I used to take an incredibly pessimistic view towards bad things when they happened, and it had never occurred to me until fairly recently of the possibility of an underlying purpose. No-one ever actually enjoys it when bad things happen—unless they’re a masochist—but it is both possible and desirable to reap benefits from negative circumstances.
In 2011, my best friend was taken into the mental healthcare system, after she experienced a frightening episode where she lost touch with reality. I doubted that she’d ever get better and that I would never get my ‘old’ friend back. I didn’t understand anything about mental health issues at the time, and had plumped for hoping that nothing like that would ever happen to me (sensible plan, I know!).
Watching my friend’s mind let her down really affected my belief in the individual’s capacity to overcome adversity, which ended up causing other problems. I found myself becoming deeply pessimistic and in the following years, I went through my own version of a breakdown, including panic attacks and constant anxiety. I never sought a medical diagnosis, but reason that that I may have suffered from something like a nervous breakdown caused by a series of stressful events.
Though at times I felt like I wouldn’t be able to cope with things, it all ended up being a truly profound learning experience. Whereas before I had rejected parts of my personality that I didn’t like, now I feel more integrated and whole. I am a more authentic version of myself than I ever have been, and I know lots more about the subject of mental health. My capacity for compassion has enlarged dramatically, and I have also discovered my insatiable curiosity for the famous Swiss psychologist, Carl Jung’s, theory of personality types.
Negative circumstances always help you grow by demanding that you develop new skills to cope, though it may not feel like it at the time. As a result, you find out who you really are and what you want, and your life becomes better. You also become more confident in your worth as a person, since you must value yourself in order to find the strength to carry on.
Happily, I eventually got over that particular bad situation, and all is well now. I can barely even imagine myself having a panic attack these days. I feel much more capable of dealing with whatever life throws at me, and I know that even if I did have another almost-breakdown (hopefully not), I’ve now gained the skills and knowledge I need to cope with it.
Written by Catherine Heath
Photograph by Lulu Lovering