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.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Image via Thinkstock.

Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.

Related to Mental Health

a pile of prescription medication bottles

The 'Cost' of Taking Medication for a Mental Illness

I recently wrote an article on medication and the stigma associated with taking it for a mental illness. People seemed to really resonate with the fact that medication, while not for everyone, can improve the quality of life of people diagnosed with mental illness, but let’s talk about the cost that comes from taking that psychotropic [...]
Cup of hot tea in hands

What 'Caring Less' Means to Someone With Anxiety

There’s a delicate balance between caring too little and too much, and neither comes without its pitfalls. Caring too little can make you apathetic, unsympathetic and demotivated. Caring too much can make you exhausted, stressed out, resentful, disappointed and anxious. Most people I have met have been inclined toward one or the other end of [...]
close up of couple holding hands

When You and Your Partner Both Live With Mental Illness

Living with mental illness can be challenging when it is a reality for both you and your partner. This piece doesn’t in any way encompass the breadth and depth of the challenges or advantages (yes, you read that right) you might experience with a partner. It is, however, an honest look at what some of those [...]
The Mighty Facebook cover photo depicting real pictures from the Mighty community

Kim Whitcomb: Live Q&A on The Mighty

Kim is a student at Grand Valley State University in Michigan, and she interned with The Mighty this summer. She has lived with depression and anxiety for five years, and went live on The Mighty’s Facebook page sharing her tips and tricks of making it through college with mental illness.