The Difference Between Self-Diagnosis And Self-Advocacy

The Difference Between Self-Diagnosis And Self-Advocacy

Mental illness already has enough stigmas.
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The internet is a gold mine of easily accessible information and resources about previously “taboo” topics. This open access to new information is undoubtedly beneficial for our society as a whole, but it opens doors for many questions regarding what to do with that information. In regards to mental illness and other cognitive disorders, there is often debate about the validity of self-diagnosis.

In most discussions of self-diagnosis, the term “self-advocacy” makes an appearance. Self-advocacy involves educating yourself on your symptoms and behaviors in regards to your health. It involves meeting with a doctor and advocating for yourself during your healthcare. Self-diagnosis is simply going a step further from research and speculation towards labeling your behavior and experiences.

Frankly, speculating you have a disorder is essentially diagnosing yourself. We all self-diagnose at some point, from simple things like a cold; or more complex issues like realizing you may need therapy. Rarely does one go to a therapist without having a sense that something is wrong, and typically you realize you have the flu before visiting a doctor. Professional diagnosis simply confirms what you already know.

There is a difference between people who self-diagnose as a cop-out for their behavior and those who self-diagnose out of necessity. Within this debate of self-diagnosis verses self-advocacy, we are disregarding those who decide to say they have bipolar disorder in order to abuse their family or that they have anxiety to seem “quirky." Everyone agrees that their “diagnosis” is not valid, and their involvement in all this only further stigmatizes disorders in general. The general public tends to discriminate against illness and disability, and refuse to acknowledge their existence without “proof”; this “proof” coming from a professional diagnosis.

Self-advocacy does not take into account that you may not have a doctor to whom you can advocate. Those who have access to a doctor may experience issues due to their race, gender, social class, and financial standing. Even when seeking a diagnosis, some people are denied based on these setbacks. Doctors, unfortunately, are not perfect people, and some may be prejudiced and put their personal beliefs and biases before the health of their patient.

Children and teenagers may not be able to receive any sort of formal diagnosis due to unsupportive or abusive caregivers. Obvious signs of mental illness may not be taken seriously by parents and teachers due to widespread misconceptions about mental illness and other disorders. For example, boys are often ignored when signs of emotional disorders take place and are instead told to “man up”. Teenage girls may be told that “it’s just hormones” and often seen as “over exaggerating”; only to find out as an adult that they were denied an opportunity to receive help. This biased lack of diagnosis occurs in actual medical care, in instances like an appendix rupture being diagnosed as cramps.

Even without these roadblocks, some may find it unnecessary to receive a formal diagnosis. For example, if someone has ADHD but does not need accommodations, a formal diagnosis may not be necessary for that individual. Remember, medical choices like receiving a diagnosis are up to the personal discretion of the individual, but it does not make their disorder any less real.

Educated self-diagnosis does not hurt anyone. Doctors with the best intentions can misdiagnose in the same way a self-diagnosed person could. The act of diagnosing oneself can potentially become a problem when people seek out treatment, but that is not why most self-diagnose. In order to receive drugs or therapy, someone who self-diagnosed would need a professional diagnosis to receive that treatment. This leads to the question: Why would someone self-diagnose if they cannot access treatment?

Living with a disorder does in fact exist outside of the medical context. Disorders do not become real only when diagnosed by a professional. Those without access to a diagnosis still have the disorder, and a self-diagnosis can help them cope. A diagnosis is simply an explanation for why you are who you are. Labeling yourself with a disorder or illness can help you understand your actions and feelings and learn to cope with your disorder. It enables you to find a community of people who understand and support you. Self-diagnosis leads to you making sense of yourself.

Many people may not understand how diagnosis actually occurs in a professional setting. Mostly, you fill out a checklist or questionnaire. They often simply describe symptoms and ask if you relate. All of these resources can be found online, the only difference being the hefty bill you receive at the doctors. While they do have valuable expertise and training, medical professionals are not magic genies who know everything about everyone’s mental state.

Self-diagnosis in no way is meant to undermine professional diagnosis, and self-advocacy is definitely something everyone should engage in while receiving healthcare. Insisting on a professional diagnosis from people who have mental illness or other disorders, however, disregards the challenges that those people face in receiving said diagnosis. Those who make an educated, truthful self-diagnosis are no less than one who received a professional one. Implying so puts even more pressure on those who need and deserve our support, rather than our judgement.

Cover Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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Yes, I Had A Stroke And I'm Only 20

Sometimes bad things happen to good people.
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Recently, I read an article on Cosmo that was written by a woman that had a stroke at the ripe old age of 23. For those of you who don't know, that really doesn't happen. Young people don't have strokes. Some do, but it's so incredibly uncommon that it rarely crosses most people's minds. Her piece was really moving, and I related a lot -- because I had a stroke at 20.

It started as a simple headache. I didn't think much of it because I get headaches pretty often. At the time, I worked for my parents, and I texted my mom to tell her that I'd be late to work because of the pain. I had never experienced a headache like that, but I figured it still wasn't something to worry about. I went about my normal routine, and it steadily got worse. It got to the point that I literally threw up from the pain. My mom told me to take some Tylenol, but I couldn't get to our kitchen. I figured that since I was already in the bathroom, I would just take a shower and hope that the hot steam would relax my muscles, and get rid of my headache. So I turned the water on in the shower, and I waited for it to get hot.

At this point, I was sweating. I've never been that warm in my life. My head was still killing me. I was sitting on the floor of the bathroom, trying to at least cope with the pain. Finally, I decided that I needed to go to the hospital. I picked up my phone to call 911, but I couldn't see the screen. I couldn't read anything. I laid down on the floor and tried to swipe from the lock screen to the emergency call screen, but I couldn't even manage that. My fine motor skills were completely gone. My fingers wouldn't cooperate, even though I knew what buttons needed to be pressed. Instead of swiping to the emergency call screen, I threw my phone across the room. "Okay," I thought, "Large muscle groups are working. Small ones are not".

I tried getting up. That also wasn't happening. I was so unstable that I couldn't stay standing. I tried turning off the running water of the shower, but couldn't move the faucet. Eventually, I gave up on trying to move anywhere. "At what point do I just give up and lie on the floor until someone finds me?" That was the point. I ended up lying on the floor for two hours until my dad came home and found me.

During that two hours, I couldn't hear. My ears were roaring, not even ringing. I tried to yell, but I couldn't form a sentence. I was simply stuck, and couldn't do anything about it. I still had no idea what was going on.

When the ambulance finally got there, they put me on a stretcher and loaded me into the back. "Are you afraid of needles or anything?" asked one EMT. "Terrified," I responded, and she started an IV without hesitation. To this day, I don't know if that word actually came out of my mouth, but I'm so glad she started the IV. She started pumping pain medicine, but it didn't seem to be doing anything.

We got to the hospital, and the doctors there were going to treat me for a migraine and send me on my merry way. This was obviously not a migraine. When I could finally speak again, they kept asking if I was prone to migraines. "I've never had a migraine in my whole life," I would say. "Do you do any drugs?" they would ask. "No," I repeated over and over. At this point, I was fading in and out of consciousness, probably from the pain or the pain medicine.

At one point, I heard the doctors say that they couldn't handle whatever was wrong with me at our local hospital and that I would need to be flown somewhere. They decided on University of Maryland in Baltimore. My parents asked if I wanted them to wait with me or start driving, so I had them leave.

The helicopter arrived soon after, and I was loaded into it. 45 minutes later, I was in Baltimore. That was the last thing I remember. The next thing I remember was being in the hospital two weeks later. I had a drain in my head, a central port, and an IV. I honestly didn't know what had happened to me.

As it turns out, I was born with a blood vessel malformation called an AVM. Blood vessels and arteries are supposed to pass blood to one another smoothly, and mine simply weren't. I basically had a knot of blood vessels in my brain that had swelled and almost burst. There was fluid in my brain that wouldn't drain, which was why my head still hurt so bad. The doctors couldn't see through the blood and fluid to operate, so they were simply monitoring me at that point.

When they could finally see, they went in to embolize my aneurysm and try to kill the AVM. After a successful procedure, my headache was finally starting to subside. It had gone from a 10 on the pain scale (which I don't remember), to a 6 (which was when I had started to be conscious), and then down to a 2.

I went to rehab after I was discharged from the hospital, I went to rehab. There, I learned simple things like how to walk and balance, and we tested my fine motor skills to make sure that I could still play the flute. Rehab was both physically and emotionally difficult. I was constantly exhausted.

I still have a few lingering issues from the whole ordeal. I have a tremor in one hand, and I'm mostly deaf in one ear. I still get headaches sometimes, but that's just my brain getting used to regular blood flow. I sleep a lot and slur my words as I get tired. While I still have a few deficits, I'm lucky to even be alive.

Cover Image Credit: Neve McClymont

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Why Jameela Jamil's 'i weigh' Movement Is Important

It's 2018... Shouldn't we stop placing a woman's worth on her appearance?

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If you've been following pop culture I'm sure the name Jameela Jamil has popped once on your screens. She plays the ever flawed but lovable Tahani in NBC's The Good Place. But what she's been getting attention lately for is her campaign 'i weigh.'

'i weigh' is a "movement for us to feel valuable and see how amazing we are, and look beyond the flesh on our bones," as the Instagram bio of the account reads. Jamil has been quite candid with her opinion about her own struggles with weight and body image while also calling out influencers like the Kardashians for promoting a culture where a woman's worth is based on her figure. She has openly criticized the very casual body shaming advertisements that are found even at Times Square by companies that promote waist slimmers, appetite suppressing lollies etc…

Her recent interview with Channel 4 News has been trending on different social media platforms, with the companies who she criticises hitting back with comments on her own figure as a hypocrite. To say she responds with grace and humor is an understatement, Jamil has been very candid about how much these notions of how a woman's body should look like affected her, with her Instagram detailing how her younger self would have scrutinized one of her recent photoshoots (which honestly, I can't even see cause girl look flawless).

Her honesty and sincerity to promote women to love themselves for their achievements and struggles have gotten the attention of the internet with nearly 140k followers on the @i_weigh Instagram handle and 348k followers on her own Instagram handle.

The 'i weigh' Instagram handle is honestly the most positive and uplifting pages, with everyday women and celebs alike submitting unedited pictures of themselves with a list of things they define them and not the oh so perfect body. With women of various ages, races and sizes participating Jamil have tapped into something many of us forget to do in this crazy fast-paced world… loving yourself.

With her uplifting message of loving yourselves and celebrating each other and not placing your worth on your physical experience irregardless of your gender, Jameela Jamil is the type of woman you should follow. It also helps that she's ridiculously funny and wonderful and so easy to love!


Jameela on what she weighshttps://www.instagram.com/jameelajamilofficial/?hl=en


The post that started everything...https://www.instagram.com/jameelajamilofficial/?hl=en

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