Jonathan Friesen

6 Unexpected Blessings of Mental Illness

Thirty years ago, panic episodes, anxiety disorders and Tourette's syndrome clouded my view. But now I see that though the fog was exceptionally dark, good things were developing; good things inside of me.

Conventional wisdom states that certain environments lend themselves to the formation of certain character traits. Team sports, for example, are credited with fostering cooperation and commitment. In exchange for service in our armed forces, soldiers learn the essence of duty, honor, sacrifice and discipline.

In recent years, we have expanded our understanding of formative experiences to include seasons of medical struggle. We honor cancer survivors for their dignity and strength, while young children living through childhood diseases receive recognition for their tenacity and resilience. And they should.

What we are really acknowledging is that during the intense and painful parts of life, some very good qualities are born, qualities that don't just occur on their own.

However, when we speak of mental illness, there is no talk of a formative experience. The identified mental disorders carried by many, myself included, are not credited with creating anything of value in us. Our lives exist under different headlines, where we are seen as weak and unfortunate, fragile and unpredictable. Granted, many of our behaviors are.

But when there is a call to count blessings, do not imagine for an instant that we have none to number. Within the mental health community, we too have discovered that our storms have silver linings. Our "weaknesses," like battlefields, create in us the realization that we can more than survive mental illness.

Mental illness has its blessings.

1. Generosity

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