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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Sunday 14 April 2013

Is it Possible to View Mental Illness Positively? (Natalie Jeanne Champagne)

You can't live life from the margins, looking in.  That's why they call it lived experience.
This topic came to me at a rather ridiculous time—though this is often the case and I am usually somewhere without a pen!—when putting on mascara. Ah, yes. The best ideas plant themselves in my often scattered brain when I am doing anything other than wondering what I might write about.
That being said, with mascara wand in hand, I ran into my office, grabbed a pen, and scribbled it down. And then I thought: “Can we actually view our mental illness positively?” At this moment, as I write these words, I have no idea. But I want to give it a shot. After all, what’s the worst that could happen (cue somber music)?

Connecting Mental Illness to Positivity

OK. I like things organized. My damn closet is color coordinated and separated by season. If I am really bored, or anxious, by the length of each shirt. I have a closet relegated to pants. Which I also hang. Perhaps I should write a post on being exceedingly anal? That aside, this is why I like lists: they make tough subjects easier to first break down and second digest. They remind me of my closet: simple enough to avoid being overly complicated.
A few examples which I hope will connect to our mental health/illness and positivity:
  • When we are first diagnosed we suddenly have to focus primarily on our health; physical and mental health. We practice self-care and, in doing so, learn about ourselves. It is a time that allows us, as we work toward recovery, to get to know ourselves. That is positive! Right? Right!
  • We learn to embrace change. Or, to be honest here, we don’t have much of a choice. The diagnosis of mental illness forces change upon us and in doing so we learn to adapt to life.
  • We understand empathy on a deeper level—the ability to put oneself in another’s shoes. Pain is part of recovering from mental illness and, having experienced this, we are often more understanding of other people. We know that life isn’t always fair and everyone needs a helping hand. Sorry for the cliche.
  • We learn to trust. It can be hard letting people into your life but once we do, once we learn to trust, our relationships are enhanced. In turn, our ability to communicate with people.
  • We appreciate life on a different level. When you have fallen so far from grace and climbed your way back into life, life itself means more. Waking up and feeling okay, like you can get through each day, is now special. We value life more.
  • We have perspective! Perspective is an invaluable tool that allows us to think about things, about our recovery, in a new way.
Reading this over, I sort of smile. We can find things that are positive when connected to mental illness, and I think that in doing so we can recover in a more positive way.
Maybe it’s worth it to take a few minutes, reflect on life, and ask yourself the question: “What has been a positive change in my life after the diagnosis?” It’s worth a shot. Reflecting on life is positive in itself.

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