Several years have passed since I was diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder, but I have been surviving with a mental illness for the greater part of my existence. Having a mental illness has changed my life dramatically. It feels like my life revolves around my mental health. Recently, someone asked me what my life would be like if I didn’t have a mental illness. I had to think about it for a while. At first, I said I didn’t know. I couldn’t imagine my day-to-day life without it – like it has become apart of who I am at the core and has shaped me as a human being.
Let me digress for a moment. Some people will say I was born sick. I hate that expression and the ongoing debate remains between nature and nurture – whether we are born with a predetermined set of characteristics or whether we are born as a blank slate molded by our environment. Based on what I’ve studied in university and what I have observed from my own experience, I believe that who a person becomes is a product of both the traits one has inherited and his or her interactions in the real world. In my opinion, people are made up of a combination of the two, and mental health is no exception.
After quite some thought, I pictured another life for myself. Without mental illness:
- I would have a more positive outlook
- My mind would be clearer and I would be more focused
- I would have a higher self-esteem
- I would not seek as much approval or validation from others
- I would be more independent
- I would have more energy
- I would enjoy being in the present moment rather than still struggling with the past
- I would be a free spirit
- I would be more relaxed and able to mingle with people
- I would be more assertive
- I would have greater opportunities
- I would pursue my goals without apprehension
- I would have achieved and accomplished more at this point in my life
- I would not need to take medication or have to manage its side effects
- I would not have suicidal thoughts
Each day I struggle to achieve these things with the aspiration that one day I will succeed in winning the battle against mental illness that many of us must fight alone. Although a lot of positive things can come out of understanding and surviving mental illness, I think most people would rather live without it.
About Rosa Dawson
I'm a 40 year old female from Ontario, Canada. I have first-hand experience with mental health. Officially diagnosed with being in the early stages of schizoaffective disorder in 2004, I struggle with depression and schizophrenia. I've had suicidal thoughts for many years and on a few occasions I have tried to kill myself. With a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and Sociology, I have studied mental illness with the goal of making a positive difference in the lives of others. Looking back, although I would not know it at the time, I probably had issues at a young age. I believe society has yet to take a proactive approach to mental health. With my writing, I wish to reach as many people as possible with this message: You should not suffer in silence. You are not alone.