I am quite open about my mental illness because I want to show people that it is not something they should feel shame about. One of my life’s missions is to advocate for the support of those who deal with any mental illness and try to assist in bringing about a change in how society views it, though that is not something that can happen overnight.

I started this blog discussing my mental disorder, namely as a way to spread awareness. I said I was going to write about more than that, so I started another WordPress blog and Twitter page War of the Brain where I focus primarily on the issues concerning mental illness in my life and in general. I would encourage anyone who is interested to follow those as well.

Anyway, I did want to talk about something this week that relates to my experiences with mental illness and that is a little bit of what it has taught me.

I have learned a lot through battling psychosis, depression, and anxiety, and much of it has benefitted me in many ways. I feel as though it has given me a perspective on life that I would never have gained without going through the tribulations of the disorder. As terrible as it is to suffer episodes, and however much I wish I never had it, I have come to embrace the fact that I have to learn how to live with it as best as I can.

So, instead of focusing on how it has been a grueling challenge that has inhibited my life, and continues to do so in many ways, I have decided to focus on doing my best to move forward. So here are a few things I have learned.

I’ve gained a sense of empathy and sympathy I wouldn’t have otherwise

Having gone through difficult times in my mind, I have been able to find compassion for those who are hurting. I can tell pieces of my own story to someone dealing with issues from suicidal thoughts to anxiety, and I can show them that I too am on a road littered with boulders and walls that I have to climb over to keep going. It slows me down, but it won’t stop me, and I can help encourage others to do the same.

I’ve learned a great deal about psychology

Since I was diagnosed, I have embarked on a journey to learn as much about psychology as I could. I know a decent amount about mental illness and how it works, and my understanding of the brain and its properties has expanded.

I can relate to more of the issues that people struggle with

Like I said I have more compassion, but I also have a greater capacity to understand many different struggles as well, being able to relate to others who may deal with things that are different than my own demons. By relating to others, I have been encouraged to come out of isolation and I have made amazing friends.

My creativity has exploded because I can think in ways that are different than most people

One thing I deal with is ‘highs and lows.’ During the lows it is true that my productivity slows. But when the low parts pass, my mind wakes up again and my ability to think outside the box is tremendous. I have times of optimism where I am highly productive and my output of ideas encourages me to keep going.

I’ve had to overcome obstacles that have boosted my self-esteem

Having had to push through episodes, I have more confidence when I am able to do things that I didn’t think I could do, such as tutor college students and play in an orchestra. I also play the piano for a church every Sunday and I used to be the keyboardist for a worship team, which were hard at first, but then became some of my greatest joys. Overcoming the anxiety pushes me a little further.

I’m much slower to judge people for their struggles

I’ve learned that we all have our battles and it is never okay to judge or assume things about people, even if I don’t fully understand. Certainly I still have this problem now and then like everyone else, but I am much more reluctant to do so than I was when I was a younger, and I am a lot more open-minded.

I’m much more willing to listen than criticize

I find myself being able to listen and seek to understand when other people are talking about their battles. I refrain from trying to criticize people and though I’m honest about things, I am not going to jump on other people’s struggles with harsh words of insensitivity.

I can see the world in more colors than before

Due to an expansion of my knowledge and compassion, I see people and the world in a new way, which has contributed to my perspective on the world. It has improved my understanding of human nature, and my perception of events and life in general has become more colorful.

Mental illness still has significant stigma, but it is nothing to be ashamed of. Millions of people deal with health issues of the mind and it is important that we treat them as human beings. Most are non-violent, though the media highlights the cases where they might be; but they are not as common as some people assume.

I have to find my way in life, and the road might look different than those of other people, but I am not going to hide it for the sake of wanting everyone to think I’m “normal.” The truth is, being honest about it can show your emotional maturity – being able to recognize your struggles and learn how to cope with it.