I tend to think of mental illness as that ugly sweater you get from your great aunt at Christmas. You know what I’m talking about, the itchy wool one that doesn’t come with a gift receipt. Yet, there is a good thing or two about the gift—your aunt was thinking about you and in the case of being robbed, you’re guaranteed to have at least one article of clothing left!
So recently I’ve been looking to identify and appreciate aspects of my personality and life that are positively affected by my mental illness. One of the first things to come to mind is my natural tendency toward empathy.
I teach a class of K-2nd graders at church on Wednesday nights and they are AWESOME. There’s nothing better than playing freeze tag with a bunch of munchkins to remind you of the good in life. After getting pushed down last Wednesday, a little boy came up to me crying and told me, “My elbow needs some love”. How can anyone resist that? I clearly couldn’t. So I let him curl up in my lap till it felt better. Nobody can resist giving love and sympathy in a situation like that.
But what about other situations? Like say if an adult told you their elbow needed some love?
During a party my parents hosted for my dad’s college students, a girl was complaining to my mom about a high level of school stress. My mom looked at her and goes, “Yeah, go complain to Tabitha. She’s way better at the sympathy than I am.” So she came to me, vented a while. I did what I do and at the end she goes “Wow—you are good at this”.
While this is a minor example, I feel like I can be a comfort in more serious situations as well. While I cannot say, I “know how you feel” to everyone I comfort, I can say I understand pain. From my depression I understand hopelessness and despair. From my anxiety I understand fear and worry. From my bipolar I understand irritability and mood swings. And those feelings are never too far removed that I forget how painful they can be.
I like that about myself. I like that I can offer comfort and support to a wide variety of people. So while it might suck to have such intense emotions, in those times of comforting others I can honestly say I’m glad I have experienced them.
I write this to thank you all as well. This is a quality that is so pervasive in the mental health blogging community. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been uplifted by a reader’s comments. Or how many times I’ve read about a blogger struggling, just to see them give hope and encouragement on a fellow blogger’s site. You all are amazing! Love and appreciate that about yourselves alright?!