5 Things to Keep in Mind as You're 'Figuring Out' Your Mental Illness


Figuring out what you “have” in the beginning of your mental illness journey can be extremely difficult. Sometimes, you don’t even have the words to describe what’s going on in your head. However, getting help is the only way you will get better. Here are a few tips that helped me:

1. Get rid of stereotypes.

Forget what you think you know about mental illnesses. It can slow you down and get in the way. For example, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is not always compulsive cleaning. It can be intrusive thoughts, rituals and a whole universe of symptom variations you probably don’t even know about. Schizophrenia is not the same as dissociative identity disorder. The term “antisocial’’ in psychology does not mean introverted. Just a few examples.

2. Take initiative.

Make that first appointment. When I was figuring out my mental illness, I went to a psychologist, psychiatrist, neuropsychologist and a neurologist. I do have the advantage to have free health care (because I live in Canada). Do not be afraid to talk about it, but you don’t need to reveal anything to anyone. You are simply going to a doctor’s appointment.

3. Consult the DSM-V.

Self-diagnosing is not necessarily good, but be aware of the type of disorders, illnesses, personality disorders and their symptoms. Talk about it with your therapist. Do not be afraid to ask for testing if you want to (like ADHD or Asperger’s syndrome), but if you do not want to know the results, then don’t. Learn the most you can on psychology and the human mind.

4. Find your community.

Mental illness has given me a sense of belonging that I was never able to find elsewhere. I follow any page I can on social media. I research organizations that help or spread awareness of mental illnesses.

5. Accept your mental illness.

Your mental illness explains your behavior. It does not determine it. It is your strength, not your weakness.

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