MHAM: What is my Diagnosis?

On this last day of mental health awareness month, and my birthday, I am honored to have activist and friend Sarah Fader on my site to talk about diagnoses.

What is my diagnosis?

It is mental health awareness month. It’s also the birth month of an incredible human being that I am proud to call my best friend, Allie Burke. Together we founded a 501c(3) nonprofit organization called Stigma Fighters. Allie asked me to write an article for her site and I am excited to share these words with you!

Over the years I have been diagnosed with many different mental illnesses. Bipolar Disorder, type I or II depending on who you ask, PTSD, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, ADHD, and (most recently) Borderline Personality Disorder.

These diagnoses have come from certified licensed mental health professionals, whether they were psychiatrists or psychologists. All of them were qualified to make a determination on what mental illnesses I have. I can see where they’re coming from with each of these diagnoses. Some days I think maybe I do have BPD. Other days I think perhaps I do have bipolar disorder.

The ones that I definitely know that I have are ADHD, anxiety, OCD, and I know that I experience something that certainly feels like hypomania. 

I don’t know what mental illnesses I have, because it depends on who you ask. What I choose to do is work with my providers and follow a treatment plan.

Each time I received a diagnosis I would talk with Allie about it, not because she is a clinical psychologist, but she is a mental health activist who understands the DSM. And we have a lot of experience working with people with mental illness. I would ask her what she thought about the mental health professional’s opinion.

I trust her because she is my best friend, and I know she would tell me what she thinks. She has my best interests at heart.

It’s similar to if you went to the doctor, got a medical diagnosis, and you weren’t sure if it was accurate or not because the symptoms didn’t match up. Mental health needs to be treated in many ways like physical health. 

Let’s talk about diagnosis. Does it matter?

As the co-founder of Stigma Fighters, I’m compelled to tell you that diagnosis does matter to a great extent. 

When you get an accurate picture of what your symptoms are, and the diagnosis that goes along with them, you can work with your therapist and/or psychiatrist to develop a treatment plan. Diagnostic tools help you understand what your experience is and how to manage your life.

My symptoms 

I recognize the symptoms I have. But, I also welcome feedback from my loved ones. There are moments where I don’t have the self-awareness to know what I am experiencing. Sometimes I get incredibly anxious, and suffer from panic attacks. Other times I have lots of energy and I’m super productive. One time I wrote a book proposal in two hours. That seemed unusual to me, and I talked to my doctor about it at the time. I  believe that I was in a hypomanic state. I think that I have bipolar disorder type II. When I feel myself going into hypomania I talk to my psychiatrist and see what modifications need to happen to my medication. I speak to my therapist about what she feels I need to do to keep myself stable.

My every day 

Every day I struggle with the symptoms of OCD and ADHD. These are two that I absolutely know that I have not only because they are in my genetic history and other family members have them but because I present with symptoms. I frequently interrupt people, I have trouble waiting my turn, have a lot of energy and have difficulty focusing, and can also hyper focus and get things done quickly, more quickly than a “neuro -typical” person could do. I often feel depressed and misunderstood because of my ADHD. People think I’m lazy, or shame me for interrupting to the point where they yell at me. A family member once did this. I hope they don’t read this. 

I’m sure reading this you may feel like wow this post is super ADHD. Well that is because it is! 

Mental health awareness 

During mental health awareness month I want you to remember that your diagnosis matters. Your treatment plan also is significant. If you are having symptoms of a mental illness it is important to speak to a licensed mental health professional. I want you to not be afraid to reach out if you are having suicidal thoughts. You can talk to a friend, or loved one you trust, and your therapist. These are difficult times we are living, and we need all the support we can get. It’s okay to feel depressed, it is fine to feel anxious, but remember to use self compassion. Be gentle with yourself because mental illness is incredibly real. “Your feelings are valid because you feel them,” in the words of Allie Burke.