May 04, 2010

What's your diagnonsense?

In the wide social community that those of us with mental illness inevitably find ourselves in sooner or later, the sharing of each other's diagnosis seems to end up happening sooner or later. Some of us have them and some don't. Some people even have more than one. We all seem to have something different "wrong" with us, so obviously it is a good talking point. But how important are diagnosis to our recovery? Do they do any good, or only harm?

I know that in my case I was glad, relieved and even thankful to get a diagnosis. I had spent so many years knowing something was wrong, but not having it confirmed. So I felt relief that I finally had a name for this mysterious illness that had affected my life so intensely, and that now that I knew what it was I would be able to fight it. You can't fight a monster you can't see or understand, can you?

However, with my diagnosis came a whole lot of drama. People just plain don't believe my illness exists, and that it is just a bogus label made up by doctors so they had a box where they could stick people like me. Hell, some doctors don't even believe it exists. On top of that, there is also the wonderful traits that people think I should have. I should be promiscuous because Susanna Kaysen (author of Girl, Interrupted) was and she had the same diagnosis that I do. I should be an attention-seeking, manipulating individual that will stop at nothing to force people to never leave her side.

There are good sides and bad sides to every diagnosis. My disorder finally had a face, but I had to deal with the stigma associated with that diagnosis. Sometimes the good outweigh the bad, like in my case, but in others the bad is the winner by far.

So when we consider the good and the bad sides of the diagnosis, it is unsurprising that some people would rather just not know. They would rather just battle their faceless and nameless monster without worrying about the specifics. Is this any less viable than knowing? How can I be the one to say that a choice is wrong for someone else? Every single one of us is different and we all have different ways of dealing with our illnesses.

Isn't it amazing how a few simple words can so greatly affect what we feel about ourselves?

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