Mental Illness: A Blessing
As a teenager in the 21st century, my identity is questioned every day. Since I was a little girl, I have been injured, leading to my visiting over 27 doctors who try to fix me. As an attempt to make me feel comfortable, oftentimes doctors ask me “what do you like to do?” Used to the constancy of this question, I answer, “I love to play lacrosse and listen to music.” To the doctor, my identity is what is on my chart and my answer to the surface level questions they ask me. 5’4″ female, chronic pain, likes to play sports. Recently, a doctor stunned me by asking “how do you define yourself?” I froze. The more I thought about that question, the more my mind spun. Who am I? I am the only person who truly knows my own identity, so why couldn’t I answer his question? I could not answer his question because to define myself as one thing is impossible. I am a puzzle, a sum of all of my parts. I told him “I would define myself as me.” That is the truth. I believe my identity changes every second. Some days I think I am defined by my intelligence, others’ opinions of me, my appearance, and on some days, I feel like I don’t truly have an identity. I have realized that one’s identity cannot be encapsulated into a single word. Your identity is adjustable and lies in the palms of your own hands. Now, if asked “how do you define yourself?”, my answer would be, “I am Danielle.” I love to make others smile and to learn. I hate when I make mistakes but realize perfection is ungraspable. I am a daughter, sister, friend, athlete, dog owner, classmate, student, and the only person with my unique identity. Specifically, this year, I have learned that the second you decide to be who you are instead of who others want you to be, people will gravitate towards you. Although some days it is hard to be myself and not shapeshift into somebody else, the only person who belongs in my skin is me. It is funny because one would think it would be easy to be yourself in your own body, but sometimes it is the hardest task. To be yourself, you must find yourself. To find yourself, you must love yourself for everything that you are. I am beautiful because of my sufferings and the blessings I’ve been given. I am awesome because I am me.
I have been diagnosed with OCD, anxiety, depression, and ADHD. At first when I received these diagnoses and felt the effects of my disorders, I felt trapped. My brain became a bottomless pit of thoughts. I constantly thought, “Why me? Why do I have to fight this battle?” But, in an attempt to see the light at the end of the tunnel, I have learned to think about my mental illness from a glass half full perspective. The answer to my question, “why me?” was because my disorders make me who I am. My anxiety makes me empathetic, someone my friends love to be around. My depression makes people feel comfortable confiding in me and becoming vulnerable with me. My ADHD is responsible for my creativity, and my OCD motivates me to always try my best. Although it would be nice if my disorders didn’t have to be so prominent in my life, they are the reason for some of my best characteristics that make me “me”. Sometimes, you have to become grateful to something disguised as a curse, because mental illness truly is a blessing. At first, my disorders seemed like an impossible roadblock, but I have flipped my mindset and become thankful for them.
Every day at school, I see all of my peers. Some of them I have known my whole life, and others I have only spoken a few words to. Whether I talk to them every day or barely at all, I am aware that every single person has baggage they carry. Every secret has a weight. Sometimes the people who stand the tallest have the heaviest weights on their shoulders. The problem with these weights is that they are invisible and often 10 times heavier than weights you find at the gym. Because of everyone’s inevitable struggles, we owe it to the world to be kind unconditionally. You cannot see people’s internal battles, but you can ask people how they are doing and talk to them. By destigmatizing and changing the narrative regarding mental illness, we are all able to embrace our identities. I urge everyone reading this to grab a pen and make a list. A list of the amazing, unique, incredible qualities that you possess, even if they do not always seem beneficial. Every aspect of your being is incredible, and the impact you have on the world is not decided by the challenges you face, rather the challenges you embrace.