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Are there any benefits of having struggled with a mental illness?


GoldenOne

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So assuming a person has been crippled by and struggled with a mental illness for years, and they somehow prevail and come out the other side one day. I am talking about the kind of people who cannot work, cannot study, suicidal thoughts, hospitalizations etc. (that's me basically). What does the person learn/gain from having lived through the terror of a mental illness?

Occassionally it makes me VERY depressed to think that all I will be returning to is a normal life; something everyone else had all along. I somehow feel the need to know that there is a hidden treasure somewhere in all of this darkness. That somehow I will come out of this with something that the average Joe doesn't have. Maybe it has something to do with personal development, finding a greater meaning with life, being able to see life, people, priorities etc. with a new (and more real) understanding. 

If I don't gain anything out of the ordinary out of this, I really don't see the point in moving forward. Then it all seems very pointless to me, at least.

So if you believe a person can gain something quite unique from having experienced a very dark period in their life, please, let me know what you think in the comments.

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Speaking for myself, GoldenOne, I find that my heart is  much softer than before my depressions and hospitalizations.  I try hard not to harm things.  For example, I walk now so that I don't crush ants and other little creatures under my feet.  Of course, when I get distracted I sometimes forget. 

One day I was pulling a tissue out of a tissue box and I noticed that the force of my action pulled off four legs of a little teeny tiny spider.  Now I am taking care of that spider because he or she cannot walk much because of the imbalance in the remaining legs.

I enjoy feeding birds and little creatures around my house.  I have always had a terrible phobia about cockroaches and I still do, and yet I found a cockroach in my house in the winter and I have placed it in a little terrarium where it gets water and food from me.

Depression seems to have made me slightly better at helping those in need and offering a nice counterbalance to my general stinginess.  .  Slightly.   And depression has given me quite a bit of empathy for those stricken with this brutal and cruel disease although I still have my bad days.  Stuff like that.

I like living to help creatures and find that more rewarding than any other work I ever did in my life [I'm 61 now].  If I can walk to my mailbox and back without squashing a little ant on the way, I get greater satisfaction from that than from many of the "accomplishments" of my professional life, if that makes any sense.

Depression itself is so crushing and debilitating, however, that it can take the joy out of anything.  So I consider those in the agony of depression to be heroic people, heroic beyond words.  I once saw a woman suffering catatonic depression, get out of bed in the morning and I thought that was the greatest, strongest, wisest, best and most beautiful thing I had ever seen although those not suffering depression probably would never be able to see that.   

Is that what you mean by your questions? 

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You are raising a quite profound issue.

Darkness. Yes again and again depression manifests itself as darkness.

We just need to realize that it is METAPHORICAL darkness.

You are right about the hidden treasure in the darkness.

We can and should try to change our perspective on depression.

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I agree that it bothers me a lot that if I ever get to feel 100% normal again, it's like all I'll have is what everyone else had this entire time. It just leaves me feeling bitter & angry that even if I got to feeling normal again everyone else got to have that the entire time. I just hate how I'm so far behind from everyone else my age due to not always feeling well. I really don't know what I'm going to do at this rate though. I'm only getting older now & I have so many issues to deal with. 

Edited by GAJ123
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I would say a deal of perspective that some people can lack. Knowing things aren't always as simple as they seem. Knowing how much little kindnesses can matter and how much it hurts to be denied things like privacy, understanding, or healthcare. Knowing that what people say on the outside isn't always how they feel on the inside and that anyone can struggle. Having learned good mental habits to help cope and knowing the importance of self-care, keeping your home tidy, and how your environment affects your mind. There are a lot of things you have to think about that others may not.

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Thanks for your replies everyone. I read all of your replies.

It's just as if I feel like life isn't worth it anyway, even if I should one day come out of this darkness. I feel robbed. I feel cheated. Why did I have to go through so much pain? Why did my life have to be put on hold for so many years, while everyone else my age have no problem living out their own dreams? 

I think at my core, I struggle to find a sense of meaning with life. I want my life to have a greater meaning than everyone else, who didn't have to go through what I went through. I feel like I need SOMETHING that I can take away from all of this that the average person who hasn't been where I've been will never be able to understand or feel. 

When I feel better, I want to feel like I have a deep understanding of myself, of life, of people, of everything... That would be my hidden treasure, my reward so to speak, for going through this. And then it would probably be worth it for me. But as of right now, I just fail to see (and fail to believe) that there's anything good coming out of this. All there is in store for me is what everyone else had all along.

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You raise a question I've never thought to pose, although I realize it's virtually the same one I've cried out in the midst of my worst depressions..."Why?"

Interesting, too, it should come up as I'm recovering from months of the worst depressive episode I've had in years.  I've just never quite put words to what I'm noticing about myself as things have lifted this month.  I'm more inclined to be empathetic.  Definitely less inclined to go off on people, if at all...even in traffic.  At the same time I'm finding a quiet assertiveness when situations are unacceptable.  I'm looking people in the eye more.  I'm talking less and listening more.

Edited by MarkintheDark
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Depression can make you a really deep thinker, you can come up with some pretty awesome philosophies and really find a creative side. A lot of good philosophers suffered from deep depression, a lot of good artists/painters suffered from schizophrenia. But I would still say the negatives of mental illness far outweigh the good, we can all talk about the philosophers and painers ect who suffered from this illness or that illness but they are few and far between way less than 1%. But I understand it can be a coping mechanism and there is a feel good aspect to saying something like "look at van gogh he had depression". But the sudden realness that you will never be van gogh or any other creative person with depression will sink in and you will realize its not worth it. Most likely we will never get the opportunities to explore our creative side even if we where capable of doing great things with it.

Sorry if I'm coming across too cynical just trying to keep things real though.

 

Edited by SonOfTom
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At the risk of being overly stark about it, no. I don't mean to be jaundiced, but the only reasonably decent side effect I experienced was an academic boost. After all, I had to keep myself entertained in a time of perpetual solitude. However, that also diminished my already subpar social skills, and that negates any benefits I've noticed.

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OHOHOHOHO! I Can't believe you asked this question!!!! I used to wonder this all the time!!!

 

I feel like I am rather qualified to answer this question and here's why:

 

I was severely clinically depressed from the ages of 20-23 (was on meds and everything contemplated suicide etc.). Those 3 years I kept asking myself those questions... I always felt like I'm really just living a ruined life. I used to wonder is there any point in going through this? Cuz even if I came out of this, it'll feel like I was behind in life.

 

Let me list out everything that will put you ahead of others in life due to this blessing of a depressive period. (apologies for calling it a blessing but I really do think that it is).

 

1) YOU WILL BECOME THE SOLID ROCK OF SUPPORT FOR EVERYONE - 

See almost everyone goes through depression, it's a matter of time and point of their lives that this occurs. It just so happens that you're just going through yours earlier than others. What does this mean then? Well, by the time your other friends around you, and family start to go through it, there's going to be you that's going to very naturally and instrinsically want to be there for them, because you realize the pain of depression and therefore will want to provide not only support but deep levels of understanding of what they're going through. You and I both know just how lonely depression can make one feel, you might be the one to help them get rid of that. I've become that person now in my family. Before that, I was the black sheep that sold garden shrub secretly that disgraced the family, the child who didn't have high grades in school and flunked out of college only to have to enroll back in just to get suspended again. I was that kid. My relatives and friends called me lazy cuz I didn't wanna do anything when really I was so spiritually and mentally crippled by my depression that I couldn't lift a finger to do anything!

 After my depression, I am highly respected by an older sister who used to shame me at every chance she had, but now because she's starting to go through depression after 3 consecutive failed relationships , she sees me as this wondergod that is able to help her through it, despite her having shamed me so many times in the past. I feel like she now overcompensates her guilt by buying me gifts and doing nice things for me here and there. 

 

2) A Deep Understanding of Society- 

When I was depressed, I thought i was the only one. I felt like I was a weakling. Especially as a guy I thought I was some sort of a wuss or a pansy. Then later on i started to notice that society just has this crappy stigma of depression, and it made it hard for everyone to express how they were feeling deep down. This is not something that any joe schmoe knows. Going through depression? It really allowed me to have a deeper understanding of how society doesn't truly understand what depression is, and so many of us are just highly misunderstood , so often.

 

3) A deep understanding of the Power of our own Minds - 

You also will learn how powerful the mind is. Now that I'm out of depression, I can understand just how powerful our minds are. My mind put me INTO depression, and it took me OUT of depression. I have a much more sophisticated understanding of the mind, the subconscious, and how society, education, and our upbringing has conditioned us to be, and how dangerous it can be. I used to compare myself to others and feel so "behind in life", but then I realized hey wait a minute no.... why am i even comparing myself to others? That whole mentality is just backward! Then you start to realize that ALL of society is always trying to compete with each other, and feeling unhappy in the process, when all it really takes is the mindset of switching into the mentality where you simply don't care how you're doing in relation to other people, and only focus on yourself. When i realized that, I just felt liberated. No longer did I care about achieving my dreams by Age 25 and sleeping with 120 girls by age 30. All these ******** goals were simply a false understanding of what happiness was to me, and it was such a deep profound epiphany that I felt on a deep level, that now that I'm out of depression, I can easily spot the mindsets of certain people and exactly why they're not feeling happy. It's like this heightened awareness, or almost some secret that only you know and no one else knows. And lastly 

 

4) A deep understanding of the Power of Habits

Habits habits habits!!!! You know what my habits used to be when I was depressed? I would wake up, surf the internet, watch porn, self-pleasure, go lie down on my bed, watch youtube, wait until I had enough libido to pull up porn again, repeat the self-pleasuring, and then go make some coffee to heighten my energy, and then come back to watch a movie, and then repeat. It was a terrible cycle. From a biological, psychological, and even physiological standpoint it was everything I needed to ruin myself into depression. 

Here are my habits today: 

Intense intense super intense exercise where I'm dripping sweat after 30 mins (I do the Insanity workout program), I weight lift, I read books and take notes everyday, I only eat one meal a day between 2pm and 8pm. My aura currently is some kind of invincible happy where even if people are rude to me at work (I work in customer service), it STILL doesn't bother me on a very natural I-don't-have-to-even-try level. Even when I intentionally TRY to get mad, it's like the habits that I have are so uplifting that nothing can bring me down.

 

 

If the current 26 year old ME could time travel back to when I was 21 and I told him all of this, 21 year old Zubin would've been like "what? I don't understand anything of what you're saying". But 26 year old me is all like "holy wow, I feel kinda special.. like some sort of wisdom guru". And it was all because of my depressive phase.

 

You don't hear these things too often because most people that come out of depression who do feel this way are too busy out exercising, meeting people, and helping people that they forget to come back to this forum full of people with such hidden and great potential to be great leaders for our future 

Edited by Zubin
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Hi GoldenOne :)

Here's one thing I've learned through my research: Everything happens for a reason, there are no accidents

Look over the events and experiences you've gone through so far and ask yourself, "what have I learned through these experiences? How have I gotten stronger? How has this made me more wise, more compassionate, more understanding? etc.

There's always an upside to any circumstance, you've probably just been fixated on the negatives though.

I like Zubin's first thing mentioned that you will become a solid rock of support for others. Going through an experience gives you a deep understanding of it and you become a beacon of light for others going down the same path. Years ago I was the one always asking questions and needing others for support. And I still do but now I've become much more of a teacher. My experiences have taught me a lot and now I can help many others.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel and YOU WILL see the deep purpose and meaning behind EVERY experience in your life. Nothing has been random, meaningless suffering. How do I feel confident I know this? I've studied near-death testimonies from people and this is a recurring theme I encounter. They all report having a 'life review'. You see your whole life like a movie and you see how and why everything happened the way it did. Go check some stories out, they have given more so much more comfort and solace about this whole life thing haha.

If you ever feel like you wanna chat feel free to message me :)

 

Edited by durandalblue
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this topic immediately made me think of the 444 project. I am not trying to bring religion into this discussion, as I am unsure if that is allowed or aplropriate, but basically it's a movement started by a young girl who I knew growing up. I never would have known she struggled with bipolar disorder and depression to the point she has by knowing her. Basically, she travels around, mostly living off the generosity of others (particularly members of our religion) in an effort to make sure others don't feel alone and to bring more awareness to mental illness in general. her story is inspiring to me and I truly recommend anyone to take a few minutes to look it up (again, I am not suggesting this from a religious motive or to convert people, the story just seemed to fit here and I thought might be inspiring to others.)

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Quote

So assuming a person has been crippled by and struggled with a mental illness for years, and they somehow prevail and come out the other side one day. I am talking about the kind of people who cannot work, cannot study, suicidal thoughts, hospitalizations etc. (that's me basically). What does the person learn/gain from having lived through the terror of a mental illness?

 

It's mixed, for me personally. I have gone through a several year depression (more like 7-8) with all of them being pretty bad and one of them being incredibly bad. For at least a couple of years I couldn't work. Failed 5 full time semesters of college in a row because of depression (along with because of low self esteem and anxiety). Felt not just suicidal thoughts but felt like it was overcoming me and urges to go through with it many times. At this point after 4 years of therapy i dont have clinical depression, i would say at the most it's probably there slightly in the background and continues to lessen.

So i would say everything in the above quote applies to me. Though of course i'm sure it's highly personal when someone goes through something like this and comes back from it.

For the negatives: I still feel victimized in all of the incredible suffering i have gone through, an amount i never knew existed before i started dealing with depression. And the hopelessness, and the existential questioning to oneself to so many things, what's the point? Then the amount of time spent in it, though i know not the most amount anyone has,of course, but quite a bit of anger there. Not to mention all of ways it has messed with relationships, like romantic ones( ouch still a sore subject), family ones, friendships, academics, hobbies, ect.

Yea mental illness is hell. But all of us here know that.

But there are positives, as hard as it may be to believe. I dont know if its how long i've been dealing with depression/difficult circumstances for, or that depression is still there a bit, but acknowledging positivity is still difficult and uncomfortable for me. But anyways, they include for one coming out as stronger person mentally.To put better than i can,

"Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars."-Kahil Gibran

For example, i think of times when people complain about stress. Difficult certainly, but when you go through something like depression it just doesn't compare. Though I think this can be hard to acknowledge for many people, because as like me, have felt lots of shame about dealing with this illness and feeling weak for it. Note to self and others: No one's superhuman. Stuff like this is hard for everyone, whether they acknowledge it or hide it.

Also, depression for me has led to more understanding and compassion. Someone sees a person as being angry and as an arrogant a-hole, I see someone suffering and acting out. Or when someone sees someone homeless and think to themselves just get a job, or to an addict just stop using drugs,I know how much easier said than done it is.

Which i guess also means wisdom. Human psychology. Defense mechanisms and chasing happiness and avoiding that darkness at all costs. Or keep placing happiness in the future. All be happy when this happens, or when i have this amount of money.

This leads to the concept of this moment. How much of your day is spent thinking about the past and future? Whether in worry or regret. Not that it's a problem to think back and ahead, but even for your average person not dealing with a mental illness it's a good chunk of time. Often too much. Without mental illness i would haven't learned about mindfulness. How to truly be here in this moment, and how hard it truly is to do as a human being.

Another positive is appreciation. Ahh uncomfortable for me to acknowldege but something i feel more and more overtime..that i'm not in that downward spiral i was in where i was feeling such unbearable pain i was convinced i wouldn't be able to get through it. Because of that i feel that i'm more able to appreciate little things in life. How life is fleeting and what things that truly matter.

 

Edited by bigmike092
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