What is Success? ~Success and Mental Illness

I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be successful. For some people, being successful means making a lot of money, reaching the top of the ladder in their careers, or maybe even being famous. I was asked recently, in the simplest of terms, why I’m not more successful in life, why didn’t I have a big, fancy career: “You’re so intelligent. Why do you work in retail?”

In no way did I take any offense. It wasn’t said with any malice or with any condescending tones. It was a genuine question. Yes, I speak enough Spanish that I can help customers who speak very little English. Yes, I write books. But it really did get me thinking…

What is success?

I hate calling bipolar disorder a disability, but in some ways it is. My work actually has the option for employees to identify themselves as disabled, and bipolar disorder is on that list. I refuse to check that little box to identify myself as disabled. But having a mental illness, I believe, has held me back from more options. I don’t want it to be seen as an excuse to not do more, but it has limited my options.

I will probably never have a big, fancy career. I may never finish college and get my degree. Stress is a huge trigger for episodes for me, and I can’t risk slipping into mania or depression. Both states are extremely dangerous for me, and both can be extremely debilitating.

But this doesn’t mean I’m not successful in life. Success can be found in the little, daily nuances in life. This is true for everyone, not just those living with mental illnesses.

Yesterday, I didn’t feel depressed or manic.
Yesterday, I didn’t let my anxiety get the best of me, and I was able to overcome it.
Yesterday, I sat down and worked on my novel.
Yesterday, I was able to make someone laugh.
Yesterday, I was thanked for offering someone the opportunity to talk if they needed someone to listen.
Yesterday, I had someone open up to me about a loved one’s suicide attempt, and I shared my own experiences.
Yesterday, l came home to a loving husband.
Yesterday, I continued to break down the stigma of mental illness.

Success doesn’t have to be the big things in life.

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