6 Gentle Reminders If You're Struggling With a Mental Health Diagnosis
When I heard my first mental health diagnosis of a personality disorder, I did not believe it. I told myself the doctors were wrong, they judged me too soon, they had no idea what they were talking about.
It took me years and a lot more pain to return back to the diagnosis, accept it and start healing.
Sometimes, I wonder if my life would have been easier had I been able to process what I heard sooner. Perhaps I would not have left yet another college or gotten into another toxic relationship. Most importantly, I would have learnt to be kinder to myself much earlier, stopped trying to chase a life that wasn’t meant for me and begun building a life designed for exactly me.
I know it isn’t easy to hear a mental health diagnosis, whether it’s your first or not. So, if you have just heard one that you are struggling to wrap your head around, I hope these reminders help.
1. You get to use terms and labels you are comfortable with.
Some of us like to think of our diagnosis in terms of illnesses and some others find it helpful to avoid strictly medical or neurotypical language. You are allowed to find words, terms, labels, treatment approaches and mental health professionals that suit you. Our mental health journeys are unique and the only common goal we all have is to find a way to lead our lives in the best manner possible.
2. You only have to share your diagnosis with people you choose.
When I first began to understand what my mental health conditions were, they felt like a huge part of me. I thought not sharing this upfront with everyone was being secretive or lying by omission. Over time, I realized this isn’t true.
Our mental health is personal and we get to decide who we share it with and how much information we give them. You can talk about it openly if that feels right to you. But, you are also allowed to only share it with people you trust or those who may benefit from knowing about it (such as, a manager if it could affect your work, or a partner whose support you may need).
3. You get to define your own recovery goals.
In cases of certain illnesses and individuals, it makes sense to work toward full recovery. But in many cases, that approach itself can be harmful. If it works for you and you are able to completely recover, that’s wonderful. But if it’s harming you, please do not beat yourself up about the fact you’re not recovering as best as someone else.
Not setting “full recovery” as a goal does not mean that you have decided to give up and bask in your illness. It means you are willing to open yourself up to each day, see what you can do differently and accept what you cannot (your own personal serenity prayer!).
4. They way your brain functions does not define you.
Our brains are powerful organs and they are our processing rooms. So, it’s natural for your brain to tell you the ways it is designed and inclined is the most important thing about you. But, that isn’t true.
People don’t think of us in terms of what we feel and how we process. They remember us by how we act toward them, how we make them feel and the life we create. You get to decide how you would like to be defined and remembered.
5. Some days will be good and some will be hard.
You may not always get to control how a day is going to be. This doesn’t mean that you have no control over your life or you can’t do anything to get better (you do and you can).
It just means it helps to move into a compassionate mindset and trust yourself on days when it simply can’t get much better. Allow yourself those days, knowing tomorrow will be different, and hopefully, easier.
6. You have the ability to fight your own battles.
Those who love us, root for us, believe in us and understand us will not give up on us. But we cannot place a dagger in their hand when they have no enemy to slay. They cannot fight our battles for us, no matter how much they love and care for us.
So, allow them to stand by and support you while you work on yourself. Remember that you have everything it takes to heal stored within you.
Here’s hoping you find all the strength, courage and fortitude in the universe to keep on keeping on. I promise no matter what, there is a life of love and joy ahead of you. Give yourself permission to believe it.
Original photo by author