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If Everything Happens for a Reason, Why Do I Have a Mental Illness?

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My whole life has been shadowed by my inner self reminding me that I was different.

The little voice inside my head telling me to fit in just never went away, even when I thought I’d shoved myself into a puzzle I didn’t belong in. It was like squeezing my foot into a shoe two sizes too small, but I had no other choice but to wear it. All of my energy was devoted to putting effort into fitting in with the world.

Until the day I got my diagnosis.

When I was told I had Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), it confused me more than anything. I felt comforted by the fact that my feelings now had a title and I wasn’t an outcast, but I didn’t know what GAD was. I’d associated anxiety with a feeling — like when someone who hated to fly started getting anxious about getting on a plane. I had no idea anxiety could be a disorder. So when I was diagnosed with something I essentially had no background on, I took it with a grain of salt. I barely reacted to it. I never realized how much baggage would come along with having a mental disorder.

If I could go back to the day I was diagnosed with GAD, I would tell myself living with it won’t be easy, but everything will be OK. Within the year of my diagnosis, I experienced depressive episodes; I started learning about the stigma, realizing that some people were intimidated to have a relationship with me because they thought mental illness brought along too much work for them. I was always told everything happened for a reason, but back then, this reason I just couldn’t justify.

Now I believe everything really does happen for a reason, even if that reason emerges years down the line. I would have let myself know that having “disorder” seemingly written across my forehead was given to me for a reason. I found myself talking openly about my illness more and more, coming to the conclusion that I was a voice for those too scared to speak up. Knowing how many people may judge and back away because of my disorder is disheartening, but I’ve found the important people are the ones who stick by my side through anything.

I stumbled upon a quote the other day — a quote that accurately depicts the day I was told I have GAD.

“Can you remember who you were before the world told you who you should be?”

My answer to that? No. I cannot imagine my life without my diagnosis. But while I may have a mental disorder, I’m not my disorder.

For all of January, The Mighty is asking its readers this question: If you could go back to the day you (or a loved one) got a diagnosis, what would you tell yourself? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to Please  include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio.

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Originally published: January 20, 2015
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