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It would be easy to think that mental illness is all bad. It would be easy to feel nothing but sorry for someone with a mood disorder. But in fact there are some upsides…

Community

In the past year I have started volunteering and writing in the sphere of mental health for various organizations. Through this blog alone I’ve had many conversations with friends, colleagues and old classmates about mental health that I otherwise never would have. The underlying message in most, if not all, of those conversations is that all of us share experience with mental illness. Whether it’s a friend of a friend struggling with a new diagnosis or an old classmate reaching out to tell me they are bipolar too, by putting it out into the universe that I have an illness, I have realized that I am not alone. The online community is especially supportive, with bloggers retweeting tips and anti-stigma spreading through memes. For an illness that specializes in making one feel isolated, it is pretty cool to know there is a huge network out there to lean on.

Ability to Read Others

All those years of therapy and analyzing the crap out of our own behavior means that people with mood disorders usually have an ability to see right through other people’s crap too. Seeing the patterns doesn’t mean I don’t repeat them, it just means I’m aware of the crap while it’s happening both to me and because of me. I think most mood disorder patients have this same experience – so many years of picking apart thought patterns and writing mood diaries means we can analyze the heck out of all our friends and acquaintances, Freudian-style.

Ability to Feel for Others

In my mind, empathy is the most important trait needed to consider yourself a human being. Realizing you’re not alone in illness and seeing other people’s motivations behind their behavior – these things that come with illness mean that those with mood disorders have a deep well of sympathy for other people struggling. Beyond feeling sorry for someone, empathy is the ability to put yourself in another’s shoes for a moment, to understand the pain behind the circumstances, behind the label. I feel privileged that a part of me can identify with others’ struggles and I feel more human because of it.

About Sarah Lindsay

Sarah Lindsay is in her mid-twenties and lives in Toronto with her boyfriend and their dog (who also has some anxiety issues). Sarah was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder in 2005 at the age of 16 and is still trying to figure it out. Follow Sarah’s story on HMC’s Supportive Minds Blog, or additionally you can follow her on Twitter, Facebook or check out her new website: SarahsMoods.com

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