I write a lot about my darkness, my mental illness, the depression and anxiety that make my life a struggle. Frankly, these mental illnesses suck, and I wouldn’t wish them on anyone. They have thrown curveballs into my personal relationships, screwed with my sleep, trapped me in a world of terror that only I know, and been an all-around, all-American, pair of assholes. Yet they have also helped me in some cases.
In college, I frequently got very good grades because of my anxiety. When my friends commented that they never saw me studying, I didn’t know how to explain that my anxiety caused me to replay lectures in my head, to regurgitate the readings without actually having the book in front of me. I didn’t know how to explain that I was thinking about the work when I was lying in bed, unable to sleep, because my anxiety wouldn’t let me rest. I got good grades, sure, but there was a price.
And so too in law school and passing the Massachusetts Bar Exam. My anxiety, specifically the fear that everyone would judge me, would leave me if I failed, that was what pushed me forward. When I was actually taking the bar exam, I wasn’t nervous about my professional prospects, but rather what my girlfriend at the time would think of me.
And in my regular therapy session this past week, my therapist talked about harnessing that anxiety to reinforce positive behaviors instead of negative ones. Yes, fear is not an ideal motivator to use. But when you are in the darkness, you use what is available to you. And my anxiety is always available to me.
As time goes on, my therapist and I will work on replacing that fear-motivator with a more positive one. Yet in the meantime I can hopefully use it to form better habits, healthier habits than the ones the darkness currently causes.
At least that is my story, what is a way you try to redirect your mental illnesses into something positive? What is a way that you try forming an alliance with your darkness?