A little reminder.
I am an Inspiration...
Mental Health and Labels
Labels... it seems that most people either love them or hate them and I can see why. When it comes to mental health, it’s no secret that many of us feel very alone and stigmatized. Receiving a diagnosis or “label” can be very helpful when it comes to understanding why we act the way we do. It can be very validating to understand that our feelings and symptoms aren’t exaggerated in our own minds, but are actually justified and explain a lot of our behaviours.
Our thoughts always lead to feelings, whether consciously or subconsciously, and these feelings can lead to our behaviours. Certain behaviours and symptoms may be problematic and extremely distressful, and this is why a diagnosis can be helpful to provide very valid ways to overcome these issues in our lives.
On the other side of the coin, I have also experienced the downsides of having these “labels” and diagnoses. especially when it comes to Personality Disorders, and the inconsistency that often comes from within the Psychiatric field. I have received 4 different diagnoses, each different from the other, based on which Psychiatrist I spoke with. The inconsistency makes it difficult to know which issue needs to be treated. It’s also a fair argument that although the DSM (the manual Psychiatrists use to diagnose patients also known as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) is a good tool to make diagnoses, it is not 100% one size fits all. Research that shows some of the DSM was created based on votes from a panel, rather than through actual science or studies*.
Clinging to labels as an excuse can be another issue with mental health diagnoses. Keeping the same harmful behaviours and then remaining in victim-mode while blaming our diagnosis (I did this subconsciously for a very long time) is not the same thing as accepting ourselves and doing the work to adapt and change these negative behaviours into more positive ones. Living in denial is not what I am suggesting, at all. Having accountability and an open mind is what I am suggesting, regardless of what the title of your diagnosis is. Do your own research (as well as speaking to a trained professional), but take everything with a grain of salt.
What’s important to remember is this... Having a mental health diagnosis is not your fault. No one chooses to have a mental health diagnosis, but sometimes our experiences and genetics can make us more prone to these mental health diagnoses than others. Depending on the Doctor you see, therapy and/or medication can be life-changing and very helpful in leading us to navigate and live our lives in more constructive ways. Through a proper diagnosis, we are able to then seek the specific help we need, and in doing so, we are no longer powerless.
Most recently, I was informed that I met the criteria for BPD, Borderline Personality Disorder. Prior to that, I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder and General Anxiety Disorder. Did I feel validated? Yes. Did I get the appropriate help I needed? Yes. Did I also feel even worse about myself after my fourth diagnosis? YES.
What I do not want anyone to do, is to think that you are flawed or that something is wrong with you because you have been given a mental health “label”. You may be feeling hopeless. You may be feeling alone. You may be feeling like you’re weird in some way. Whatever negative beliefs or scary thoughts are coming up for you, I promise you that you are not any of these negative perceptions and you most certainly are not alone. When I was told that I may have BPD, the first thing I did was type it into Google. We’ve all been there. I don’t recommend doing this! According to Google, I would be pretty lucky to make it through life at all. Google also told me that BPD can go into remission, and if I was lucky enough, I might just be able to live a normal life, but with many limitations. I was terrified because I knew I didn’t want limitations. I felt confined and completely hopeless to say the least.
The more I studied and researched, I came across a type of therapy called DBT and I decided to learn more about it. The more I learned, the less scared I became. DBT, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, is a type of therapy that focuses on coping strategies such as emotional regulation, mindfulness, radical acceptance and so many other powerful ways of coping with having very strong and deep emotions. Through DBT therapy (through my own work and with a therapist), I no longer met all of the necessary criteria for Borderline Personality Disorder. I now know for a fact that my life is not going to be cut short because of my mental health. Instead, I am choosing to use my mental health and my experiences to show up for myself and others, to treat myself and others with compassion, and to be grateful for the amazing things about myself, in spite of the things that Doctors are trained to tell us are all wrong about us.
THIS is the real problem. The mental health community is very inclusive for the most part, however there are still many generalizations and stigmatizations that we all face. We are left to think that these diagnoses or labels make us “less than” when this is simply not true. Sure, they are there to help us understand how to live healthier lives, but often there are components to each diagnosis that makes us unique, beautiful and HUMAN. For example, a symptom of BPD is feeling emotions very, very deeply. This can be a troubling symptom, sure, but what about when we look at it from the other side? Feeling joy very deeply, feeling empathy very deeply, and feeling gratitude very deeply are all wonderful things that make us unique and valuable in the world.
When the symptoms of your mental health are distressing to yourself and/or others, I think it’s important to seek help without judgement from yourself or others. You owe it to yourself to experience life as the most healthy version of you. Doing the work with a therapist can feel daunting. It’s important to remember that while you seek a professional to help you navigate, it can be a bit like dating. You are not going to click with everyone and that’s okay. There are many, many trained professionals and I promise you, the search is well worth it. When you find someone who can help you find out what works best for you, the rewards you will reap are priceless.
The other important piece I want to touch on is to remember that chances are, there is a reason why you feel the way you do. It could be a past experience or traumatic event, but it doesn’t have to be. The experiences in our past are very often linked to the present, but we don’t slow down long enough to feel that, and maybe for good reason. I myself was a workaholic to the core. I worked and prided myself for never slowing down. I loved the hustle culture. The problem was that when I stopped working, I had a really hard time being alone with myself and my thoughts. My past wouldn’t leave my mind until I did the hard work of trauma therapy and healing. Again, this work was difficult, but ultimately, the most rewarding thing I have ever done for myself.
Becoming self-aware, welcoming radical acceptance, and working towards growth and compassion are the steps I personally took over the past year to get myself to a place where I finally feel like I’m not “sick” or a “victim” of anything. I feel whole and I feel excited, and I want that for everyone reading this. Whether you resonate with a diagnosis or not, I want you to remember that you are so much more than any diagnosis or label. You are you, and there is only one version. You do not need to suffer alone or in silence, nor should you. If you need help, please don’t be afraid to seek it. There are so many resources here to help you grow into our most empowered selves. The world is waiting for you, so what are you waiting for?
#empowered #BorderlinePersonalityDisorder #Psychiatry #Inspiration #Depression
Mental & Physical Health
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