The Other Side of Mental Illness

I often bemoan having a diseased mind but there really and truly is another side that often gets overlooked. People with clinical depression, anxiety, schizophrenics, and people with bipolar I often have well above average intelligence. Indeed we diseased minds but they’re often brilliant and beautiful minds. Sometimes I ask myself, if given the opportunity, would I trade my defective brain for one that is normal. If I made that swap without knowing the goods that I would be getting in return, there is no way I would; risking trading my mental condition for the (lack of) intelligence and irrascability of Donald Trump is a non-starter.

In my more thoughtful moments like I am having now, I realize that I have done more than many people out there. I have climbed a mountain, I laid in the sunset with a Cheetah, I hiked through the Sierras, the Cascades, and the Whites in New Hampshire. I even rode a bicycle almost 170 miles over a weekend. If I’ve suffered, it’s because I’ve lived. I like to think I’ve always been an active participant in life. One of my photographs hangs in the dean’s office of a college even. If it was not for my mental illness, I might never have created the beautiful artwork or mastered the intricacies of the internet and computers. Of course I might also be married and a whole lot better at daily life but it’s a trade I wouldn’t make. I realize I do not like ordinary; it’s exceedingly boring and lacks any kind of stimulation whatsoever.

I have a friend who is both Autistic and Schizophrenic. He’s a self-published author that wrote a beautiful novel that has the hallmarks of greatness. It’s not fiction so much as pure, unadulterated literature. He even says that if it weren’t for his mind, he would not have been able to write the work that he did. He’s 25 years older than I and I am encouraging him to submit his book for publication to some publishers. His self published work is so good that it looks as if it has been professionally edited, layed out, and assembled into a PDF. I mean he could literally just submit the PDF and get paid a whole lot because it needs virtually NO work at all. It would be a publisher’s dream come true. But like me, he also suffers from low self esteem. It’s hard when society marginalizes you.

The trouble with having a mental illness is that people expect you to behave like you do not have one. (Joker 1999) It’s an incredibly astute observation but it’s damn impossible and I like aspects of my abnormal mind. My abnormal mind has healthy creativity and problem solving unlocked. That’s the way to live.

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