My favorite musical is Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. It is a dark tale of murder and revenge. One of the numbers involves Benjamin Barker, A.K.A. Sweeney Todd, singing passionately to his straight edged razors referring to them as, “his friends” and saying they’ll soon “drip precious rubies.” It is dark. It is morbid. And I love it.
I love it because I can identify with it. Okay, not so much the murder part, I couldn’t do that, but referring to something dark and sinister as your friend, that part I understand.
In my last post I referred to my mental illness as, “a friend who keeps screwing everything up, but that you keep around for some odd reason.” Well it is like a friend. It is always there. Always influencing what you do. And it isn’t all bad.
Someone asked the question recently on social media, “would you get rid of your mental illness if you could?” And while the immediate answer is, “yes of course,” the full answer is more complicated.
Living with mental illness is terrible in a lot of ways, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone ever. Yet there are silver linings to this dark way of living. For starters, I honestly believe that we are rewarded for surviving the low depths of depressions and other forms of mental illness by more fully experiencing the good days. Even the normal days, the meh days, are appreciated by those of us who know what a “bad day” can really look like.
Indeed, I’ve lived with mental illness so long, it feels like it is a part of me. I don’t know how it would change who I am if I were suddenly freed from it. I don’t know if I would know who I was anymore. Yea, there are parts that suck. Constantly worried about if I am being a good enough friend, a good enough son, a good enough husband, etc. I’m terrified too that one day when I have kids I might pass it on to them. I know that although my own dad did his best, his actions played a significant role in my developing mental health issues. But it has shaped who I am, for better or worse, and I can’t help but wonder what would happen to me if it left. Living with mental illness has also taught me a strength that is unique, that I probably wouldn’t have learned but for having to face this fight every day.
So would I cure my mental illness if I had the choice? Probably. But it would be a bit bittersweet if I did, like saying goodbye to a friend who has been with you for years and years.
What about you? Do you, dear reader consider your mental illness a friend who you’d keep around if you had a choice?