This is a guest post by Mike Jones, who was diagnosed with a mental illness while he was in college. Although devastated at first, he understood that he could be the voice for others facing the same fate. Now mental health is one of his favorite topics to write about.
Thanks to the stigma against the mentally ill in our society, many of us see those with mental disorders in a bad light.
While there are certainly detriments to struggling with mental illness, the people who suffer from these disorders are not bad people. In fact, you might be surprised by the things that they can teach us about life.
To help you find inspiration from a possibly unexpected source, here are the three biggest life lessons that we can learn from people with mental disorders.
Lesson One: Self-Care Is Important, Valuable, and Essential.
In the past few years, the phrase “self-care” has rose to prominence. It basically means exactly what it sounds like it means. It’s the concept of taking care of yourself, whether it’s taking care of your body, your mind or your general sense of happiness and well-being.
Many of us don’t value self-care.
After all, society champions the idea of “toughening up” and putting your own needs behind the needs of others. However, for those with mental disorders, self-care is essential. For someone with a mental illness, a failure to take care of yourself could mean a breakdown or huge personal crisis.
The mentally ill struggle with many things that mentally normative people take for granted.
For example, you might not think of your daily shower as a particularly trying task, but for someone struggling with clinical depression, the mere act of showering can feel like a huge victory.
You don’t need to be struggling with mental illness to incorporate self-care into your life. Teach yourself to prioritize taking care of yourself.
It’ll make you a better employee, family member and friend. It’s difficult to be supportive to others if we aren’t first supportive to ourselves.
Lesson Two: Life Is Not a Competition with the People Around You.
When many people first begin treatment for mental illness, they often have a sense of guilt that their issues aren’t as severe as the issues of others.
Mental health professionals discourage this type of thinking and emphasize that it isn’t a competition. Instead of a bipolar person doing an internet search for “comparison bipolar and schizophrenia“, they should just focus on their own illness and their own journey to recovery.
This life lesson is extremely valuable for the mentally normative as well.
Most of us spend a significant portion of our lives comparing ourselves to others. When we’re having a bad day, we feel guilt for feeling sad because we remind ourselves that we don’t have it as bad as those in the third world. When we have a success or triumph, we feel down because we aren’t as successful as someone with whom we attended high school.
Your journey should be about you and only you.
Stop comparing yourself to others and instead focus on your own growth and self-improvement. In the end, you’re only competing against yourself.
Lesson Three: It’s Okay to Admit that You’re Not Okay.
One of the biggest components that prevents mentally ill people from seeking professional help isn’t a lack of resources or money. Rather, it’s the stigma attached to admitting you have a problem in the first place.
In therapy, people struggling with mental health issues are encouraged to admit that they’re not okay and that they’re struggling.
It’s impossible to treat an issue when you won’t admit that the issue even exists, so this first step is crucial. This admission is incredibly brave, as society still stigmatizes people with mental disorders and illnesses.
Even if you don’t struggle with a mental disorder, there’s something incredibly freeing about admitting when you aren’t doing so well or when you’re struggling with something.
In the age of social media, so many of us want to put up a perfect facade to the public, lest all of our faults and shortcomings be put on display for mass scrutiny.
The next time you’re thinking about posting that peppy Facebook status despite having spent the day feeling the blues, consider messaging a friend instead and letting him or her know that you’re having a bad day. Not only might you be surprised by the support you receive, but you also might be surprised to find out that your friend has had a similar, “imperfect” day recently.
Even if you don’t struggle with a diagnosable mental condition or illness, chances are that you sometimes feel depressed, unmotivated or otherwise mentally unwell. There’s nothing wrong with occasionally feeling this way. Use these life lessons to guide you the next time you’re feeling down.
Remember, there’s no shame in reaching out for help. If you suspect that your feelings may have gone beyond the run-of-the-mill “blues,” seek the health of a mental health professional. Even if you don’t have a diagnosable disorder, talking to someone never hurts.