“I’m not really one for labels and I don’t always feel the need to confirm diagnoses. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s something you should do, and there are certainly benefits to that. The main one being better understanding the way your mind and body work; but also receiving the most effective treatment, being prescribed the right medications, getting the most helpful accommodations, etc.
But with mental illness, there is so much variance in personal experience that sometimes I feel labels and diagnoses become a little too ‘boxy.’ And by that I mean it’s easy to stereotype and think, ‘Oh, she has anxiety so that means she feels like this, can’t handle those, and would want to avoid that.’ And that’s if someone has a general understanding of that particular condition. Because you might also get a lot of incorrect stereotypes and assumptions. ‘Oh, he has OCD? So, he’s just a clean freak.’ No. OCD is wildly misunderstood and there are so many other subtypes than just contamination. But that’s a post for another day…
Everyone is different and at different stages with their mental health. Some might have dealt with this for years, learned a lot of great coping skills, found an awesome therapist and the right medication, and can manage pretty well most days. And others might just be learning what this new discovery means for them, having only recently sought help because they’d hit a personal rock bottom.
So what one person with anxiety might struggle with right now, another person can handle no problem. And what used to be difficult for you, you might now be able to do without much of a second thought. And, because mental health is a constant process… maybe it’s something you avoided doing, learned to manage well, and are now struggling to cope with again. I guess my point is, on top of everyone’s personal experience being different, your own feelings, capabilities, and thresholds ebb and flow and even evolve over time.
But there’s also a lot of overlap with mental illness diagnoses and sometimes it can be hard to decipher what the root problems are and easy to tack on extra diagnoses. Like maybe I don’t have OCD and depression, but I’m depressed because of how negatively OCD is currently impacting my life. Or maybe I don’t have ADHD and anxiety, but rather I struggle to focus because my mind is constantly racing and worrying about a million other things than what’s right in front of me.
Maybe I just don’t like labels and diagnoses because it makes me feel like a hot mess express to say I likely have ADHD, anxiety, depression, and OCD — listing them out like a very distasteful a la carte menu. Maybe it’s that I feel like a diagnosis becomes an adopted personality trait or a descriptive word, when really that’s not me and that’s not my identity. Or maybe it’s just that it makes me feel like, with each additional label, I have less and less control.
I truly believe there’s value in recognizing you might not be able to do everything the next person does, or for you it may be a lot harder. Understanding why can help you exercise self-compassion and wisely spend your time and energy. I also don’t believe you can just decide to be happy, choose/control your thoughts, or always mentally tough your way through it. But I do believe there are things you can do to retrain your brain to think more positively and not fall into certain ‘false’ thinking patterns, to not “focus” so much on certain thoughts by attributing less meaning to them, to learn techniques and find easier ways to work around your challenges, and to increase your resilience and threshold by pushing yourself just a little bit each day.
So after receiving my diagnoses and learning what I could about them, I really tried to learn about myself. I take each diagnosis and symptom with a grain of salt and a lot of grace. Maybe it’s part of my OCD, but my OCD isn’t me. Maybe it’s part of my personality, and that’s okay — none of us are perfect and that doesn’t mean I can’t work on it. Or maybe it’s just a symptom of my current situation. Life is hard and stress does some crazy things to the body.
I’ve stopped stressing and obsessing over what symptoms fall under what diagnosis and what behaviors are manifestations of certain conditions, and just try to focus on one thing at a time. Right now I’m really struggling to talk to people in social settings? Let’s focus on what I can do to improve that. Now I’m having a hard time getting things done without procrastinating? What tips can help me with that. Today I’m feeling really tense and my jaw is super tight? Time to find some relaxation techniques and jaw unclenching exercises. My brain feels jumbled and I’m having a hard time keeping track of things? Here are some ideas for staying organized.
It’s become less about the what and why for me. What’s most important is recognizing how I feel, how it affects me, how it affects my daily life, and what helps. It’s a constant learning process with ever-changing answers. I’ll never have it all figured out, and I don’t think any professional ever will either. But I’ve found some peace in being able to say, ‘It doesn’t really matter where that comes from, I can learn how to handle it.'”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Connected In The Deep. You can read more from them on their blog. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
Read more from Connected In The Deep here:
Do you know someone who could benefit from reading this? SHARE this story on Facebook with family and friends.