What It's Like When You Can't Separate Your Mental Illness Diagnoses


I have four, count ‘em, four diagnosed mental illnesses. I struggle daily with major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, with heaping spoonfuls of borderline personality disorder and bipolar disorder. It’s definitely a lot to handle. I’ve been seeking professional mental health help for 10 years now, although I could have definitely benefited had I started earlier… maybe when I was 13 or so. I’m 28 now and just got my most recent diagnosis of bipolar.

The Mighty is my group therapy session. I can pick and choose which illness I want to hear about today, all without having to contribute my own feelings and emotions to a group of strangers who may or may not judge me. Today I have to courage to share what it’s like having four diagnoses.

Every day, I hungrily lap up the latest Mighty article that relates to me that finds itself in my Facebook newsfeed. It’s so relieving to read someone else’s words and feel as if I’d penned them myself; it’s truly cathartic. I’ve always wanted to extend myself in that way, and The Mighty even prompts me on Facebook with questions like: “If you struggle with bipolar disorder, how would you describe it to someone who doesn’t understand?”

That’s where I get hung up. Which is the bipolar again? Is that the one that makes me want to sleep all the time or the one that makes me fear abandonment? I struggle with trying to put into words what it’s exactly like living with each disorder; all I know is how I struggle with the collective of disorders.

The good news is, living with a mental illness, or two, or more, isn’t living in box. Your emotions and experiences and perceptions are uniquely yours. Certain aspects of a mental illness may align with the way you think, behave or otherwise live, and that’s OK. That’s where diagnoses come in and lead you to the proper people for the appropriate help.

And a lot of people without mental illness don’t understand or even stigmatize mental illness. And that’s OK too because generally, people fear what they don’t know or understand. We have the power to educate others about mental illness, or, if you’re like me, find the proper resources to educate them when the words aren’t forthcoming.

That’s why I have to thank all of you for speaking out, writing it down, sharing it with the “group.” Because without other people who have had similar experiences, we wouldn’t continue to learn about our conditions, grow, be able to educate others, or find solace.

So keep on fighting, sharing, caring, and asking. We, as a community, deserve to have our voices heard, no matter how small of insignificant you feel. Because somewhere, someone is finding strength in your words.

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

Thinkstock photo by Ryan McVay

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