Hi guys! Welcome back to my blog. Today I have a guest post for you all to read written by the lovely Chloe.
Let’s read this post!
Hello everybody! My name is Chloe and I blog over at Chloe Elizabeth. Over on my blog I discuss all things lifestyle, fashion and mental health, so if that’s your kind of jazz then please do head on over! I am a psychology graduate passionate about discussing mental health, so I wanted to talk about why a label of a specific mental illness doesn’t necessarily define you.
Now, this post probably doesn’t have as much structure as my posts usually do, rather, its a little bit of a ‘brain fart’.
For a while I’ve been really starting to think about mental health and illnesses, and more specifically what the labels mean. I guess this really can apply to physical health too, but as I don’t have as much experience with physical illnesses I thought I would focus on the mental aspects. If you do have physical/chronic illness, then please let me know your thoughts in the comments! A lot of my thoughts for this post stem from one of my recent blog posts, What Brain on Fire Tells Us About the Mental Health System. Long story short, if you haven’t watched Brain on Fire, Susannah Cahalan was diagnosed with three different diagnoses before she received the correct one, as it was a rare autoimmune disease.
When we are diagnosed with a mental illness, we automatically take on the roles associated with that illness. So, if we hear that somebody has depression we expect him or her to display the symptoms: feeling helpless and hopeless, suicidal thoughts, and continuous low mood (for example). Similarly, somebody with anxiety may have a sense of dread, irritability and difficulty concentrating. The way that diagnosis works at present, is very categorical in the sense that to receive a diagnosis, you must fill all of the necessary criteria for one illness, and symptoms that do not fit into that illness receive a separate diagnosis and are comorbid. This is why people often receive a diagnosis of depression and anxiety, for example, as the symptoms co-occur. Mental illnesses are thought of as being separate with separate causes and treatments.
But, is this really the case? We are all our own individual people and mental health is complex. To use myself as an example, I have had depression and anxiety for a long time and was formally diagnosed in December 2017. More recently, my anxiety symptoms started to transfer into OCD-like symptoms. I feared getting into the shower, I couldn’t touch my own bed sheets; I’d get off the bus and feel the germs burning my skin through my clothes because of all of the bacteria on the bus! Fortunately I’ve been working on this and the symptoms have reduced. But, these symptoms don’t fulfil the criteria for depression or anxiety. Neither do I have a diagnosis of OCD. I don’t fit into a categorical diagnosis, I believe that if I had gone to my GP when I was showing these symptoms I’d have received a diagnosis of OCD too, but I know in my own heart that it was as a result of my anxiety.
I am my own person, with my own talents and my own issues. We are all unique. It’s easy when you are mentally ill to start defining yourself as someone with depression, for example but remember that the illness is not YOU. It is just that, an illness. If everybody reading will take one thing from this post, it’s this. Mental Illness doesn’t define you. You are your own person; you have your own hobbies, personality and your own life. The person next to you with the same mental illness is probably going to be completely different to you, and you may not always 100% fit into one category. Mental Illness isn’t forever either.
If you are struggling right now, please don’t try and throw it under the rug. Talk to a friend, contact a professional or use a mental health helpline if you would prefer that (I have used them in the past and they can be fantastic listeners).