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Medicalizing Normal: I am Valerie and I am not my illness!

It seems to be that today, we are fighting terribly to end the stigma of mental illness, but we are still clinging on to our diagnosis labels.

“What do you mean?” you may ask.

Let’s break it down:
We tell the world we don’t want to be judged and labeled by others for having diagnoses such as anxiety, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, etc. but when we talk about ourselves it is very common for us to label ourselves with our diagnoses.

It can be comforting to know what our illness is especially if it makes a difference in the type of medication and therapy received (I know when I was finally diagnosed with a primary diagnosis of bipolar it was an “AHA!” moment for me). But still, I find myself identifying who I am as my illness.

However, if something negative occurs, some people like blame it on their illness…well no, sometimes we’re just being a**holes. I can admit it.

I do notice that if I do share my diagnosis, I am worried about judgement even by those who also have a diagnosed mental illness because it’s almost like being “depressed” is the new normal, but bipolar, schizophrenia, etc. is “CRAZIER”

I read an article that discussed how “We gravitate towards diagnosis, because it can provide an important organizing framework that explains behavior and phenomena that can otherwise be incredibly perplexing and hard to make sense of” (Costa).

This can get dangerous though. I’ve noticed over the years, we look up on the internet our illness (or for those not diagnosed, symptoms) and we tend to morph into the character role of our illness.

So my question for you: do you find yourself labeling yourself with your mental illness (or any other diagnosis)?
Do you find it relieving to finally have a diagnosis confirmed by a professional?
Do you think labeling your diagnosis can be more destructive or makes you more vulnerable to discrimination?

I believe no one is normal. It is not a bad thing to not be normal because we are all unique individuals. Having a mental illness does not make someone less or better than the next and not having a severe diagnosis (or a diagnosis at all) doesn’t mean your symptoms and experiences aren’t valid.
So hello,
My name is Valerie and I have two cats named Louie and Cleo. I love to edit music and choreograph dances. I do a lot of intricate bead work when I’m stressed as well as zentangles and reading to keep me grounded when I am manic. Although I have a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, it doesn’t do anything, but give me an extra challenge. It tests my survival skills when I am severely depressed and actually connects me deeper with my faith.

One Reply to “Medicalizing Normal: I am Valerie and I am not my illness!”

  1. RaiC says:

    Im so glad that you said that!! I hate when people use their mental illness as an excuse for their behavior when it isn’t always the reason. Some people literally play victim sometimes and never want to own up to the fact that they were just being rude or just felt like doing what they did/ or saying what they said. There’s nothing wrong with “having a bad day” and saying something that everyone may not like… it’s ok. We’re all human, it happens.

    This is a part of why I believe that some people with mental disorders are stigmatized and/or are assumed to be like everyone else who has a similar diagnosis. If everyone is clumped together (because of their mental illness and not similar personality traits) then that creates a problem. Just because you know someone who has a diagnosis does not mean that everyone else you meet with the same diagnosis will act, think and speak the same way the person you know does. No one is their mental illness and in order for it to not define them, it has to start with not blaming things that one does on their illness.

    I think labeling a diagnosis is always a good thing, just because I feel like knowing and coming to terms with it all is the first step in acceptance, recovery… or just in the right direction in general. But then again, it does all depend on the person and how they handle things.

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