World Mental Health Day 2016
My first mental health diagnosis was at the age of six. They told my mother I had Asperger’s Syndrome, but mild enough that they wouldn’t make it official. Still, I was in and out of counselling throughout my childhood. My more serious diagnoses wouldn’t come until I was twenty-three, after years of severe anxiety, panic and depression. Those diagnoses were Bipolar Type II and Borderline Personality Disorder; OCD was thrown into the mix a couple of years later. Of course, my current therapist suspects all of the above may be incorrect and that I was suffering from C-PTSD (also known as developmental trauma disorder) all along.
But today is World Mental Health Day, and none of that matters. Because we are NOT our diagnoses. How can we be, when nobody’s even sure what they are?
I’m not proud of my diagnoses. I’m not not proud, either. They’re just things. But, and let me take a deep breath and be sure I want to say this: I’m proud of my symptoms. I hate them, but they’re part of me. And learning to be proud of who I am means learning to be proud of them, too. It’s something I wish I’d been able to do for myself sooner, when I first ran up against the stigma of being mentally unwell in our society. It’s a flaming brand against all the voices telling me that the way I am is wrong. It’s a flaming brand I wish would light up the whole world.
So I guess this is my World Mental Health Day message: be proud of your symptoms. They suck, but they are part of you, and you get to be proud of everything that makes up who you are. And if you don’t have symptoms, you get the fun job: be proud of those of us who do. Reach out to a friend with mental health conditions and shower them in love and praise. To misquote the late great Sir Terry: sometimes it’s better to light a flamethrower than curse the diagnosis.