It’s a question the majority of us are never asked. I don’t know if I’ve ever consciously tried to understand my thoughts, feelings and behavior. As someone who deals with a mental illness, I’ve tried harder to ignore my thoughts, feelings and behavior rather than understand them.
I had the privilege of hearing Mike’s talk live on November 7th at the Normal Theater several hours after giving my talk, “The Importance of Being an Unselfish Storyteller.” In that talk, I shared that for years I’ve battled and for the most part hid from my battle with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Having a mental illness feels like a liability, but as Mike Veny would point out in his talk, it can actually be an asset.
Veny defines a mental illness as what happens when your thoughts, feelings and behavior have a profoundly negative impact on one’s life. While the internal impact of a mental illness can be severe, so can the fear and misperceptions of what it actually is. These thoughts and the views of others prevent many from ever seeking help or sharing that they have a mental illness with others.
“If you choose to see mental illness as an asset, you open up a great opportunity to find happiness, more success, and serve the people in your life more effectively,” Veny argues.
One of the barriers to seeing a mental illness as an asset is the confusing nature of these ailments. Mike shared a story of going to the gym and hurting his wrist. He knew that if it still hurt after icing it later that day, it was likely a sprain, a strain, or broken.
A mental illness is never as clear cut as a sprained, strained, or a broken wrist. Symptoms are difficult to understand.
After deciding to make a commitment to regular therapy, Veny said he started to discover the many layers within himself. “When you’re willing to discover them (the layers), you can start to realize your potential.”
“It taught me how to connect with people. It gave me my musical talent,” Veny says.
Even Abraham Lincoln struggled with depression, but it was this depression that some argue helped him to have the empathy and insight to confront one of the most significant moral crisis in our country.
Mike finished his talk with: “If you ever find yourself struggling with your own thoughts, feelings or behavior, or a loved one, it might seem like anything but normal, but mental illness is not a liability; mental illness is an asset.”
I firmly believe in Mike’s conclusion. Mental illness is indeed an asset, but we have to allow ourselves to see it that way instead of assuming it’s always a liability. Some of the most brilliant minds in the world are also impacted by illness, but they have been aided by this “asset.”
What are your thoughts? Is mental illness an asset?
Want more from TEDxNormal? Watch every talk from TEDxNormal 2015:
Deborah HalperinEmpowering Students to Get Stuff DoneNicole LoftusHow something you do every day gets $2.5 Trillion to EntrepreneursAlex BrutonWhy we need to innovate how we learn to innovateLisa BodellHow Simplification is the Key to ChangeElisabeth CardielloThe most powerful question you never consideredLiz FloresYou Are Made for MoreJeff HavensWhy aren’t more of us engaged at work?Jeffrey StampWhat An Idea Needs To SurviveJessica TenutaThe world is changed by those brave enough to question itMichael LuchiesThe Importance of Being an Unselfish StorytellerMike VenyMental Illness is an AssetKen MyszkaEpiphany to Enterprise: How Rethinking our Food System Can Be DeliciousJackie BooneHow Living a Life You Love Can Save the WorldKali LewisMy Semester in the FutureKim Behrens KaufmanWhat a Grandma’s Experience Taught Me About StorytellingJohn VozenilekYour Doctor Wants to, But Can’tIrum TahirHow to change your limiting beliefs for more success