You might have heard, or even experienced yourself, that having a mental illness is tough. And I won’t disagree. It might drain your energy and take all your hopes away. However, that doesn’t mean that this is it. Or that this will be it forever. Often, mental disorders “hit” in episodes, and people are quite functional between episodes. Or they still experience positive feelings even when having a chronic mental disorder. I know we may have this image of someone weak, locked in their house without interests, dreams and passion, but that is just incorrect. It is not like this all of the time or for all people. This list of people with mental illnesses may help you question that rooted belief:
- Walt Disney: dyslexia
- Michael Phelps: attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Frida Kahlo: depression
- Kafka: insomnia, depression, anxiety
- Winston Churchill: bipolar disorder
- F. Scott Fitzgerald: depression
- Hermann Hesse: depression, bipolar disorder
- Jim Carrey: depression
- Sigmund Freud: depression
- Charles Dickens: depression
- Audrey Hepburn: depression, eating disorders
- Elton John: substance abuse and bulimia
- Leo Tolstoy: depression, hypochondriasis, alcoholism, substance abuse
- Abraham Lincoln: severe depression
- Charles Darwin: severe panic disorder
That’s right. You can have a mental disorder and still be a strong politician, a hilarious comedian, a famous singer, a star athlete, an amazing writer and even a psychotherapist!
You can have a mental disorder and still be everything you can dream of.
Now, let’s zoom in a bit.
We know him for his humor, craziness and energy. When I see him acting, I can swear this man has no struggles. Yet, Carrey was homeless for some time and lived in a minivan with his family when his father lost his job. He had to quit school to start working. He didn’t have it easy. He was also suffering from depression for a long time. He was taking medication but then stopped it and found peace in spirituality. “I’m making a conscious choice to see challenges as beneficial so that I can deal with them in the most productive way”, he said.
Was he ever in pain? Yes. Did he make his dream come true? Oh yes!
The mexican artist. The feminist. The passionate flower. The beautifully vulnerable and strong human being. Frida, as she stated, had two accidents in her life. The first was when sitting in a bus and an iron rod passed through her uterus, taking away her ability to have children. The second one was meeting Diego, her eternal love and torturer, her unfaithful husband. The artist had to endure depression, polio, a leg being amputated, three miscarriages and long hospital admissions. In one of her recoveries, she had to stay in bed for three months. This is when the painter inside her appeared, wonderfully showing us what it means to turn your wounds into resilience.
“I am not sick. I am broken. But I am happy to be alive as long as I can paint.”
She found healing in her art, and she was happy when immersed in it. Frida is an example of survival. She had so many reasons to give up, yet she was screaming: “Feet, what do I need you for when I have wings to fly?”
The Oscar-winning Broadway icon was introverted as a child and faced depression and anorexia very early in her life. She faced the horrors of World War II, and she was starved to the point that she was painfully thin. She also had many miscarriages that hurt her deeply until she was finally able to give birth to her first child. However, all of these unfortunate events didn’t stop this star from shining. And I am actually not talking so much about her acting career but about the rest of her life. Audrey was always a sincere and kind person, full of love, light and humor. Her greatest achievement was her work as a UNICEF Ambassador. She fought for children in Africa and brought happiness to so many of them. “As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.” Audrey knew. And she knew because she transformed her pain into love.
Look at them, all so human and real, with their good and bad moments. Look how they fought with all of their power and survived a world full of uncertainty and sadness and laughter and glory. Look at them and see yourself.
Suffering is an integral part of life. We all look the same when we suffer. We shrink, we cry, we look so small. But this is just how we humans are. The good thing is we are all made of the same material. And if we want to, we can see ourselves in others, give our hand heartfully and watch each other thrive.
We can’t let problems eat us alive. Not as long as we have each other.