by Maria

Living with mental illness is a lot like living in a firing range. There are bullets, in the form of mood swings, anxiety, and fear being fired around and above you. Sometimes the noise of the bullets becomes dull and barely discernable. This is the ceasefire we longed, hoped and prayed for. The world has become safe again. We venture into the pleasure of being alive, with our sense of alarm deactivated. It is a question that is posed with my Grow Mental Health friends often. Have I gained more from having a mental illness than I have lost? It’s a difficult question to answer, and dependant on when I am asked. During a ceasefire, I can see what I have learned through my illness. I feel a peace that transcends description. This peace would not be so pronounced had I not the awfulness of depression/anxiety to compare it with. I am not a Pollyanna. I experience the usual trials, tribulations, and discontents that are part of being alive but I have been strengthened by my trips to the firing range. They have made me almost immune to the small stuff. When I become unwell, when the noise of the bullets are unmistakably louder and closer my answer becomes even harder to answer. However, my Grow family remind me I am not alone in this battle. They strengthen my resolve to see this war through to the end, to dodge that bullets firing around and above me. I would not have chosen to live on this firing range, but I am the woman I am – warts and all, because of it. I like to think it has made me more empathetic, more able to reach out and understand what a person in the war zone needs to hear. Hold on to this, ‘You will get through this. Those bullets are dummies, and you are mistaking their noise for their danger. Take my hand, see how powerful two people together can be”.

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