant from my mental illnesses and, having already discussed two of these, I would very much like to end on the third of these – a whole new world.
A Whole New World. Without my own mental illnesses I do wonder just how much involvement I would still have with the whole area of mental illness and mental health. Of course it could be argued that – were it not for my mental illnesses (and physical illnesses) I would possibly still be working and still in the same ministry and so would still be involved with mental health and mental illness.
But the fact remains that having my mental illnesses has, in one way or another, brought me into the world of blogging. As a result of that I have made the acquaintance of, and benefited from, learned from, been challenged and inspired by, so many wonderful bloggers and blogs.
Without doubt this has got to be one of the best things about my mental illnesses and I thank you all.