As recent as last week I was under the impression that if an individual has any of the following mental health conditions; Anxiety, Depression, PTSD, Bipolar, ADHD, OCD, and any others, they are considered "mentally ill". Today I actually am in a sense dumbfounded over the fact that I, like many have been referring to mental health struggles as illnesses for far too long now...
Disadvantages and Advantages of the Label, 'Mental Illness'
- Just like going to the doctor for a physical condition, it can be very helpful for an individual to be diagnosed with what exactly they have, that way they can set up a treatment plan to go about recovery. When I was diagnosed with PTSD, major depression, and recently, ADHD, it was very helpful to know that my symptoms were identified as a real disease in which need proper treatment. It would have been very discouraging for me to explain my symptoms of suicidal thoughts, flashbacks, nightmares, loss of interest, violence, etc to the doctor and them concluding the appointment with, “Well kid, I don't know what to tell ya. You're outta luck" then send me off to go about my 'marry' way carrying an untreated disease. I mean, how dangerous and terrible would that be if that actually happened?!
- When someone explains to another that they are currently 'mentally ill', it allows for effective communication between both parties. If I were to share all the symptoms I experienced without no real diagnosis, the person who I was communicating with might not have a clear understanding as to how to go about supporting me.
- As we know, there is a stigma attached to mental illness. Is it fair? No. Is it right? No. I mean come on now, no discrimination towards any one person or a group of people for any matter at all is moral or just. We can keep fighting to remove the stigma attached to mental illness, but it may be like 'beating a dead horse with a stick'. I'm not saying that standing up to what is right is pointless, more so I am thinking that we need to be aware and wise in the battles that we are choosing to fight. We can fight the stigma til' the cows come home by trying to cancel out the darkness with more darkness (fighting back or using mental illness as an excuse for poor behavior) but the only way we can truly fight the stigma is to shine truth and light on the issue through our vulnerability, actions and encouraging, hopeful words that we are not defined by our disease rather we are perfectly capable of being victors over our conditions instead of victims.
- When you refer to yourself as mentally ill, it becomes you're identity even if your intentions are not to sound like you define yourself by your mental health condition(s). I think of it like this, if you were to be physically wounded, you are in fact considered injured and you need the proper support from those who can help you heal your injury along with proper recovery. Let's say some time goes by and you now have a scar where you were injured. Do you still consider yourself injured? No. Maybe you lost some mobility, maybe you have some muscle atrophy, and maybe you still need to gain some strength in the area that was affected, but, what you would most likely say is, "I am recovering from my injury."
You are YOU Not A Label
As soon as you can accept that you have a mental illness and are willing to treat it properly, recovery transcends from impossible to possible. Personally, it has taken me quite some time to embrace my uniquely crafted mind, but man oh man, how empowering it has been ever since I made the decision to do so. You are not your illness, you were still you even before your diagnosis.
Healing from a mental illness is definitely hard work but so fulfilling as long as you prioritize your healing journey- your mental illness does not have to be a chronic disease... trust me, you can overcome your current condition even though it may seem completely impossible right now.
Here are some verses to remember that has helped me turn from feelings of hopelessness regarding my 'mental illness' at the time to hopefulness...
Psalm 34:17-20 ESV
When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
2 Timothy 1:7 ESV
For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
John 16:33 ESV
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
Matthew 4:24 ESV
So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, epileptics, and paralytics, and he healed them.