Mental illness is widely misunderstood in many cultures today. Because not all symptoms and signs present as physical aches or pains, but rather a poor mental or emotional state, it is misunderstood as being "all in your head". However, that's far from the truth. While it can be more difficult to combat because there isn't a simple medication or treatment that's a cure-all, it doesn't make it any less real. Thankfully, the field of psychology has grown immensely to show how psychological disorders physically affect the brain and our subsequent behaviors, making treatment more accessible. So, if you feel like a diagnosis now defines you, here are 5 affirmations to remember:
1. You are a person before a diagnosis
This is heavily emphasized in healthcare: person before the illness. You are NOT bipolar, you are NOT autistic, or whatever it may be. You are a PERSON who has this diagnosis. It is not who you are, nor does it change what kind of person you're going to be moving forward. This is something that is manageable with proper treatment, and it doesn't define your worth. Get help, I promise you it'll be so beneficial.
2. Your diagnosis is not going to run your life
I know it is scary to have someone tell you that a mental illness has caused your brain to essentially malfunction. But, you came to that therapist or counselor for help and they are trained to listen, understand and help you find a way to manage your illness. A good practitioner is not going to judge you and work cooperatively with you to change your lifestyle to make it more enjoyable to put that diagnosis on the back burner. Even though mental illness is overwhelming at first, it is not going to feel like that way forever. Once you learn to manage it, you'll forget about it for long periods of time and realize there's more to life than it.
3. It is OKAY to see a therapist
We need to end the stigma of calling licensed, professional therapists "shrinks." Therapy does not mean you'll be sent to the psych ward in a hospital and locked up because you're deemed a threat. So get that image out of your head, because that is absolutely not the case. The American Psychological Association has a Diagnostic Manual that clinicians follow to properly assess, diagnose and treat different mental illnesses. There is a specific set of criteria they abide by to provide you with quality care, and it is imperative that you seek help. It's unhealthy to bottle everything up because you're scared or were judged for wanting to get better, whatever may be the case. Just like you go to the doctor if you're physically sick, you go to a psychologist/psychiatrist to talk about your issues, receive a prescription for needed medication and work on living a healthy lifestyle. This will help you overcome your fears, socialize easily, and focus better on your present.
4. You aren't crazy
If you're really anxious, upset, nervous, irrationally scared, etc. it does not mean that you're crazy. Those are normal fluctuations in human emotions, and if you feel like you can't get a grip on life because you're struggling, that's also nothing to be ashamed of. We all face difficult situations, grief, experience scary events, and more. All because your symptoms fit into the category of a mental illness does not make you inferior or different than others. Remember that this is manageable with the proper treatment, and not to listen to the opinions of people who haven't walked a day in your shoes. You're a normal person, just like everyone else. You just need some extra assistance, and there's nothing wrong with that.
5. This too, shall pass
Whether you just experienced a trauma, you hit rock bottom or you feel like you're officially spun out of control and things can't get any worse, know that this will pass. You'll get better with time and help, your symptoms will lessen, you'll change your habits, and learn to cut out stressors to make life easier. I know it feels like your horrible emotional/mental state is never going to get better, but it WILL. You can and will feel normal again, just be patient. Therapy is hard work, so change doesn't happen overnight. Trust the process.
Spilling out your entire life story to an absolute stranger within the walls of a clinic or medical setting may feel intimidating, but the clinician who is listening to you has gone through several years of education, shadowing, and clinical practice before meeting you. Therapy is a very structured process and it isn't just talking for an hour weekly to someone you just met. They give out "homework" assignments to organize your thoughts, discuss how to handle your problems without being overwhelmed, and remind you that you're doing the right thing. There's nothing wrong with you.