4. What are the pros and cons of having a mental illness(es) or your specific illness(es), i.e. dysthymia?
In his book “The Curse of the Strong” Dr. Tim Cantopher suggests that a lot of sufferers stress themselves into depression after walking a path of over-achievement and perfectionism….Type A personalities to be exact. I personally chalk a large percentage of my issues up to a childhood of unrelenting academic expectations and behavioural standards. I have carried this baggage into adulthood in two major ways: firstly, I have an inability to fail which makes me reluctant to try anything that I pre-suppose myself to be bad at; secondly, I live with a vague sense of disappointment that I am decidedly “average”…just like everybody else!
Thinking about the pros and cons of depression, I am struck by the ying and yang of it all. The negatives can indeed have positives, but without that negative the positive may not exist. For me, a good example of this symbiosis is emotional sensitivity. I search for hidden meaning in people. I search their tone for dislike or judgement. I read between the lines of emails or texts. I often sense misfortune coming my way. I am incapable of being surprised…I always “know” when something is about to happen. On the flip side, I am sensitive to emotions and attuned to unspoken needs. I can tell a thousand things from the tone of my sister’s “hello” and I can spot a cry for help in a chatty email or a Facebook picture. I am often called on in times of need and thanked post-crisis for providing a non-judgemental ear and a logical perspective. My sensitivity to my own emotional state tunes me into the same information in others. Is it a curse or a gift? I don’t quite know!
The cons of this illness are all too well known: unhappiness, self-hatred, loss of relationships, failure to reach ones full potential, etc, etc. Is it ridiculous to consider that there may also be pros? Is it just another attempt to be “good at” depression? Perhaps! However, if I accept the premise that depression is indeed the curse of the strong then by bearing that curse, I must also accept that I am strong. And so maybe, just maybe, I’m not such a lost cause after all!
What’s this all about then eh?
I found a pretty cool challenge on a blog from last year – 30 days of mental health posts. I’ve decided to give it a go, despite being a year late to the party! You can also see the other participating posts. This is my fourth entry. If you prefer, you can read from the start.