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When You Feel Lost Because of Your Mental Illness Diagnosis

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In a recent counseling session, I told my counselor I don’t know how to be successful anymore, not since my identity “changed” in 2012 when I was diagnosed. I don’t even know what success looks like for me. I gained this label and seemed to lose so much simultaneously. I didn’t know how to get back to that lifestyle and that’s why I felt so stranded. I’m mourning my past.

• What is Bipolar disorder?

My counselor is wonderful. She knows when to let me whine and complain and when to tell me exactly what I need to hear. I’ve worked with her for two years and she really spilled some tea about this thought process. She told me I would never be that person again, that I could get close to being on that caliber, but I’d never achieve success the same way I did before and I was holding myself back by trying to walk in my own footsteps.

I love a professional who will tell it like it is. I can always count on her to give me the truth and she did. It hurt. I was angry. I wanted to deny it, but those words were what I needed. She also told me that I was still that person, but following the trail I blazed before would be taking steps back. There is no growth in retreat. Everything I need is already within me. It was such a basic concept, but it floored me. I felt her honesty and, while I know I will continue to struggle with this concept of being bipolar, I feel at ease and in control in this moment.

When you receive a diagnosis (or several in some cases), all kinds of definitions are thrown at you and it’s hard to stay afloat. Even nearly five years later, it can still feel like you’re stranded on an island with no way to go home. Even if you did get home, nothing would be the same because you’re not the same. She reminded me that it’s OK if my home feels different now than it was then, that I’m on this island so I can redefine what it means to come home.

Again, this is something I will be working on for quite some time, but I feel at peace with this today. I feel optimistic about what is ahead and I hope we can all decide our homes are our minds and bodies. No matter what the weather looks like, no matter how many times we change, we can always welcome ourselves home with open arms.

Unsplash photo via Averie Woodard

Originally published: October 16, 2017
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