Mental health illnesses can be completely debilitating. They can sneak up on you when you least expect them and turn your world upside down. They are powerful, far more powerful than many people dare to realise. But suffering doesn't have to be a negative experience. Even the word 'suffering' itself has wholly negative connotations; that's simply the meaning of the word. So how can suffering ever be positive? Rather than seeing yourself as a victim of a mental health illness or disorder, I find it far healthier to view it either as a battle (which you positively have a chance of winning) or as an integral part of yourself (alongside the mantra of loving yourself, flaws included). If you are struggling with any form of mental health issues at the moment, hopefully this post will demonstrate that it can be flipped from that default 'suffering' outlook, to something far more grounded, positive and beneficial to you.
Look at yourself. Look at where you are in your life. Think about all of the positive things you have experienced, and everything you have achieved- no matter how small or seemingly insignificant. Are you proud of any particular thing that you have done recently? Does one moment stand out for you? Dwell on it for a moment.
Look at yourself again. Do you like the person you are? Pick out a few personality traits of yours which you are happy or grateful to have. Have you been complimented on a particular element of your personality recently?
These positive elements are part of you, part of who you are and have become. Mental health has not stopped them, or you, from happening. Nor will it in the future. Realise how far you have come, and how far you will go (with or without mental health illnesses). It can often feel like mental health issues are ruling your life, and you are powerless to do anything about it, but focusing on these small moments or achievements and really thinking about them can help you realise that you have so much power. You are still here doing wonderful things despite it. And if it has happened, if it is happening now, then it can happen in the future. Think of the illness or disorder as just 'there'; it doesn't stop you being you, it just hangs around hoping you will give in to it. You've proved you are stronger than it through those small examples, so cling onto those as a reminder to never totally give in to it.
Part Of You
This part is probably the least common way of turning mental health illnesses or disorders into a positive thing, but one I have found most effective in my battle with trichotillomania. Answer the same questions as before, focusing on the questions about yourself; what do you like about yourself, what do others like most about you.
Mental health is not separate from you. It's in your mind; your mind is you. It may not be at all desirable (it could even lead you down some of life's worst paths), but it's you. Those positive things you thought about- maybe you like your resilience, your understanding nature, your drive and ambition. Whatever it was, your relationship with your mental health has been part of that process of making you into who you are today. That means your battle with a disorder has contributed to shaping you into those things you love about yourself. In this way, having an illness or disorder isn't 100% bad. It may seem like it at times, but step back and look at that broader picture of how it is shaping you as a person.
I know I am more attentive to other peoples' needs because of my battle with mental health. I know that I would be nowhere near as strong a person as I am now if I had never had trichotillomania or depression at all. And if I didn't have the strength that these illnesses have helped me to develop, I know I would not have been able to get through some of the things that have happened in my life a fraction as well as I did. This is going to sound outrageously pretentious, but whenever you feel like you may be struggling, remember that it is all part of a journey, a journey which is defining you as a person. It's very cliche when people talk about 'learning to love yourself', but it is so true and very relevant. Once you accept yourself and love yourself the way that you are, you view your traits more positively, and subsequently don't feel this resentment towards mental health because you realise it has helped to curate those traits which you love.
I hope this post has helped you change your outlook towards anything you may be having a difficult time with at the moment, or that you can relate if you have been through any mental health troubles. Trying to adopt these positive outlooks is a small step, but one which will make a huge impact in your life. There's less self-loathing, less despair, less hopelessness. It is often these three things which bury us even deeper into that pit, so slowly eradicating this will hopefully help towards recovery, or at the very least, acceptance. Do let me know (either in a comment or via social media or email) if you have any other ways you try to put a positive spin on what can so often be a negative experience, as I always love learning new bits of advice that I can try to apply to my own life.