Mental Health Month: You are not your mental illness

Two years ago, doctors told me I would be homeless and yet three months later, I had landed a six-figure salary and went onto create a joyful, independent life.

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Alana Mai Mitchell
Alana Mai Mitchell in her previous business venture, aQuity Coffee

While I am a highly influential executive in Australia’s Financial Services industry, I have lived through 5 involuntary mental health hospitalisations for my condition that is labelled “psychotic depression”. During my 5th admission, doctors told me that due to my dismal financial situation at the time, I would be homeless. However, I chose differently and through calling on my inner capacity, within 3 months of hearing that predication of homelessness, I had joyfully created a business and went onto land a six-figure salary at a major Australian bank.

After I recovered my financial position, I chose to write a book about my experiences – titled “Being Brave: From trauma to joy” which is a non-fiction memoir about those mental health experiences. In the book, I describe the life choices that took me from rock bottom (where I had 2 credit cards maxed out and a growing debt to my generous father) to financial independence.

I do not see my mental illness as a limitation. Rather, I see it as an opportunity to welcome in the whole of myself and actively work to shift the perception of mental health in our businesses and families from one of judgement to one of complete acceptance.

In Australia, where I am from, 1 in 5 people experience mental ill-health every year as reported by the Australian Productivity Commission in 2019. Those people are our brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers. The report goes further to say mental ill-health costs the Australian economy $180 billion each year. The impact of mental ill-health is too high and with the stigma associated with the phrase “I have a mental illness”, the psychological cost weighs on us too. But things need not be that way. 

Instead of my mental health being a limitation, my mental illness has been the catalyst for my awakening, growth and development. Those experiences led me to accept the whole of who I was, mental illness and all, to create a joyful life. Although my family has a history of mental illness, due to how I now see my own mental illness, my future child will never go through the pain of thinking that something is wrong with them. That pattern of seeing mental illness as a limitation has been put to an end in my family and it can in yours too.

If you are personally, or indirectly, impacted by mental ill-health, know that through 100% self acceptance, you too can be free of the stigma, limitations and labels usually associated with mental health conditions. 

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