themighty logo

When You Still Have an Undiagnosed Mental Illness


We live in a world of labels. Labels like: friend, daughter, colleague, writer, artist. Putting things into boxes makes it easy for us to navigate our world and in a way, it helps us define a sense of self.

But when it comes to mental health, it’s not that simple. Things aren’t always black and white. And unlike a lot of physical health, like broken bones or a runny nose, mental health is usually invisible, despite physical manifestations.

We hear a lot of stories about mental health diagnoses and how people learn to manage it. But there’s also another side of the story. The time before a diagnosis — a road before the recovery.

It’s not that I don’t fit into any boxes, it’s almost like I fit into too many. Despite not having a formal diagnosis, even going to multiple health professionals, I know something is wrong. I struggle with food because my body dysmorphia tells me my inability to only eat the bare minimum makes me useless. My depressive episodes stop me from leaving bed, showering, meeting friends — but they never last the two week cycle for me to be considered manic depressive. I don’t have manic episodes that would make me bipolar. I experience over half a dozen anxiety attacks a day. I see hallucinations from time to time. Yet I still don’t have an official diagnosis. Does that make me any less sick?

I struggle with mental health and I’ve been seeking health for almost seven years now, and I still don’t have a diagnosis.

And I struggle with having no diagnosis. Why? Because it makes me feel like a fraud. Despite the fact that my therapist tells me I’m not well, she won’t tell me what’s wrong. She won’t tell me what kind of sick I am. I don’t feel validated in my own mental health, just because I can’t put a name to my monster.

It’s something that I struggle with every day, because I know that I am not well, but I don’t know what is making me ill, so I don’t know how to fix it — how to feel better. The strategy of “just waiting it out” only works so many times, only works so well, before you get tired and frustrated of being tired and frustrated.

I just wanted to write this and share with whoever is reading, that, if you are living without a diagnosis, you are not alone. And you are valid. I understand the frustrations you may be going through. The trial and error with medication. The switching of therapists, starting over. Wait list upon wait list to see doctors, to do tests, only to come up with the same answer: they don’t know what’s wrong but you can always try this new medication. You are not struggling alone. And I know it’s hard to keep trying, when the answer is always “nothing,” but keep trying, one day at a time. And I’ll try with you. One day at a time.

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

Thinkstock photo via AnkDesign