We all have mental health, and sometimes, just as our physical health can deteriorate into sickness, so can our mental health. Coming to terms with that, reaching out to tell someone else, and seeking professional help are feats of their own, but those are topics for another post.
When I conquered each of these steps – and I’ve had to do so more than once – I was surprised to find how difficult hearing a diagnosis, or a suspected diagnosis, can be. In retrospect, I don’t know why I was surprised at how the news would affect me; a physical health problem with a grim diagnosis, even if I’d suspected it, would obviously make me upset. Maybe it’s the lack of narratives, stories, and accurate media representation that makes each step of a mental health crisis so confusing, foreign and unexpected.
Thoughts race through my head when professionals speak to me about my condition. On one hand, thank GOD, I’m not crazy, this isn’t what normal has to be, this has a name, others go through this, people study this, I can separate this from who I am. It’s relief! But it’s also panic: Holy shit, I am mentally ill… I’m sick, I’m not capable, and I have to work twice as hard just to live day-to-day life. I’ll be struggling with this for my whole life, no one will ever love me because of it, and I might pass it onto my kids so I probably shouldn’t have any.
I don’t want my mental illness(es) (undetermined as of yet) to become my identity. I don’t want a label hanging over my head, influencing every decision I make. But the reality is, I am sick, and it does affect me every day. I hear a lot about “you are not your mental illness”. I appreciate that, and I agree. It can be so crucial to identify what thoughts are your illness rather than your own. At the same time, my mental illness is a part of who I am. I do need to take it into consideration in everything I do (practical self-care anyone?! Saying no because you need to even though you don’t want to?! I feel you).
I can’t give you the recipe for the perfect relationship with your diagnosis. It’s confusing as hell, and often medication is introduced, which is a whole other mind warp. As you can probably tell, I’m far from having it all figured out; in fact, I’m right in the thick of it. However, I can tell you that you’re not the only one feeling this way, and you’re seriously a badass for living every single day, no matter how hopeless or helpless or confused or overwhelmed you feel. This week, I heard a mental health crisis team explain that you can have good, stable mental health while having a mental illness. If you’re not there yet, I’m with you, and I believe in us. We are warriors.