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Is it Possible to View Mental Illness Positively?

April 11, 2013 Natalie Jeanne Champagne

This topic came to me at a rather ridiculous time---though this is often the case and I am usually somewhere without a pen!---when putting on mascara. Ah, yes. The best ideas plant themselves in my often scattered brain when I am doing anything other than wondering what I might write about.

That being said, with mascara wand in hand, I ran into my office, grabbed a pen, and scribbled it down. And then I thought: "Can we actually view our mental illness positively?" At this moment, as I write these words, I have no idea. But I want to give it a shot. After all, what's the worst that could happen (cue somber music)?

Connecting Mental Illness to Positivity

OK. I like things organized. My damn closet is color coordinated and separated by season. If I am really bored, or anxious, by the length of each shirt. I have a closet relegated to pants. Which I also hang. Perhaps I should write a post on being exceedingly anal? That aside, this is why I like lists: they make tough subjects easier to first break down and second digest. They remind me of my closet: simple enough to avoid being overly complicated.

A few examples which I hope will connect to our mental health/illness and positivity:

  • When we are first diagnosed we suddenly have to focus primarily on our health; physical and mental health. We practice self-care and, in doing so, learn about ourselves. It is a time that allows us, as we work toward recovery, to get to know ourselves. That is positive! Right? Right!
  • We learn to embrace change. Or, to be honest here, we don't have much of a choice. The diagnosis of mental illness forces change upon us and in doing so we learn to adapt to life.
  • We understand empathy on a deeper level---the ability to put oneself in another's shoes. Pain is part of recovering from mental illness and, having experienced this, we are often more understanding of other people. We know that life isn't always fair and everyone needs a helping hand. Sorry for the cliche.
  • We learn to trust. It can be hard letting people into your life but once we do, once we learn to trust, our relationships are enhanced. In turn, our ability to communicate with people.
  • We appreciate life on a different level. When you have fallen so far from grace and climbed your way back into life, life itself means more. Waking up and feeling okay, like you can get through each day, is now special. We value life more.
  • We have perspective! Perspective is an invaluable tool that allows us to think about things, about our recovery, in a new way.

Reading this over, I sort of smile. We can find things that are positive when connected to mental illness, and I think that in doing so we can recover in a more positive way.

Maybe it's worth it to take a few minutes, reflect on life, and ask yourself the question: "What has been a positive change in my life after the diagnosis?" It's worth a shot. Reflecting on life is positive in itself.

APA Reference
Champagne, N. (2013, April 11). Is it Possible to View Mental Illness Positively?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, September 17 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/recoveringfrommentalillness/2013/04/is-it-possible-to-view-mental-illness-positively



Author: Natalie Jeanne Champagne

Sue
says:
September, 24 2016 at 2:41 am
Although I don't have psychosis or manic depression or severe anxiety, my immediate family members do. Lately I've been thinking about the positive side of this. They're more sensitive, more aware of who they are, they try hard to be positive when they can, they are accepting of others' problems, they are Creative, and humble. They are more self aware than most people I know who don't struggle with mental illness. I'm honoured to be in their immediate family. If you or any of your readers can refer me to further reading on this subject I'd be truly grateful.
Naomi
says:
November, 4 2015 at 9:38 am
Really liked your post. However, I feel you forgot to include courage. Not many people have the courage to live with it every day & still move their life forward.
Dan Theron
says:
April, 21 2013 at 9:19 am
Natalie,

I had to Google "Child's Pose" to see what it looks like. I don't do yoga, but I sometimes do a little bit of Tai Chi. I like the strange and sometimes silly names given to the Tai Chi/ Qigong postures. Dancing with rainbows, playing with clouds, immortal pointing the way etc.

Paradoxes. There is no light without shadow. No hot without cold. No good without evil. The one gives rise to the other. Both exist because the other exists. More about the yin/yang symbolism: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yin_and_yang

Since both negative and positive exist, it becomes a matter of choosing which side to focus on. I'm very good at thinking badly about myself and my life. Maybe it is time (the fact that I'm chronically depressed proves it) to practice thinking good things about myself. Be my own best friend.
Sandra L. Flaada
says:
April, 12 2013 at 10:01 am
In the beginning I thought it was pure hell! Not until 6 months had passed before I could see any light at all. At that point my perception of my mental illness moved a couple degrees toward positive. I built on that and today I am grateful most days. Of course there are still black moments but I don't stay there long. I turn it around and ask myself if there is any reason (still) that my life should be filled with blackness. I don't have an answer to that except, no. I think this is called acceptance and that is where the positive comes. I have literally grown up from being a 4 year old, a 17 year old and a 32 year old. They are still with me (DID) but we can now communicate with each other. I learn from them as to what they need and it turns out that's exactly what I need. Compassion for myself first and then I can give that same compassion to others. It is the same with acceptance and love. When I remembered all the horrible stuff, I went down to the pit--that had to happen. I have tried to leave all those dark times down in that pit. If all I receive from mental illness is acceptance, trust, compassion and love, then how can I say it's not positive?
Melinda
says:
April, 11 2013 at 7:27 pm
"My damn closet is color coordinated and separated by season. If I am really bored, or anxious, by the length of each shirt. I have a closet relegated to pants. Which I also hang. Perhaps I should write a post on being exceedingly anal?"
That's anal? I thought that was normal. Thanks for sharing that, it's nice to know I am not the only one that organizes their closet like that.
I will definitely have to think about the positive aspects of my mental illness. I think that I will skip the lotus position though because just thinking about it is making my foot numb.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Natalie Jeanne Champagne
says:
April, 13 2013 at 7:21 am
Hi, Melinda:
I feel a little bit better regarding my close now. I will refrain from going into the state of my shoe closet:)
Thanks for reading and commenting (and trying to be positive with me!)
Sincerely,
Natalie
Dan Theron
says:
April, 11 2013 at 8:54 am
Interesting article, Natalie.

I like the image you used, the yin/yang symbol. Staying with this zen/Taoist theme, the question "Is it Possible to View Mental Illness Positively?" can start to sound like a koan, or a paradoxical question on which to meditate towards greater enlightenment. Or to challenge your own or other's perceptions about mental illness.

It really does sound, or feel paradoxical to find something positive about a mental illness diagnosis. However, the process of trying to find positive aspects may help to change the way you think about mental problems and help you to feel better. (CBT, anyone?) The crux of the matter is to get into the habit of thinking about positive or neutral alternatives when you normally would only consider negative explanations for events.

And this takes time, practice and lots of reminding. Mmmm. Maybe I should get into a lotus posture right now and start to repeat the question "β€œCan we actually view our mental illness positively?” until I can think of multiple positive answers. Om. Uhm. Umm. Uhh. Or until I can't feel my legs anymore.

Difficult question. What would I have been like if I didn't have depression, or anxiety. I would have accomplished more, been less isolated. Would I have been more naive? Probably. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Ignorance is bliss, and the more wisdom the more sorrow? Be dumb and happy, or smart and unhappy. What a choice!

Would I still be a Christian who went to church each Sunday, who still believed in religion? Probably. Positive or negative? On the positive side is the social connections you build up at church and the sense of belonging to a community. Negative? I would probably still be defending a few illogical religious concepts such as the virgin birth of Jesus, or his status as an incarnation of God himself etc.

Reflecting on life events is positive in itself, only if you reflect on it in a positive manner.

This comment is getting too long. I read your article, it has made me think about this paradoxical idea, thank you.

Oww. Lotus. Posture. Foot. Asleep.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Natalie Jeanne Champagne
says:
April, 13 2013 at 7:23 am
Hi, Dan,
Paradox----perfect word/explanation for this post. You're ahead of me! Lotus position...I just mastered "Child's Pose" which involves, as I am sure you know, sitting down and then moving to a different seated position.
Thanks for the interesting comment Dan!
Natalie

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