The surprise gifts mental illness dropped on my doorstep


Exhausting, frightening, lonely. Just a few words that could describe living through mental illness.  But as flecks of light pierce the tunnel’s walls, I’ve decided to flip things on their head; what positives has my twenty month struggle brought me?

A while back I’d have shouted ‘Positives? What could be positive about losing half of yourself and cowering in a corner for 20 months?’But I’ve been giving it a lot of thought since I left the Maytree suicide sanctuary, where I learnt the importance of being kinder to myself, critiquing less and appreciating more.

Clearing the way

Nature has a way of ravaging in order to bring about new growth, think fierce forest fires. But it’s this act that sets the seeds of pine cones free to grow fresh roots.

I’ve started seeing parallels as I’ve felt myself singed by sickness this past year. Sometimes things have to be destroyed to enable something new, something stronger to grow in its place.

It’s with that mindset that I uncovered my top three unexpected gifts:

Faith in human kindness. It’s not just down to luck that I’ve got an incredible support network around me. Now I’ve broken the ten-year silence and opened up, I’ve realised there are plenty willing to catch me when I stumble. I’ve even had some lump-in-the-throat moments with near strangers stepping in to offer a kind ear or a comforting word. The world isn’t all bad, far from it. And people are good to me for a reason, I’m worth being good to.

The guts to try new things. Not since cross country aged 15 had I attempted to put running shoes on and go for a ‘proper run’. But, watching mind over marathon truly changed things for me. I couldn’t run to the corner shop; but feeling so low at the time, I was willing to try anything that could help.  Now I can run to the corner shop several miles away, sometimes twice a week.

Keeping it real. For so long I thought the only way I could get by was to fix a mask on, keep powering through and never pause for breath. Having a breakdown forced that mask to fall off, and it’s taught me something pretty important. It’s ok to be human, in fact, there’s a pretty good human under that armour and letting the real person show has meant I connect with people so much better.

Having asked the twitter community to share what their surprise gifts have been, what really struck me was how common some of those gifts were. It seemed most fell into three pots of gold.

New friendships and stronger connections

“It’s connected me with so many people and made me realise my own self worth. I lost a lot of bad friends through my mental health struggles, but I gained a lot of amazing ones.” @AnxiWarrior

“It’s given me a voice. For years I struggled to put into words how I felt, because no one understood. Thanks to my Twitter family I’ve been able to express my feelings without being judged.” @AnxietyinLondon

“Awareness and 19 new online friends we like to call ourselves Soul-utions. My support system who have changed my life and opened my eyes to new potential” @deahn85

“It’s amazing how deeply you can find yourself connecting with near strangers when you let that shit loose!” @tricina

Self belief

“Fearlessness. Getting through the other side of a breakdown taught me that if I can get through that, I can get through everything. It also taught me self worth and to not put up with shit people.” @ourrachblogs

“a determination to make a difference in the world. Oh and the darkest sense of humour which I love” @Liv1204

New passions and talents

“My surprise gift was my love for writing! My counsellor suggested I start journaling as a healthy way to express emotion. I hadn’t done creative writing since school, and now I have a blog all about mental health.” @ZoeDonna95

“Mindfulness and Buddhism, which both bring me great peace and friendships. I don’t know where I’d be if I hadn’t got lost that night, but I’ll forever be grateful to Amaravati.” @damiensmith1985

“Faith.” @Clydesconnect


Thanking the wonderful twitter community for taking part. See the full thread here, it’s a big bundle of positivity!

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