#WorldMentalHealthDay: I carry mental illness tag, in all good ways
"My mental health doesn't define me. I'm more than my mental illness." We hear these statements often, but we ignore the negative connotation attached. While it is understandable that no one wants to be defined by their illness, but at the risk of glamorizing it, I think it is much more than an illness. And, after two episodes of depression, I've realized that my mental health does define me. Let me tell you how.
I don't "suffer" from bipolar disorder, I have bipolar disorder
I've recurrent bipolar disorder which has been repressed right now, but keeps popping up every once in a while, with a new episode of mania/depression. That means either I'm overly enthusiastic about everything or it takes me days to get up from bed, along with deeply embedded suicidal thoughts. I suffer in either state, but I refuse to call myself suffering from bipolar disorder.
Yes, it has affected my personal and professional life
Even while I write from my workplace, I won't hesitate in admitting that it has affected my professional life. The medication and therapies have impacted my efficiency to work. On personal front, I've also friends because I couldn't explain to them why I didn't take their calls or why I couldn't meet them. They were trying to find the 'old me', and so was I.
It has also affected my body, inside out
As with any illness, my mental illness has affected my body in unimaginable ways. I'm covered in self-harm scars, and medication has altered the way I feel. I've lost the person who had extreme feelings for everything and would fight for anything. All that thinking makes me tired now. My medicines have numbed me down to a large extent. But, my core remains the same.
The quintessential questions of my everyday life
"Will I make it today? I hope I don't relapse. Not before this really important meeting! Is this a normal thought process or is it my anxiety again? Will I be able to sleep tonight?" And even if I'm at that "100%" fine position, I can never change the fact that some of these questions have and will remain a part of my daily life.
But, saying this doesn't define me will undermine my struggle
It is not a condition, but a way of life. And, to say that my mental illness doesn't define me will be to radically undermine my struggles. But, this is not a defeatist approach. I have been changed in ways I couldn't even imagine. For one, I can talk about it openly and shed light on how's it to try and live as normally as possible with a mental illness.
My mental illness made me empathetic and stronger
My mental illness has made me more empathetic. My own experience has taught me the value of "people for people". It has also made me meet my strength. It has shown me that I can be at my worst and still give my best. It has made me a better person and allowed me to accept everyone with their flaws because I've my own.
Nothing will change the impact mental illness had on me
It goes without saying that if I had a chance to erase all those tough days I faced and zap my mental illness once and for all, I wouldn't hesitate once before doing it. But the truth is, it won't happen. And even if I never face the recurrence of my depression ever again, it won't change the past of my mental illness and the impact it has had on me.
So, I embrace my illness, with love and pride
In good ways or bad, my mental illness does define me. It's the key to my life and on this World Mental Health Day, I can say that I'm a better person now - not despite my mental illness but because of it.