After the Diagnosis of Mental Illness: Fear of the Future

March 22, 2012 Natalie Jeanne Champagne

I could write a million posts (granted my hands might hurt, my head even more) on how frightening life, before being diagnosed with a mental illness, is.

Life Before the Diagnosis of Mental Illness

> Is terrifying--not knowing what is 'wrong' with us

> We fear we will not get better, find stability

>Life can quickly be ripped out from under our feet;

>We wonder if we will ever be able to function again

>We fear people will leave us;

>Afraid that they are as frightened as you are. And they probably are.

The feelings that come with mental illness, before treated, are akin to be locked in a room, a black room, without a key.

Fun stuff right? Not really. I try not to remember it--but I also work to understand that my past does not define my future, no, but it does shape it. And this isn't always a bad thing.

Life After the Diagnosis: Fearing the Future

Let's move ahead: You have obtained a state of recovery. If your illness is chronic, and it probably is, you now understand you will take medication For The Rest of Your Life. Appealing? Not really. Not at all. But that's part of the deal. Recovery involves accepting the illness but, often, we worry about becoming ill again. We spend so much time analyzing our mood, fearing relapse, that our lives can slip through our fingers.

Years might pass, years that could be the best of your life, and you cannot move forward because the diagnosis has come to define your life.

We might fear the future because we believe that trying to move ahead in life will end in disaster. But it won't. And we won't ever know this until we embrace our lives---as difficult as this may be.

Embracing Life After Being Diagnosed With a Mental Illness

I am not asking you to embrace your illness, although this might happen at some point, but I do believe that allowing mental illness to define your life is terrible. It's terrible because it does not allow us to move forward, to enjoy life on life's terms, and live less in fear but in anticipation.

It's a complicated topic, the feelings surrounding it even more so, and I struggle with it. I spend a lot of time writing about mental illness and living with it. It's hard, when times get rough, to separate myself from it but I try, and you should too.

Our illness does not define our lives, no, we define our lives.

APA Reference
Jeanne, N. (2012, March 22). After the Diagnosis of Mental Illness: Fear of the Future, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, May 29 from

Author: Natalie Jeanne Champagne

richard pemberton
April, 30 2012 at 6:46 am

I don't totally agree. Having a diagnosis would be helpful if you had an illness but its not really an illness its more a vulnerability or a problematic set of experiences that are really tough to cope with and make sense of. Having a name for it is important but diagnosis sounds falsely precise and lines you up for meds. It does help if people don't give you such a bad time as its not good to be mad with people who are 'sick'. The transdiagnostic work that is developing is really helpful as it gets into what biting people without shoving them into traditional diagnostic and unreliable diagnostic boxes. I agree recovery and learning how to manage what is troublesome or triggers difficult things or 'symptoms' is really helpful. Hope this makes sense.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Natalie Jeanne Champagne
May, 2 2012 at 7:28 am

Hi, Richard
I sincerely respect your response/opinion to the article.

March, 22 2012 at 9:09 am

I definitely identify with the feelings of life before diagnosis. I always wondered what was wrong with me, why I felt like a yo-yo (bipolar), would I ever be normal like everyone else around me? After diagnosis I was relieved and glad there were meds that could help with my moods. I do worry about them not working. I do worry...about how to pay the bills, how am I going to get a job, how do I explain my gaps in employment, how do I advocate for myself... Fortunately I can bounce these feelings off my husband and look at my worries more objectively so they don't become crippling and pervasive in my life. Am I embracing my bipolar? Yes I believe I have, little by little, one day at a time.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Natalie Jeanne Champagne
March, 22 2012 at 9:21 am

Hi, Cindy:
I completely understand your feelings about the diagnosis--I think it's something all of us with a mental illness share. And congratulations, sincerely, on being able to embrace the illness---it's difficult to say the least.
Many thanks for your comment,

March, 22 2012 at 7:20 am

This post couldn't have come at a better time. I let my illness define my life. I'm afraid of the future, of what it holds. I'm afraid to do anything. I don't know how to get past this. I find myself going down again (I have bipolar) because I'm stable and don't know how to handle it (although my anxiety is out of control). I feel more comfortable being sick, as bad as that sounds.
Thanks for your post.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Natalie Jeanne Champagne
March, 22 2012 at 9:28 am

Hi, Mef:
Getting over the diagnosis is, perhaps, the most difficult part of finding stability. You'll move past it, its sort of like the stages of grief (look that up it's interesting), it takes time.
I Always enjoy your comments,

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