One of the most encouraging things I’ve been told is:
“Don’t let your diagnosis define you.”
I’m happy when people realize there is a real human being beyond the bipolar and agoraphobia or whatever else. The problem is my diagnosis is a part of me. It may not define who I am, but it certainly does interfere with who I am. There is no way around that. Thank you for appreciating the me beyond the diagnosis, but unfortunately I have to “dwell on it” if I want to get better. I need those “labels” to help me differentiate my illness from my true self; to know when I am being me or when I am being a version of myself influenced by illness.
I need to know if when I rage at someone in an ugly, volcanic eruption it’s my bipolar or a justified reaction to something that happened. If I feel endangered when I am outside I need to know the difference between my irrational fears and perhaps a legitimate risk to my safety. I can only differentiate my illness from myself if I know exactly what I have, if I study the symptoms; it’s the only way I’ll learn to tell myself apart from my conditions.
That’s why I dwell on whether I have bipolar I or II. That’s why I want to know if I have borderline personality disorder or if I’m rapid cycling or just what in the world makes me so angry and volatile all the time.
I need to know.
Knowledge is power.
This isn’t an exception.
I’m not seeking information to let my conditions define me. I’m looking for information precisely so that I can learn to define myself beyond my mental illnesses. Maybe some day I’ll know exactly when I am being a certain way due to illness or just myself, but that’s not where I am in my life now.
This is why I made this blog: to write about my doubts, feelings, struggles. I want to analyze and learn about who I am and I can only do that by being able to tell what is me and what isn’t. I need that symptoms checklist. Zoe needs her labels; that’s how I manage.
I do thank you for reminding me I am more than my diagnosis! Truly. I get warm fuzzy feelings. I’m thrilled you’re intelligent enough to understand my mental illnesses are simply health issues that I need to manage, like any other illness, but please don’t minimize how it interferes with who I am. Please don’t condemn me for wanting to know my labels or how many labels I have; this is knowledge I need so I can bring myself to light. I need to become an expert on the subject of my diagnosis (labels) in order to prevail over it.
That doesn’t mean I am letting it define me — it just means I’ll have more power to overcome it. And the more I can overcome, the more of my dazzling self I can be and show and enjoy.