While I didn’t receive an official diagnosis of mental health conditions until I was an adult, I have had symptoms of mental health conditions since I was 9 years old. At 11 years old I was suicidal for the first time. I didn’t know what to call any of it, but I knew I didn’t want to feel like I did. I was constantly anxious, experienced intrusive thoughts, had a host of checking behaviors, and experienced suicidal ideation and suicidality. I grew up in a community that didn’t talk about those things and found mental health conditions both shameful and a sign of poor character. Due to these social expectations I kept my feelings hidden. When I did reach out, I was told I wasn’t praying enough, I must be living in sin, I’m too sensitive and need to toughen up, I just needed to try harder, etc. My first counselor, when I was 18, brought up depression with me for the first time; she couldn’t diagnose me, but she did have me read through the symptoms of depression in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders).
My first official diagnosis wasn’t really very thorough. Within 10 minutes my primary care provider diagnosed me with depression and generalized anxiety disorder and wrote me a script for an antidepressant. While she was kind, I now feel she rushed the process. Not all antidepressants or medications work for all people, and no one should be shamed for taking or not taking certain medications, but I had finally found something to quiet my overloaded brain a bit.
Fast forward to 2017: This last year has been a challenging one. I’ve dealt with death, trauma and grief, an onslaught of difficult health conditions, and all the challenges that come with each of those things. I’ve spoken with many trusted folks that believe my symptoms don’t fully align with my diagnosis. I’ve been educating myself more on different diagnosis and talking with my doctors and therapist about them. I’m not afraid of a diagnosis at this point in my life, but I do think receiving a more thorough diagnosis could help me create a self-care plan that offers me tools and ideas for helping with oft overwhelming symptoms.
I haven’t figured it all out yet, and really I know I never will, and that’s okay. I can keep exploring and honoring my recovery journey as something that doesn’t have an ending point. This means I can always learn more, I can always grow, and I don’t have to worry about some specific finish line. I can be patient with myself, find solutions that work best for me, learn how to love myself more throughout this journey. Finding a diagnosis that helps me understand myself more is important to me, but that may not be the road other people with mental health conditions find themselves on. That’s the beauty of recovery, it is one of the most honest and truly human pursuits. Recovery is learning who I am, and how I find my way in this world. Finding a more appropriate diagnosis, for me, is just one step on a long, challenging, and absolutely beautiful road.