I have been in therapy for almost half of my life.
Sure, it’s great. I have an outlet to talk about things, I learn new ways of coping, I build a healthy relationship with my therapist.
But why is that always the first thing I’m told to do?
Someone is having trouble in their life, we recommend therapy.
What if that’s not the only option?
What has been valuable for me, as someone with chronic mental illness, is being able to connect with things and people in the community.
Navigating the world with mental health challenges was tough. I didn’t feel ready to work. Sustaining friendships was hard. And, unfortunately, I found myself spending the majority of my time alone.
After being isolated for so long, I started volunteering. I worked with kids in a domestic violence shelter, fed the homeless, and worked with animals.
And I felt less alone.
I was getting out of the house, meeting new people.
I found the joy of this is many ways: taking an improv class, joining a protest, going to AA, taking art classes.
I had finally found connection.
And connection led to stability.
Through the connections I made, through the communities I was now a part of, I grew the courage to do things I was fearful of before. I started working, built friendships, entered a long-term relationship, and went back to school.
Life became more fulfilling.
It’s easy to feel less than when you’re living with a disability. By making connections in my community, I started to feel that I was a whole person. The best thing for me has been to be involved in things, just like everyone else.
I still go to therapy. My therapist knows me well and helps me find my way through challenges. But therapy tends to focus on what may be wrong with me.
It’s when I’m participating in regular life that I’m able to see my endless potential.
Mandy Cox is a mental health freelance writer who wants to end stigma and inspire hope through her writing. Check out her growing portfolio at mandycoxwriting.com.