2. How do you feel about your diagnosis?
I find it a little odd when people react badly to a mental health diagnosis. With physical health a diagnosis can be a devastating. You sought help for a headache & ended up with a brain tumour. You complained about a little tiredness & came away with MS. Your life changes and you have to make all kinds of adjustments – medications, hospital visits and so on. Life is about to get a whole lot worse before it can ever get better.
Not so much with mental health. For the most part, by the time you get to the diagnosis stage you have already been sucked down into the depths of the illness. Your life has already changed and you have already been through a whole host of adjustments – withdrawal of social contact, substance dependency and a host of other possible coping mechanisms that now seem normal. For these people, what lies ahead is hope, recovery and (dare I say it) better than what’s gone before.
The day I sat in a GP’s office and said out loud the words I had been struggling with internally for years…well, it’s no exaggeration to say a weight lifted from me and I felt a lightness. “I think I might be depressed”. Six little words that took me uncountable years to utter to another human being. Instead of feeling weak, I felt stronger than I had in years. I felt relief. I willingly abdicated responsibility for myself to another person. I uttered six words out loud, but inside my mind was screaming “Take my burden, take it from me and please, please, tell me that I’m right”.
Yes, you read that correctly. No typos there. On that day I wanted the label. I longed to have the GP take out an ancient, grey office stamp and ink a big red “DEPRESSED” on my file. I wanted my emotional fragility validated. I wanted permission to give in to it. No, not to give in…to accept the truth. To own my reality. To admit I needed help. To stop being strong.
One of the sneaky features of depression is your guilty suspicion that you might be making it all up. That there’s nothing really wrong with you is perversely both the dream and secret fear of an undiagnosed depressive. That day I shuffled out of the GP office, clutching my prescription, with eyes raw from crying. I looked a sorry, sorry state. But inside….inside I was dancing. “I KNEW IT!” my inner voice sang, as she proudly smoothed her “depressed” label on her sweater and skipped down the street.
What’s this all about then eh?
I found a pretty cool challenge on a blog from last year – 30 days of mental health posts. I’ve decided to give it a go, despite being a year late to the party! You can also see the other participating posts. This is my second entry. If you prefer, you can read from the start.