Mental Illness Failures are Really Inspiring Wins

Mental Illness Failures are Really Inspiring Wins

Yesterday, I was fortunate enough to give a presentation on mental illness to a group of ninth-graders through the Bipolar Babe project. I spoke about stigma and my personal story of mental illness. I told them all about my bipolar disorder, my diagnosis, treatments, treatment failures, vagus nerve stimulator, electroconvulsive therapy and more. And at the end of the presentation, the kids had a chance to fill out feedback forms, and one of the words they used surprised me – inspirational.

Failure in My Career as a Crazy Person

In truth, when I look at my career as a crazy person, I don’t feel inspirational. I feel mostly like a failure. I feel like someone who has seen psychiatrist after psychiatrist and has tried medication after medication and tried treatment after treatment, mostly to no avail. If you line up all the times I’ve failed, it’s one heck of a long line.

Failure is Inspiring?

But the funny thing is, through all this failure, the kids saw hope and inspiration. They saw something I obviously needed to be reminded of.

Mental Illness Failures are Really Inspiring WinsI didn’t quit.

I didn’t give up.

I faced failure; I faced doctors telling me that I was beyond hope; I faced my own fears of being beyond fixing and I kept going.

I can’t believe it, actually. My psychiatrist told me to drop out of university because I would never be able to handle it with bipolar disorder. But I graduated with a bachelor’s of computer science.

I was rejected for treatment by three separate doctors – them saying I was beyond help and that there was nothing they could do – and yet I continued until I found one who would treat me (successfully).

It’s actually quite extraordinary.

And it took the kids to remind me of it and I am extremely grateful for it.

Yes, Mental Illness Failure – and Tenacity it Takes to Continue – is Inspiring

A scientist will tell you that a lack of results is still a result in itself – and it is. So in other words, “failing” a medication isn’t really failing at all; it’s just the creation of another data point. That medication didn’t work for you. That combination didn’t work for you. Time to move onto something else. If you hadn’t tried it, then you wouldn’t have that data point or that option to cross off the list.

So for me, all those “failures” led to the place where I am today where I can say “all these things didn’t work, but this (finally) did.”

So my failures are wins. My continuing through it all is a win. My tenacity (or stubbornness) is a win.

Thank goodness we have kids to remind us of such things.

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