An essay by Brian McLaughlin, Advocate
I can remember praying fervently to be cured when I first was diagnosed with serious mental illness. Even after living with mental illness for several years I rarely left my request for a miracle out of morning and evening vespers. In fact some good intentioned folks even told me that if only I prayed hard enough God would grant the very miracle I asked for.
Currently, according to the books I have been living with mental illness for almost twenty years. It became official about seventeen years ago with my first psychiatric hospitalization. The search for my miracle took off soon after that.
Like thousands of others I found it frustrating that God remained silent. Despite the fact that I considered myself a pretty decent sort of a person, who was not deserving of such unrelenting suffering, the illness continued.
I remember looking through the university catalogs, before I became ill, and the only subject that struck me as remotely interesting was the study of psychology and mental illness. I sat in a ton of lectures, and read about the same weight in books and periodicals. I even destroyed a rain forest single handedly, considering all the papers I was forced to write. Even after all that I was still only an observer of the subject that fascinated me as a young scientist and researcher.
Then slowly at first, and later as if thunder was crashing over my head, I came to know from the inside, the true nature of my once limited academic focus. I became seriously mentally ill.
What a miraculous opportunity for a scientist that was. It was as if I was an ardent ornithologist and suddenly found that I knew what it was to fly.
Having a mental illness expanded my understanding in a way I could have never achieved otherwise. Further, mental illness softened my heart, and has made me far more empathetic than if I was spared the struggle. Mental illness opened doors for me too numerous to mention, most academics can only imagine the wonders I have discovered.
Finally, mental illness has gifted me with sensitivity, which did not come to me naturally, like it does some good folks. The kind of sensitivity, along with healing a nature, which I could have never have acquired, even with my most feverish of studies.
In the end I have come to the realization that being spared from mental illness was not the real miracle. The real miracle was to be found in the mental illness itself, and the resulting struggle towards recovery. So, you see that is the funny about miracles, they are not always found in the content of your most sincere prayers, dreams, or wishes. Sometime they are found in the struggle. In this case the struggle towards recovery from mental illness. Simply to have been spared would have destroyed the true miracle. Clearly, the miracle for me was not to be found in an instant cure, but in the struggle towards recovery.
Respectfully submitted for your consideration,
Brian Patrick McLaughlin MS/CPS
MH Consumer Advocate
Erie County, PA.
© 2016 Mental Health Association of Northwestern PA