I am thankful for a lot of things.
I am thankful for the love of my family and my friends, the unwavering faith they have in me, and the gorgeous world that we share. I am thankful for mornings when the sun is streaming into my bedroom and I am not quite ready to wake up yet. I am thankful for that first hit of cold air when I push the door open and face the world for the first time that day. I am thankful for omelettes at 2 A.M. and the nights of dancing that precede them. I am thankful for warm scarves when I have to walk across campus in 30 degree weather.
I am thankful for my mental illness.
I have fought my mental illness since I was 17. I have fought through three periods of major depression. I have fought two periods of recurring suicidal thoughts. I have fought one near suicide attempt. I fight moderate to severe anxiety every single day.
There are days when I don’t want to fight anymore. I have to honest about that. It is absolutely exhausting to be at odds with yourself. But you know what? I am thankful for it.
I am thankful for sleepless nights and for mornings when I can’t get myself out of bed. I am thankful for the sharp moments when I can’t breathe and I feel panic setting in. I am thankful for the aftermath of a panic attack – the dried tears and finally being able to catch my breath.
I am thankful for crying myself to sleep.
Let me explain. I hated those nights. I hated being driven to cry before I could even let myself sleep. I hated waking up with a massive headache and inhaling ibuprofen before I could make it to class.
I wouldn’t be here today without those nights of crying myself to sleep. I wouldn’t be here without the panic attacks that come at any moment and leave destruction behind. I wouldn’t be here without the times when I grappled with my mortality and desperately sought for an easier way out of the hellhole I was living in.
I am thankful for the bravery and strength that fighting every day has given me. I am thankful (beyond thankful) for the power of modern medicine. I am thankful for the low moments when I feel like I can’t do it anymore.
It reminds me that I am human. Time and time again I have had to force myself to be vulnerable in front of people that I never wanted to be vulnerable in front of. I have had to reach out to professors to explain to them why I failed an exam or missed class for the second or third time in a row. I have cried in front of a therapist I had never met because I was considered “in crisis.” I have had to be upfront about my struggles with everyone that I have considered dating – and am currently dating.
I am thankful for the person my mental illness has made me.
I know what it feels like to never feel good enough. I know what it feels like to be dangerously insecure. I know what it feels like to monitor every bite I am eating in order to lose more weight when I was already 120 pounds. I know what it feels like to feel ugly and disgusting. I know what it feels like to fear that everyone will leave in the end. I go to battle each and every morning with my own psyche.
It has made me a more considerate and kind person that I thought I could be. It has made me more in-tune with my friends when they are struggling. I feel everything deeply, whether they are good or bad, and I am grateful for it. It has made me fight harder and longer for the end to mental illness stigma in this country. It has forced me to allow myself to validate my feelings and understand that my illness is just as important as any physical illness. It has opened me up to the world of self-love and learning to appreciate the things that my body allows me to do.
I believe that my experiences with my mental illness have made me into the worst person I could be. I also believe that my experiences have made me into the best person I could be. I feel joy much deeper because I remember the nights that I have cried myself to sleep and the minutes when I couldn’t breathe.
I am thankful for my mental illness. It makes me a more resilient person every day, and I have had to grow up much quicker because of it. I am tired of thinking of my mental illness as a tumor on my thoughts. When I am thankful for it, I make myself reframe my struggles into something that I am an equal opponent against, rather than a victim of. Do not let yourself be a victim of your mental illness. Be thankful for the lessons it has taught you and continues to teach you.
I am still working towards the day when I can breathe easy for an entire day. Until then, I cherish the times when I can, and learn from the times when I can’t.
The light in me honors the light in you.