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On the drive in to work this morning it struck me that I’ve lost quite a bit to this whole “mental illness” business.  But the flip side of that coin is that I’ve also gained a lot.  I figured maybe this was worth writing about.  I mean really, you’re coming to a blog that calls itself “Mental in the Midwest” – writing about my mental illnesses might just make sense.

What I’ve lost:

  • Friends, lots of friends.  Most of this is my doing.  At the beginning it was because I’d been treating people like shit for too long before my diagnosis came.  Later it was because I was picking the wrong people to be my friends.  For awhile it was because I would lean on people too much and not give enough back to the relationship.  I don’t have many people even now that I really consider friends that are physically close enough to get together with – a handful at best.  The bulk of my friends are online and 99% of the time that’s how I prefer it.
  • The ability to sing.  I used to sing in choirs at school, in the car, to calm myself, to my second husband.  I got to sing Handel’s “Messiah” at the big fancy theatre here when I was a sophomore in college.  Now I can’t carry a tune in a handle with ergonomic handles.  Not sure why.
  • The ability to do most things which require fine motor control.  In my day I made some truly beautiful things, like the angel below.  She’s made primarily from size 11-0 seed beads done in brick stitch, which means you add one bead at a time.  Thanks to Lithium, this is no longer something I can even think about doing.
  • IMG_2871Along with that, typing has gotten harder – partially because of the motor control and partially because it seems like the connection between my brain and my hands isn’t as solid as it once was.  During the heyday of my undergrad degree I could type 92 words per minute, virtually error free.  Now…  Yeah, I wouldn’t even know, and I have a lot more mistakes.
  • The ability to sleep without chemical intervention.  I’ve always had some degree of difficulty getting to sleep at night, but now it’s pretty well a given that it ain’t gonna happen without a fistful of meds.  I miss the days of being able to wear out my body and my mind and then sleep peacefully until the next morning.

However, there is always a flip side.  While I’ve lost things to mental illness, I’ve also gained.

  • Online friends.  Through my blog I’ve met some lovely people who are struggling with illnesses of their own.  We are a kind of “virtual family” and I love them all dearly.
  • A greater appreciation for my parents.  I always knew they loved me, but they more than proved how much by never EVER giving up on me.  It makes me value the time I had with my dad before he passed and gives me determination to do whatever I can to take care of my mom when she needs me.
  • The knowledge that I truly can do anything I set my mind to.  Not too long after being diagnosed I started an online Master’s degree.  Despite attempting suicide and spending a week in the hospital during the middle of one of the classes, I graduated with a 3.8 GPA.
  • Understanding.  I know now why I did some of the unbelievable things I did as a younger person and why I sometimes felt like I did.
  • Strength.  I actively and purposely tried to kill myself FOUR TIMES and (obviously) didn’t succeed.  I am stronger than either of my illnesses, I am stronger than my faults, I am stronger than anything broken about myself.  It’s cliched, but it’s true – anything that doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.