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I am grateful for my friends and the other people in my life. I think I am particularly grateful because I have schizophrenia. I have some internalized stigma (I’m working on it), and that causes me to feel overly grateful that people want to be a part of my life.

When I look at who I am as a person, and who the people in my life are, I realize they are lucky to have me in their lives, too. Just as all the people in my life have to overlook some of my symptoms, or deal with them, I have to overlook their quirks, habits, flaws and love them as they are. None of the people in my life are perfect. I have some friends who lean toward the negative. I have some friends who are terrible listeners. I have some friends with quirks and idiosyncrasies. I have some friends who have big egos, and I have friends on the opposite side who have self-esteem problems.

In other words, I have real people in my life, and I fit into that category, too.  There are no more “things” to deal with regarding a relationship with me than there are with other people.

I think this is important for people who have a mental illness to realize. Those of us with a mental illness have so many things happen over the course of our lives that can shatter our self-esteem and leave us thankful for anyone who sticks around. The extreme case of this is staying in an abusive relationship, and the less extreme is bending over backward for people (lending them money, always doing what they want, picking up the tab for social events, helping them out in any way that presents itself, etc.).

Maybe, everyone with a mental illness should make a list of their positive qualities and then list their symptoms and see how much more they have to offer than the problems that arise from their symptoms.

I want to continue to feel blessed and lucky to have so many amazing people who are a part of my life, but I don’t want to feel that gratitude just because I have schizophrenia. I want to be grateful because friendship and love are always a reason for celebration, not because I am bruised, flawed, imperfect and lucky to have anyone (no matter whom they are) to be around me.

My hope for all people with a mental illness is that they will recognize and begin to celebrate those things that make them unique and wonderful people – those things about us that mental illness doesn’t touch, or enhances in some of us (like empathy, compassion, possibly creativity, etc.). I want us all to know we are valuable and cherished people in other’s lives just like they are of value to ours.

So, we aren’t perfect. No one is so that just makes us human, like all the people in our lives. We all have obstacles to overcome, and that can make us more alike than different. We can share our struggles and help each other along – we can make our relationships equal instead of lopsided. We can admit that we need each other. We can recognize against all odds that we are of value and people benefit from having us in their lives.