5 Things I Want My Son To Know About Mental Illness
I’ve written about my mental illness, or at least OCD, in length. It took a good six years for me to be where I am today. Am I totally over-the-moon-blissfully-ecstatic happy? No, of course not. But I think that at this point in my life, there is a really good balance of good days, with the exception of the occasional bad day. But I need those bad days in order to reflect on how good life can be, and how much better it is getting, slowly, but surely. Those bad days are important, believe it or not.
As far as parenting goes, I’ve learned to look at it as a learning experience, one that is ongoing and never-ending. Even after our kids have long grown up, we’re always going to be learning something new about them. It’s an experience that I now cherish. I look at each day with a new found hope and a renewed sense of joy for another day to see the smile on my son’s face. To hear his sweet giggles when I tickle him, to embrace him when he wraps his not-so-tiny arms around my waist. I know that one day, he will learn about my mental illness diagnosis, and I’m not so scared of it anymore. In fact, there are things that I want to tell him, things that I want him to know, especially if he were to ever receive a mental illness diagnosis himself. I’m sharing them below:
Even in this day and age, this can be incredibly hard for a mental illness patient to accept. In many areas, there is still a large stigma that surrounds mental illness, because so many people do not take the time to understand them. When people do not understand, they judge. But having a mental illness does not make you any less of a person, any less deserving of help, any less deserving of happiness and a good life. You have nothing to be ashamed of. It is just like any physical illness. Do not let the opinions of others drag you down. You know who you are, own that, work that, be that. You’re a beautiful human being, with an incredibly loving soul. Don’t let your illnesses outweigh the amount of beauty that you hold within your heart.
Asking for help is a sign of strength, not of weakness. It is an incredibly brave thing to do. By asking for help, you are taking the first step in your recovery. Your family and friends love you very much and want to help you get better as soon as possible. Ask them for help, talk to them about how you feel. Don’t be ashamed, don’t be scared. I know that is easier said than done. But please reach out to talk to someone.
Close your eyes for a moment, and entertain me this thought; imagine if you were to be lined up with nine other people who aren’t living with a mental illness that you know of. Now, take a look around the room. Do these people look any different from you? Can you know anything of them just by looking at them? Are you able to see their sufferings? Do they look sick to you? No. You are no different than any of these people. Do not ever let anyone make you feel as though you are any less of a person because you are living with a mental illness. You are amazing, unique and beautiful in your own way, just like every other person here on this great and grand planet.
Don’t ever give in to the notion that you are less of a person because of your illness. We aren’t the illnesses we live with, they do not define who we are as a whole. There are so many unique parts of our individual personalities that make us who we are, and while yes, you may live with a mental illness, it’s such a small part of who you are in relation to our entire being. What do you enjoy? Make time for yourself to do it each day. Come to love yourself. Know that you deserve love and happiness. Be proactive in keeping yourself healthy. Give yourself a break when you need it, and never push yourself past your breaking point. Smile often and love without limits.
Always take care of yourself, first and foremost. In your life, you need to be the most important person. Never put yourself on the “back burner,” so to speak. If you need five minutes to take a breather, you take it. If you need a personal day to get yourself back together and gather your thoughts, you do it. Do not ignore your body’s signals. Do what makes you happy, enjoy the little things in life. Never deny yourself a chance at happiness. Every day that you wake up and step out of bed, no matter how much you don’t want to, you are making great strides in your recovery. No step is too small when it comes to the path you’re taking on the road to wellness.
Be yourself, don’t ever try to hide who you are from the world. You deserve love, laughter, happiness, and more. Pursue your dreams, chase them with fervor. Never hold onto anger and rage. Practice forgiveness and accept friendships. Treat others how you want to be treated. Give love freely, spread it far and wide.
Laugh as much as you can, the world is far too solemn a place already.