Mental Illness: An Identity Thief

Okay. So, here’s my latest dilemma: it’s one thing to be admitted to a mental hospital. It’s another to be admitted three times over the duration of five months, twice within two weeks. I was discharged on Wednesday after my third stay, and let me tell you, it really messed with my head. While I emerged feeling more confident in my ability to cope with my wonky mood swings and erratic emotions, my sense of self was immensely distorted. The inpatient psychiatrist not only added another mood stabilizer to my little medley of pills but also modified my diagnosis. After seeing a side of me that I prefer to keep tucked away in a far off closet, the she officially pronounced that I have a “personality trait causing social impairment.”

Ouch. For the record, I full-heartedly admire the psychiatrist in the unit and hold her in the highest esteem, but she is really making it difficult to accept my situation. I’m just kidding, of course. I know it isn’t really her fault that I feel the way I do. The truth is that, while others may help steer me in the right direction, it is up to me to come to terms with my recent diagnosis. Still, I am finding it difficult to ward off the invasive thought that there is something wrong with my personality, with who I am. I’ve realized, though, that I am the same person as I was before I was diagnosed. A label does not define me. I am who I am, scarred as my body and mind may be. I am so incredibly broken, but I continue to gift pieces of myself to others. I love with such intensity and dream with such grandiosity that I appear foolish and naïve. I remember the past, reside in the present, and embrace the future. I rebuild myself from nothing and fight to become everything. I am who I am, and it is as simple as that.

The the name of my blog may be “She’s Bipolar,” but I am not bipolar. I am an individual who happens to have Bipolar Disorder. It has been said one too many times, but I will say it again: you are not your mental illness. When you allow your diagnosis to define you, you give your condition permission to rule your life. You cannot possibly lead a healthy lifestyle if you believe in your bones that you are no more than a list of symptoms. It is imperative to your well being that you learn to detach from your diagnosis and view yourself as an individual not a condition. It will not come easily. Little in life does. As I explained earlier, I am now struggling to cope with my new diagnosis. Even if it is not too different from my original one, it still gives me bouts of anxiety. I have moments of immense doubt and moments of extreme confidence. There is really no in between, and that is anything but healthy. Even I must learn to control my thoughts and improve my constantly fluctuating sense of self.

My psychiatrist recently implemented Acceptance and Commitment Based Therapy, also known as ACT, into our sessions. This subsection of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is centered around the philosophy that we must accept what is and commit to making necessary improvements. My goal for the coming weeks is to work towards accepting my situation–both the positive and negative aspects–for what it is. I then intend to commit to making minor improvements, to changing my thought and behavioral patterns without changing who I am. A doctor diagnosed me with a medical condition. So what? What changes? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Needless to say, it is a constant battle, but I will not allow a label to distort my sense of self.

After all, your diagnosis is not important; it is what you choose to do with it that matters.