30 Days of Mental Illness Awareness – Days 15 to 18

Day 15: How has your life been effected by your illness(es)? (Some ideas are: relationships, career, school)
My life has been tremendously impacted by my illness – and although I’m grateful for everything I’ve learned from it – it’s really messed things up for me. The negative effects of my illness are so extensive that I still feel better, as if I was dealt an unfair hand and have no chance at winning, yet I’m forced to play. Many relationships have gotten royally screwed up, as dealing with a friend who has a mental illness can be quite a burden and a surprising amount of people can’t handle it. That being said, I do my best to not let myself change my opinion of people who can’t take it on, and do what I can to maintain those relationships. However, I’ve developed a thick enough skin to recognize when people are so unsupportive that it becomes toxic, and I do my best to ensure they do not hinder my ability to maintain a strong recovery. School has also been severely effected in a negative way, with my grades suffering greatly as a result of low attendance. Fortunately, due to perseverance and a wonderful network of friends who have helped me every step of the way, I was able to pass every single one of my classes – barely – but a pass is a pass. Last year, my continuation at the Sauder School of Business was threatened, as I did not receive the minimum average to continue and would have been kicked out, but upon submitting an appeal to the undergraduate office, I was given a second chance and placed on academic probation. It’s a small price to pay, but I refuse to let my dreams be unfulfilled by illnesses I have vowed to never allow to control my life. Now, I must take a moment to say that some relationships have actually been strengthened, especially with my family. I’ve also learned that there are some people in this world – very few – but some, who will surprise you in the most beautiful way possible, by exceeding all expectations and being incredibly caring and selfless, and I would like to thank them from the bottom of my heart for all their love and support through this insane and unpredictable roller coaster.

Day 16: How many people are you “out” to with your mental illness(es)? Why?
Seeing as I currently run a blog that is available for anyone to view, I post regularly about it on Facebook and Twitter, and am now the Co-President of a Mental Health Awareness Club, I’d say I’m out to everyone. However, that has only been in the past two months, and before that, the only people who knew were my closest friends – ten to fifteen at most – and my immediate family. I wasn’t ready to tell everyone about my struggles, and I was truly afraid about the judgement and stigma I would face, because I didn’t want to be seen as weak or as a failure. I did my very best to hide my illness for as long as I could, to the point that while living under my parents roof and facing severe depression, I did everything in my power to keep it from them. I soon realized that hiding was a ridiculous way to live, and since my illness isn’t my fault, why should I have to hide it? If I had any other illness I wouldn’t hesitate to be open about it, so why should this be any different? If I hid it, which would mean I was treating mental illness differently from another illness, I’d be a hypocrite that was feeding into the stigma just as much as everyone else.

Day 17: If you could get rid of your mental illness(es) would you? Why or why not?
Yes and no. I’d love to be free of mental illness; free of the shackles and restrictions that come with having such crippling illnesses. I’d love to not be afraid of days where I can’t move, and I’d love to say that I can take all my school notes on my own. I’d love to not have to feel like I need to sit on my hands to hide my tremors and I’d love to not uncontrollably sob for absolutely no reason. I’d love to not have to rely on pills to have a stable mood and I’d love to not have to suffer through irritating side effects that make me question whether medicine is actually helpful or a hindrance. I’d also love to have a ton of money and be incredibly successful, but sadly none of these things are possible at this moment in time. Despite all this, I cannot say confidently that I’d get rid of my illness. I say this because as much as I want my struggles gone, they’ve given me gifts I would not have had a chance of getting without it. Gifts? As I’ve mentioned before, I once was asked to determine why I’m lucky to have a mental illness, and it made me learn to appreciate that sometimes the best gifts in life are born out of hardship. I’ve become so much more approachable, I’ve become more understanding of other people, I’m a stronger person, and I’ve learned the value of valuing myself. These are things I never knew the importance of, and although my mental illness has slammed many doors shut in my face, it has opened twice as many, just not ones I every considered trying to open.

Day 18: What do you wish people would understand in regards to mental illness anld/or mental health?
It’s. Not. Anyone’s. Fault. This needs to be said again and again because it’s so incredibly important. If people can understand that no one is to blame, and that no one is at fault or doing something wrong, the stigma would be less of an issue. The second most important thing to understand is that mental illness, is in fact, an illness. It’s not a temporary state of mind, it’s not a cry for attention, it’s not something to be taken lightly; it’s a life-threatening illness that is not given the severity status it deserves. The other thing people need to recognize is that mental illness doesn’t just impact the person who actually has the illness, but it also impacts everyone around them – friends, family, you name it. It can be really tough for the people around, but the important thing to remember is that as hard as it is for the person who is close to the person with the illness, its exponentially harder for the person with the illness. That being said, there is an important distinction between mental health and mental illness; mental health is related to everyone, and has to do with learning to treat your mind right, and understanding what your mental state needs to stay healthy, be it time to destress or anything else that helps keep you mentally healthy. It doesn’t just pertain to not ending up with a mental illness, but it’s about being mentally fit, and able to handle the many curve balls that life has to offer.

Keep Surviving by Living.

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