Without even reading your mind, I know the first thought that probably went through your head upon reading the title of this article: "How could 'illness' and 'blessing' possibly be used in the same sentence?"
Though "illness" commonly describes a negative situation, there are times when it does, in fact, have a positive connotation. For instance, when you are trying to create a positive outcome from a negative situation. Say the situation is living with a mental illness.
Having a chemical imbalance in your brain, particularly with neurotransmitters, is the main cause of psychiatric conditions.
So basically, mental illness is similar to a physical illness, if you think about it. There is a physical imbalance in the not-so-normal brains of people, like myself, living with mental illnesses.
Although it can, at times, be disabling, having your mind as your own worst enemy can be extremely rewarding. Look at it this way: Not everyone is blessed with a mental illness.
After struggling with Generalized Anxiety Disorder for a good portion of my 21 years, I have finally figured out the best coping mechanism. Thinking about how lucky I am to be given something not everybody experiences makes me feel best.
It might not be a new car or that engagement ring every girl dreams to have, but it is an everyday gift not everybody is given. Having a mental illness is more than a challenge -- it’s having a million blessings:
Waking up with a daily challenge
Everybody wakes up with a challenge, at the very least once in his or her life.
When you live with a mental illness, you know ahead of time that the challenge you had yesterday will be the same as today’s. This leaves you with enough time to plan for the same one tomorrow.
It’s not the challenge of waking up and going to an exam that you anticipate will kick your butt.
You get every single solitary day to face the challenge, which, even though you may be blinded to it in the moment, only makes you stronger.
Seeing the world from a completely different perspective
In the most selfless way possible, you are trapped in your own little world and everyone else is just living in it. Seeing things as a whole is much more difficult than seeing all of the parts separately.
In a crowded room, you're more likely to focus on the person who stared at you for three seconds than to realize 400 people took a glance at you.
Being a teacher without needing a degree in education
As the old saying goes, you learn by doing. Reading a book with a pen and highlighter is much more effective than just looking at word after word.
You can teach those who are uneducated on the subject about what mental illness is and what it's like to experience firsthand.
Furthermore, you are the voice of reason for those in your shoes who are too intimidated by the stigma to speak up.
Sensitivity is a defining characteristic
I went to an overnight summer camp for 10 years, almost half of my life. I cried an abnormal amount during my summers there, over both big things and small things. My camp peers gave me the nickname “head of cry.”
It was humiliating, to be honest, and I only felt comfortable around a few people who understood why I was so sensitive. Why would I want to be around people who mocked my condition rather than helped it?
I realized they couldn’t relate because they were not as sensitive as I am. If someone went through the same thing I did, I would gladly be a shoulder on which to cry.
Things that don’t faze the average person can open an entire can of worms for someone with a mental illness.
You know better than anyone what it’s like to feel lonely
There’s a difference between being alone and being lonely. Being lonely can follow you around like a shadow, no matter how many people you may be with. Even hearing, “I’m always here for you,” from your closest friends and family doesn’t help.
You are forced to learn how to combat the feeling of emptiness, which is one of the hardest challenges for anyone to face. Loneliness is a huge attribute of mental illness, which makes it easier for people like me to realize it’s a normal feeling.
Remember, not everyone is blessed every day with the challenge of the mind being his or her own worst enemy.