Don’t take the easy surrender when you face “symptoms” or triggers, especially after they or “Illness” has been identified in you.
“You are not your Illness”
Knowing what your “diagnosis” is, is useful in understanding the traits in your character and mood patterns that result in difficulties. However, being diagnosed should not aid you in giving you an easier time than “normal” folks.
Many advocates thus tell you: “you are not your illness”.
Actually, it is pressing to know that:
The “illness is ALL YOU” (even though you are NOT your illness).
What I mean is that you, are a unique Human being. You are a person, a person with a personality. These characteristics, including your traits and moderation of mood, when permutated with certain circumstances, reflect traits of what doctors, psychologists and researchers have identified and studied to enshrine as “Mental Illness”. This has occurred over the history of the development of modern medical and behavioural science.
But a diagnosis is useless – and in fact, can be very harmful as it connotes an identifier or label. Diagnosis feeds disorder and dysfunction by exacerbating the initial difficulty that an individual experiences into disempowerment in the traditional medical setting and within the current medical model. The individual perceives him or herself as having a disease or even as being disabled. I am not “normal”. This cycle is enforced when he or she is not treated “normal” if this information is disclosed to others.
What then can someone do if they are identified as mentally ill?
I would want to know what the traits of my diagnosis and symptoms are supposed to be, to see if they are consistent with the patterns in my behaviour that play out from my personality repertoire in certain circumstances. I need to own the characteristic traits that are correlated to my challenges. Not accepting the identifier of illness, but being aware of the things and areas that set me off allows me to start to make active change. This empowers me to own who I am. I am self-aware. I am proactive.
Beyond that, I also want to be a contributing participant of the bigger community around me. So often, psychology, especially the therapy approaches used, bring us inward. We reflect on our lives, our past relationships, early development. (What went wrong?) It is not wrong to be kind to, respect and explore oneself – However, outside of ourselves is a community and a world of both opportunity and yet a world that is for the most part perishing, (if you hadn’t noticed). People who are diagnosed with mental illness often are shelled up within their peer groups. The fear of stigma or feelings of inadequacy cause us to shy away from society. However, this avoidance only breeds ignorance and misunderstanding.
I am not asking anyone to heal the world. However, to break the suffocating stigma around mental illness, more people have to step out into the small domains around them, and work towards becoming who they want to be. But first, one must recognise that what has been happening is in part, a part of us that is under our control. Only then can we build on our strengths and create a life with vision and purpose.
Let’s leave this wretched self-imposed cage behind, shall we?