Saturday, April 14, 2012

Expressing Life in Mental Illness

Angel in the Dark

     I entered a piece in a local collection accepting submissions from those with and around mental health.  Thanks to advocates mental health is now a community not just diseases, imbalances, disorders, or conditions people must bear completely on their own.  I am glad and proud to be a part of this community, and wanted to participate.  I meant to write something for it too, but in the short time I had could not come up with something that felt right.  The theme was about expressing life.  I tried to come up with something optimistic and triumphant, but it felt a bit hollow.  I have seen places and people that only allow happy stories of overcoming trials in the spirit of encouragement.  Depressing stories are banned, as implicitly are those who have not overcome.  I guess I assumed (erroneously I hope) that expressing life was meant to include only encouragement and happiness, to show that people dealing with mental illness could persevere.  I identified "life" with Easter, spring, hope, renewal.  I tried to write about mental illness from that angle.  I couldn't. 

     My experience with DID has certainly had many positive things about it.  I love my alters.  I love my life with them, I love that I have the opportunity to bring new awareness to DID, child abuse, and mental health.  But that is using bad experiences as a tool turned into something good.  DID results from trauma and make no mistake about it, it sucks.  Losing time, always being tired and confused, being out of control of my body, lost and broken friendships, wading through red tape for official recognition and help, that sucks.  That is part of my life.  I am not going to paint it over with daffodils and claim that any kind of mental disorder is a fun little obstacle course that can always be overcome.  I believe that any problem can be overcome with the right amount of time and the proper tools, but that is not today for everyone.  Some people can't, haven't, or didn't overcome, and that's OK.

     Life includes everything, the good and the bad.  With mental illness, there is usually lots of bad.  But that is only one aspect of life.  That doesn't mean that under the bad isn't vibrant life and many different wonderful experiences, the same as anyone else. 

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