A mental illness diagnosis can be a frightening experience. I’ve talked to quite a few people who are newly diagnosed and utterly terrified about what it means for their future. There are numerous ways to go about managing mental illness and living a gainful, meaningful life. The problem is that we are all individuals, with our own opinions on what will and won’t work for us, what we are and are not willing to try.
Mental illness is very disruptive to our emotions and perspective. Many of us are diagnosed around a time of great instability due to unwellness. Mental illness can take those fears and twist them drastically out of proportion. Don’t listen to those fears. Stick to the path that will get you professional help.
In the US, that can mean an initial appointment and then a meeting with a psychiatrist three to six weeks later. It is really easy to convince yourself that you may not actually need the appointment while waiting for it. Fear, doubt, irrationality, or a rationalization of recent circumstances can all contribute to a decision to avoid the appointment. If you’re in this position, just stay focused on getting to that appointment.
The best way to set yourself up for success is to start figuring out how your mental illness affects you specifically. The same mental illnesses can look drastically different from person to person. It can be really difficult to see unless you understand what the symptoms actually look like. This is a major problem in a lot of books and content you will run into. Most of it is created through the filter of the way the creator experiences or perceives mental illness. That is not to suggest that it is not valuable, because it is. You just need to take any information you consume with a grain of salt because it may not apply to you.
I highly recommend visiting a counselor with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy experience with the goals of learning about the functionality of your diagnosis, exploring your history, and exploring who you are currently. Their experience and clinical knowledge can help you build the foundation for long-term recovery. I personally believe that anyone would benefit from really exploring and working to understand why they are the person that they are. Developing self-awareness can help you find your way in the organized chaos that life can be.
The best thing about diagnosis is that it is the start of the establishment of control over the chaotic, destructive force that is mental illness. The decisions on how to go about building that control are best made with the assistance of a qualified mental health professional. Ask questions when you have them. If you don’t understand, ask more questions. Building your knowledge will help you keep track of what does and does not work for you.
Don’t get discouraged if you don’t experience immediate results. The pursuit of mental wellness is a marathon, not a sprint. It takes time and patience. I know, I know. “I’m not a patient person!” Well, then you can look forward to developing a new skill, because it is a requirement. It takes time to learn. It takes time to see if and how medication works. It takes time to pick through and understand the damage that mental illness has done to your life. It takes time to fix it.
A diagnosis is not a death sentence. It is the start of a new chapter of your life, hopefully the beginning of something much better for you.
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