Dear Mental Illness,
Thank you for teaching me compassion towards others. Thank you for making me realize that my purpose in life is to help others and provide hope that a fulfilling life is possible despite you. Thank you for showing me my strength and courage and persistence. Thank you for providing me the need to meet supportive and loving beacons of light, such as my current therapist and my sponsor. Thank you for teaching me how to be vulnerable and granting me humility. Thank you for teaching me how to trust others. Thank you for forcing me to realize that superficial things like careers, money, and degrees do not define my worth. There are many people who will never have the opportunity to realize this and so will go through life always trying to prove themselves. I am a child of Godde, full of compassion and goodness-that alone proves that I am enough. We all are and yet so few people really know it.
There have been times when I have hated and resented you. There are still times when every ounce of me is filled with bitterness because of you. I think of opportunities lost and the fact that my life is not what I dreamed of as a child. Even today I cried, because I felt like you severely restrict what I can do. But I do not want to hate or resent you anymore. Today I am calling for a truce between us. I don’t know if we can ever become friends, but I am hoping that we can be partners in this life. I realize now that your power depends on my attitude-when I wallow in self-pity, then you become a horrible monster, tempting me to take my own life, but when I have an open heart and mind, then I realize that you are a great teacher. You have forced me to learn how to listen to and respect my body. When my emotions start to feel overwhelming, I know to self-soothe. Because I am in recovery from an eating disorder, I probably eat healthier than the average person. Because I do not want to spiral into another manic episode, I go to sleep at a reasonable time. Because I do not want to act out when I feel stressed anymore, I call people and let people support me.
Mental illness, you do not define me, but you are a part of me. A person cannot accept me without accepting the fact that I have a disability. I don’t want to fight you anymore. I don’t want to be bitter or resentful anymore. I know that this change of heart will be a lifelong process, but it is one I am ready to start. Continue to teach me the ways of vulnerability, compassion, humility, and trust. In return, I will teach others that hope is always real and that even with mental illness by my side, a life worth living is always possible.
It was hard writing this honestly tonight, but such was the prompt for today-I either had to write a letter to myself in the future or a letter to my health condition. In the past, a letter to my mental illness would have been filled with hate and bitterness. I would not have called for a truce at all, but would have invited my mental illness to a fight. That perception helped me for a long time, especially in dealing with my past eating disorder, but it does not serve me as well anymore. I am a person that believes in non violence and I have come to the conclusion that it is no good to say that I am nonviolent if I then wish violence upon myself. I am not my mental illness, but my mental illness is a part of me and so, at least on my good days, I strive to live in harmony with my mental illness instead of fighting it. I think this is a more healthy approach, but I am aware that it is not a popular approach. We live in an extremely violent society where we are taught to hate ourselves, especially if we have something like a disability. It is a radical act to say that I embrace all of my me, even the parts that make me less than in the eyes of our society. I hope that this post caused you to think about mental illness in a new way.