While my blog started out as a place to vent and rave I have discovered that by just regurgitating my daily events I am no longer getting much out of it. As a result I have decided to change my blog into a more ‘self-help’ place where I can share my thoughts about a semi-daily topic and share my personal experiences. I thought no better way to start this new trend off than the topic of the day, how to deal with a diagnosis. Being diagnosed with a mental illness often resembles getting a new phone. There is so much to know and you have no idea what it all means. In fact looking at a new phone is really quite overwhelming because you have all these icons and features that serve their own purpose, however you don’t even begin to fathom the rationale for them. To the point where you start to ignore certain features because you figure if you ignore them they don’t exist. Well this is quite indicative of receiving a diagnosis. There are all these symptoms that are characteristic of your diagnosis and you have no idea why they exist or how they co-exist. So you begin to ignore these symptoms and while you think this helps matters it actually makes matters worse. By ignoring these symptoms you are basically ignoring your diagnosis and prolonging your recovery. I remember the first psychiatric assessment I had. It was back in 2011. The psychiatrist, who is now my constant psychiatrist, was asking what appeared to be the most random questions. But I was following the sequence of them and I deep down knew they had a logical sequence. But the moment the words “bipolar” emerged from my psychiatrist’s mouth I was in instant denial. Thoughts came rushing to my mind. How could you be bipolar, nobody in your family was. How could you be bipolar, you are not crazy. How could you be bipolar, that’s just not possible. You are healthy, you are sane. I never did understand why a diagnosis was necessary. That was until I started taking an abnormal psychology class. And to that I learned that diagnosis is super important for the psychiatric community.
Diagnosis and classification is important for the causes and treatments of various deviant behaviours. It is also important to predict future trends of behaviour, most importantly to know when suicide is a highest risk or to know when a person is the utmost danger to themselves. I know to some this may sound like a load of crap and sound like I’m merely preaching my professor. But truth be told I think it is important to know why psychiatrists and mental health professionals do what they do. But while it is important to understand the rationale behind the Canadian Mental Health Act, I think the most important aspect lies with the individual. What do you do once you have been diagnosed and how do you overcome such a diagnosis. I think first and foremost the most important step to recovery and to dealing with a diagnosis is education. It’s easy to fall victim and think your life is only in professionals hands. But you do have a say in your recovery and you should be questioning your professionals every step along the way. The best decision I ever made was to make my diagnosis my field of study. I’m not saying you should go back to school and learn everything, but educating yourself about your diagnosis is crucial. This way you start to understand your symptoms and how to better cope when such symptoms start to present themselves. After education, developing an emergency strategy is pretty crucial. It could include coping strategies for when you are not at your best, phone numbers you can reach out to and places to avoid if you are not feeling like your regular self. I have found education and my plan have helped me greatest in the past year. Other ideas of how to effectively cope with a diagnosis are developing a support system, journaling, music therapy, etc. These are just a few hints that I have found helped me. But the important thing to remember is while the diagnosis applies to thousands of people, your own variation of the diagnosis may be different. And so each person is different and you need to find what helps you best. For example, while I am diagnosed bipolar I actually have rapid cycling bipolar so I need to be careful of my moods changing much more drastically than other bipolar patients. But remember, just like a new phone which seems overwhelming and impossible to understand, with education and time spent any phone can be mastered, and any diagnosis can be mastered. It is not a death sentence, a mere change in lifestyle. An opportunity to start fresh and have a new outlook on life.