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Finding a Reason to Live When You Have a Mental Illness

Do you need help finding a reason to live if you have a mental illness? For a long time I did. In spite of having a good treatment team, I just couldn’t snap out of my depressive funks. I was frequently suicidal. Then I found my reason to live. Finding a reason to live when you have a mental illness can be just as vital to your treatment as finding the right medication and finding the right therapist.

My Reason to Live with a Mental Illness Is My Family

As I write this, I’m on the emotional high of becoming an aunt for the fifth time. My nephew doesn’t even have a name yet, but I love him and have nicknamed him “my little blank slate.” He reminds me of the need for a blank slate in life–for a chance to start over.

My oldest nephew is five now. When he was born, something happened. I could no longer feel suicidal without thinking of my nephews and niece. I didn’t want my brothers to explain to them why Aunt Becky had killed herself–it was hard enough for me to explain that I was sick and it wasn’t going to go away. I wanted to see them grow up. I wanted to live. My reason to live with a mental illness was my family.

Not everyone gets along with their biological family. Mine was emotionally abusive and we didn’t reconcile until after I got out of college. But I define family as “a group of people that love and accept each other more than they deserve.” In that case, maybe your friends are your family. Everyone is entitled to a family–choose wisely.

Finding a reason to live in family is just one of many options.

Before My Family, My Reason to Live Was a TV Show

Finding reasons to live when you have a mental illness can seem hard. Read about my reasons to live with a mental illness. My middle school years were awful. One of my classmates was treated so horribly that she has blocked out her entire time at that school–something I wish I could do. I was bullied relentlessly, ranging from mild teasing to sexual harassment. It drove me to the point of suicide–then I discovered a TV show called Where In the World Is Carmen Sandiego?

That show became my reason to live. Every day after school I tuned in to watch “Chief” Lynne Thigpen (RIP), host Greg Lee and the gumshoes (contestants) pursue the loot, the warrant, and the crook. I laughed hysterically at the Greg in the Chief’s office skits (“The bright side? There’s a huge stalk of celery on my desk and no dip.” and “Greg, go away.”). This show became the high point of my day. It became my escape–even if I never mastered the Africa map.

Looking back on it, it sounds a little silly to be that devoted to a TV show. But it’s not silly. As we said in the Army, “If it’s stupid but it works, it isn’t stupid.” Whatever your positive coping skill is, it is okay. It is helpful. It is good. Nothing that helps you in finding a reason to live is ridiculous. It is your survival strategy.

Possible Reasons to Live When You Have a Mental Illness

Here are some possible reasons to live with a mental illness:

  1. You haven’t been to the Trobriand Islands yet (okay, so I stole this from a book, but I’ve got to admit I’m curious–and not just because of the sex).
  2. You have a dream of hiking the Appalachian Trail or sailing down the Mississippi River (and admit it, you want to know what the “castle” near St. Louis is for).
  3. You’ve found something that gives you joy, like a video game (I recommend The Elder Scrolls series), and you can’t do it if you’re dead.
  4. It might get better (something I would tell my middle school self if I could go back in time).
  5. You want to prove everyone wrong.

I have seen the stars and felt small. I have watched the ants and felt huge. I have seen children and felt old, or grandparents and felt young. I can live a year and feel that only seconds went by, or look someone in the eyes loose myself in them forever. I live to feel all I can feel and enjoy the simplest things with all my heart. -Anonymous

You have to find a reason to live with a mental illness. And that reason can be anything you want. Finding a reason to live is vital to recovering from mental illness.

You can also find Becky Oberg on Google+FacebookTwitter and Linkedin.

23 thoughts on “Finding a Reason to Live When You Have a Mental Illness”

  1. Hey,
    I tried to kill myself last week on Monday, it was a very puny attempt but it was the best I could do. Anyway, after a lot of doctors I am getting medicine for depression. However I honestly don’t understand why people want to keep me alive. I am expensive non attractive, tired, smart enough to do good in schoo but don’t. I’m on new meds, but I am 21 and I really don’t want to struggle until I can die at 80. I have goals, but it is only because I am too stupid to kill myself correctly.

  2. Ive typed several complete messages trying to say what i wanted to say. But in the end it doesnt even matter. When you have no loved ones, no family and nothing left to live for, whats the point?

    People say things get better. Well im sorry to burst your bubble but ive been trying for 10 years to have a better life. It only gets worse and worse. You know the best part? Life teases you with glimpses of a happy life, year here, or there, where you think youve made it to the top. Only to be dropped back down and even further than before. Sadly o have come to the last drop of my rollar coaster. I submit this to you as a reference. Proof. That life does not always get better and i wished i ended it many years ago.

    1. To save myself from all the pain ive gone through in those 10 years. I would have.

      If i could go back in time id have two choices. Tell myself to end it there and then as nothing but pain and misery awaits. Or give the knowledge i have now to prepare myself for a better life, when i was still young and healthy.

      People might say, why dont you use that knowledge now for a better life today? Simple answer, i am too old and unhealthy to bother now.

  3. So basically I’m really suicidal and I can’t be bothered to keep going. If I wasn’t afraid of it I’d be dead already. I can’t think of any reason to go on. I’m neglected by my family, I lost the only person I care about and I’m failing in school. Everyone on the internet says things get better. But I can’t be bothered to suffer through however long that takes. It could be 10 years. All I ever wanted was someone to actually show they care about me

    When I was younger (I’m 17 now) my parents went through a divorce. My mam got custody and my dad never made any attempt to contact me. No one at home seems to care when Im depressed and on the very rare occasion I get asked if I’m ok. I panic and leave saying that I’m fine because I don’t really know how to talk to people and I’m really awkward.

    Honestly my whole life has been stressful. Parents divorcing when I was young then moving. After that I got bullied in middle school and slightly in high school. Then exams hit. After that my Granda died. Now a year later and all I think about is how can I die painlessly.

    I just need some help. I can’t think of any reason to continue and I can’t pull myself out of this. I haven’t been diagnosed by a doctor or anything because I’m too scared or awkward to actually go and see one but I’m a certain I suffer serious depression. If anyone could just give me some guidance I’d be more than grateful.

    1. Yo Andrew, you’re far from alone. I can empathise with everything you’ve said and there’s nothing wrong with feeling this way, it happens. I’m 22 and I constantly think about killing myself.

      I’ve lost all of my friends, was bullied in school and even at work. Now my gran has cancer, I’ve started a new job that I suckkkkk at and in general it feels like I’m so out of place in the world. As if I simply can’t function.

      I never knew how to speak to anyone either (still don’t) but my mum found out about my depression because one day I broke down into tears and told her that all I could think about was dying over and over and over, yearning for pain relief and peace from my own thoughts. She’s been great with it, I think it’s brought us a bit closer aswell seen as she’s been suffering aswell lately.

      Anyway, it’s hard to imagine that anyone cares about you, I know the feeling too well but there’s 2 possible ways to go about getting better.

      1: open up to your family, even if they’re just asking if you’re okay that’s still a good sign, fight through the tears and tell your mum what’s going on.

      2: if you can’t find support with other people then put your time into something constructive and don’t let others bother you, people fucking suck.( I’ve been writing tv show and movie scripts in the hopes that one day I’ll be able to make something of myself.)

      I don’t Know you personally Andrew, but keep your head up. I won’t say it gets better but try your hardest to kick the world’s ass, hone your skills, do something you love and sink all of your time into it, get a job and buy the things you want. With enough work, you’ll be happy one day.

      Stay safe bro x

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