I have been putting the final touches on a book I am writing, “Bipolar Disorder My Biggest Competitor.” It has made me look deeply into myself as a character in a story. It is the strangest thing reading about this character and knowing it is me. But this experience has had a profound impact on how I see myself–sometimes victim, sometimes hero, and yes sometimes villain. But always strong.
If you live with a mental illness you know exactly what I am talking about. The times when you lie in bed feeling miserable and wish the depression would stop haunting you. And then you do it–you make yourself get up and get out among the living. In that moment you beat it. You won.
How about the times when you thought you might never get well again, but kept battling and recovered? Even in those darkest moments you found the beacon of hope glaring through the fog.
Then there are those times when you get “the look” from other people who know you live with a mental illness. It strikes the chord of paranoia and you wonder, “What is she thinking about me?” But you coach yourself through it and tell yourself, “It is okay. I really don’t know what she was thinking.” You overcome the negative thoughts. You beat “the look.”
What about those days when the trusted family member makes a joke about your mental health? You feel horrible but can’t get any compassion from the people closest to you. But you hang in there and keep fighting. You hope tomorrow will be better.
Believing mental illness makes you strong is opposite of what people have told us about it. Remember every battle you have had to fight, every bit of shame and guilt you have faced head on, and every medication you have to take just to feel somewhat “normal,” these are the things that make you strong. Stronger than you may think you are.