A bottle of water and a little tin of granola and chocolate in hand, I am now ready to tackle the week an hour before class starts. I decided to kickoff this week’s blogging with a positive theme: how I became a better and stronger person in the process of coping with my mental illness.
This blog post is not saying mental illness in general makes people better, so it is not a real concern, This blog post is also not saying you should do all of these things my parents did so your children can be “adjusted” like me. This blog post is only saying, we are where we are due to our past, and it is possible to be proud of your past, even if your past was not the most painless and smoothest past. People always learn from their financial failures and even health issues, but you rarely hear people say that they are learning from their mental illness. The truth is, my battle with mental illness shaped me into the person I love and respect today, and there is always something to be learnt from every unfortunate situation.
It made me more community-oriented and empathetic.
I grew up in a conservative and racist household with a dog-eat-dog type of way to seeing the world. Due to childhood neglect and C-PTSD, I always had thoughts like: who would care for me if I just escape and become homeless? Who would be there for me? Would I need to go into prostitution to pay for school? Who in the world cares about how I feel? If it was not for suicide hotlines, I will most certainly not be here today, and because of that, I have a deep connection with every community I lived in and the world. I have always felt like my existance is a miracle, and it is a group effort. I am here today because the world is abundant, and it is filled with love.
I now appreciate volunteering at teen homeless shelters, and I enjoy sharing my experience growing up with teenagers there who are struggling with mental illness. Growing up in a middle-class family, I would otherwise not have the opportunity to taste pain and experience that sense of lost. I would also not feel the need to seek out purpose in life besides just thriving on my own, and I just know I would be someone who cares about nothing else but Lululemon post-Christmas sale. (not that I don’t now, just not my whole focus in life.) Because of my mental illness, I always try to answer the question who would be there for that person, because someone was once there for me, and I want to live for something bigger than myself. I have greater goals in life because of my past experience of being raised by the love of the world, instead of two specific individuals. My childhood made me feel like I don’t have the usual obligations in life, like have to have a child, or have to be super wealthy. I realized that life is choosing your own destiny, and my past has lead me to a place that I can only be truly happy if I can also bring happiness to others who are suffering.
It made me really focus on my physical health.
When I am depressed and anxious as a result of my C-PTSD, I try to really focus on my physical health so I can feel some level of control over my own life. Sometimes this is bad, because it means hyper-focusing on my health, which could be anxiety inducing. When I was in undergrad, I went through a period of hyper-focusing on my health, and I would lift and do high intensity cardio for an hour and a half more than three times per week. The result? I was more jacked than I would like to be, so I was constantly googling “how to make your muscles leaner,” but also I was way too focused on my physical appearance, and feel intense insecurity whenever I feel a tiny bump of fat on my body or whenever I see girls with a better body than me.
At this point though, I am still very focused on my health, but I am losing some of that destructive, self-hating hyper-focus on my health and physical appearance. My hyper-focus during my earlier years, however, shaped me into someone with health-focused habits, like always checking nutrition facts before I purchase “healthy” snacks, etc.
It makes me more loyal and value my family more.
My father’s lack of presence in my childhood and his constant infidelities were a major stress in my life growing up. After seeing how destructive marital affairs could be on someone’s spouse, their own lives, and their children, I decided to live my life affair-free. I have once heard a saying that children of chronically adulterous parents would grow up to be ultra-conservative, or they have the option to be like their parents. I personally believe there is always something in between, but I definately see loyalty as one of the best traits in people.
Because of my mental illness, I cherish my spouse as someone who has seen me through thick and thin, and because of my dysfuctional nuclear family, I am ever-grateful to have the opportunity to have such a wonderful partner. If I grew up in an affair-free home and never struggled with mental illness, I can personally see myself becoming a Daisy in Gatsby type of careless person until I learn a lesson or two. But because I am who I am and I have overcame so much with my partner, and endured and overcame so much of my own pain, everything is just so much more vauable to me. Furthermore, affairs just seem a lot less steamy and attractive, but rather disturbing and pathetic to me, so thank you C-PTSD! Not really the best thing ever to have a mental illness, but hey, a girl can be positive.