Accepting the Diagnosis of Mental Illness
Accepting the diagnosis of mental illness can seem impossible. It hurts. It can shatter the sense of self you have acquired throughout your life. Pre-diagnosis, you might have felt that your personality was acquired, hard fought. You don't want to be anyone but you. Accepting you have a mental illness is initially terrifying.
Accepting Mental Illness Diagnosis Changes Your Sense of Self
I would like to share my experience. Flashback to fourteen years ago: I am twelve years old. I am sitting around an oval table. It's a large table. Much too large for a meeting that involves only my parents, myself, and my psychiatrist.
I have spent the better part of the year in the children's psychiatric hospital. Something is wrong with me. I am angry, and manic, depressed and frightened. I am so frightened. My psychiatrist, a lovely woman, starts talking. My legs are moving quickly under the table. My feet don't reach the ground.
"Natalie, you have bipolar disorder." She tells me this in a soft voice. I wonder why she is not telling me I can go back to school and that the medication might work soon. All I knew, at that moment, is that I had the same illness my grandfather and uncles have. They were pretty sick."Natalie?" She is looking at me and I am staring across the room at an ugly painting. My mother and father tell me to listen to our doctor, that she has something very important to tell me, and I look up at her.
I looked toward my mother, "Mom, will I take lithium like grandpa?" and she just rubs my head. She is crying.
I struggled for the next ten years with those words, "Natalie, you have bipolar disorder." It felt like I no longer had a name. I felt defined by the pills and highs and the lows and the loss of childhood. This is largely why I struggled with addiction and alcoholism. But now, twenty-six years behind my belt, I have come to terms with it. And you can too.
Tackling Feelings Around the Diagnosis of Mental Illness
At some point in our journey to wellness, most of us hear similar words---We Have a Mental Illness. The first reaction might be one of denial and then relief. Nobody wants to have a mental illness that is stigmatized and requires medication and consistent self-care, but if you have been struggling with the pain of untreated mental illness, having a reason for this is a relief. Knowing that treatment is available is scary but opens doors: life can be stable and productive. But it isn't easy to accept, not yet. The diagnosis is just the first step many of us take in order to find recovery.
Accepting the Diagnosis of Mental Illness
Let's assume you were recently diagnosed with a mental illness. The natural reaction is one of confusion and fear. You might wonder: what comes next? Will I get better? What does better mean? Am I really sick? You might convince yourself that your psychiatrist is wrong, your friends and family are just ignorant, there's nothing wrong with you. That thought process, though normal at first, can make recovery difficult. Not one of us wants to carry the burden of mental illness. It is easy, in the beginning, to stigmatize ourselves, to wonder if we will ever get better or if we are even sick.
Accepting you have a mental illness is terrifying, but you cannot recover unless you come to terms with the illness. At first, acceptance might feel like you are not the same person you were before the diagnosis, you are bothered by the medications you now take and the abrupt change in your life. It's important to think of recovery as the process of acceptance. Explore the idea that you are the same person, you are just a person who is finally becoming well, recovering. Remind yourself that you still like the same music and the same food, love the same people, and have the same dreams. But now you can reach for them.
Once you have accepted the diagnosis you can move on from your past, find the positive experiences in it, and explore the world with new eyes--stable and curious.
Champagne, N. (2011, October 27). Accepting the Diagnosis of Mental Illness, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, July 21 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/recoveringfrommentalillness/2011/10/accepting-the-diagnosis-of-mental-illness
Author: Natalie Jeanne Champagne
I am so grateful for this site. I have so much admiration for your bravery, I have so much respect for your honesty, and I have so much appreciation for your ability to help others through your courage.
You are a true warrior~
Bless your heart,
Thank you so much for the positive feedback. All of the bloggers at HealthyPlace work hard to express ourselves and share our experience. I really appreciate the feedback!
Thanks for inspiring me to share. :)
Thank you for such an excellent comment. I am sure many people, myself included, can relate. It's hard to accept the illness, harder still to feel comfortable treating it, but once we can break down that barrier life can become something it wonderful--albeit having to monitor our mood:)