Back to the Roots: Mental Illness Superpowers

In working toward finding mental health stability while simultaneously facing the highs and unrelenting lows of life, the creativity and motivation to write can be hard to access.  I find great joy in writing, yet the apathy of mild depression stagnates my motivation to seek out joyful activities, as binge watching TV on the couch wins time and time again over activities that would likely be much more satisfying and stimulating.

As experiencing difficult times is an expected and necessary part of life for us all, I am called to remember the importance of building resilience, manifesting hope, and radically accepting.

Since it’s been so long since I’ve written anything meaningful, I felt it only right to return to the root of an idea that inspired this blog in the first place.  Most people are aware of the challenges of mental illness, but when you yourself face these daily, the frustration and hopelessness of living with a lifelong mental illness is heavy and overwhelming.  I have learned many times since my battle begun that focusing on the hardships brought on by mental illness only leads us astray from the necessary acceptance it takes to realize our full potential.  So why not consider the strengths mental illness brings to our lives—strengths we may not know without it?  Maybe we choose to invite those inevitable challenges along on our journey to discover our strength, our unique gifts, our mental illness superpowers.

Over the last several years, I have learned to consider my sensitivity to be a gift, although yes, it is still a little embarrassing when that Facebook video of a dog being rescued brings me to tears every single time or I find myself sobbing on an airplane surrounded by strangers because of the movie I’m watching.  But without this level of sensitivity, I may not be able to access a deep sense of empathy, and that empathy helps me to be a better friend, wife, sister, daughter, co-worker, and occupational therapist.  That empathy allows me to engage in compassionate listening and reflecting.  That empathy allows me to build deeper, more meaningful relationships with those around me.  That empathy fuels me to be an advocate and supporter of the patients and families I work with in the hospital.  That empathy is a catalyst to my growth as a human being striving to be accepting, forgiving, kind, and loving toward others.  And that empathy encourages me to be those things not only to others, but to myself—finding loving kindness for myself when life feels hard and I can’t get off the couch, using gentle words in my self-talk when I wish I had more energy to contribute to the household, and supporting myself through self-care and soothing when I hit a bump in my mental health progress or an obstacle in my fertility journey.

Sensitivity may come easily, but not all superpowers are natural.  While I’ve always strived to be better in some capacity—vying for that promotion at work, trying a new workout routine, developing a novel hobby, or reading a self-help book, facing mental illness has catapulted me into the development of a growth-mindset more meaningful than that.  Sure, I still want to be more physically fit, eat healthier food, and find hobbies I can be passionate about.  But it takes a deeper type of growth-mindset to look in the mirror each and every day, search deep within for the thoughts and traits that are hindering your progress toward the life you want to live and the person you want to become, and find the vulnerability and courage to bring them to the surface and face them head on.  I would not be the person I am today without the mental health struggles I have faced and the mental health treatment I have received.  I would not be the person I am today without the vulnerability to share the traits and experiences that once felt so shameful.  And I will not become the person I hope to be without finding the empathy it takes to accept and love myself as I am now while also maintaining the growth-mindset it takes to continue on in my journey to build a life of fulfillment and impact—a life worth living.

In a society that says ‘Put yourself last,’ self-love and self-acceptance are almost revolutionary.

Brené Brown

Click here to read the original Mental Illness Superpowers blog post.

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