I wanted to talk about self-diagnosis because I see it all the time and, quite frankly, it can be a dangerous thing.
While mental health seems no better understood in modern society, it seems that the whole world is trying to identify as such. It starts with people who say “oh, I’m a bit depressed today” and “I’m totally OCD, look at how I’ve organised my paperclips”.
Suffice to say, neither of these people tend to have either mental health condition. It’s just something that people say. It’s fun to say things without thinking.
This kind of thing can be particularly dangerous for Those-Like-Me, people with genuine emotional and psychological issues. We talked about it in the ebook (check the downloads page) but I’ll mention it again: quite often, the hardest thing for us to do is take that first step into getting professional help. There are plenty of reasons for this: we’re embarassed, we’re petrified at the thought of sharing our inner workings to another person and having them judge us, or we simply haven’t plucked up the courage to leave the house.
That leaves us with books and the internet. In an effort to find out what’s happening to us and if there’s any help to be had (hell, I used the internet to study my suicide method in great detail. I had the logistics all figured out) we head to the internet. Have you ever used the internet to diagnose something? Try typing in the symptoms of the common cold; it’ll diagnose you with tuberculosis or some such. And so, when the symptoms of a mental health condition can be as general as “fatigue”, you can see how you’re probably not going to get a decent or accurate answer.
Self diagnosis has it’s place. It can give you ideas about what’s happening to you, but only in the most general terms. It can also be dangerous by telling you you’re completely fucked when, in fact, you aren’t. But it can give you a sense of belonging. Knowing what’s happening to you, giving it a name, that can be empowering, right?
The danger with putting yourself into a category is two-fold. Firstly, it might not be your category at all. Secondly, people have a habit of living by their diagnosis. From being a nurse through to working with people with learning disabilities, I’ve seen it a thousand times (zero exaggeration): the diagnosis becomes the person, and the person begins to live up to their own self-fulfilling prophecy. It really is heartbreaking to see how many people, when asked about themsleves, go straight to their medical history.
No, no, no. I meant, do you have any hobbies? Any pets? What books do you like to read? What did you think to the latest Sherlock episode?
“Nope. I’ve got borderline personality disorder. That’s the only interesting thing about me,” they might as we’ll shout.
Well, I call bullshit. With or without a diagnosis of depression, I’m more than that. A few misplaced chemicals may have a huge effect on my life and the way that I perceive the world, but I still have other things going for me. Whether you write, or knit, or play computer games; whether you’ve read Pride and Prejudice every six months since you were fifteen, or you watch every episode of Sherlock on a continuous loop; that is what makes you who you are. Not this damned condition.
In short, step away from your condition being your whole identity. It’s a part of you, an indelible part, sure as eye colour or bone structure, but there’s a wealth of other things that you are and that you can do. Be that whole person.
Thanks for reading.