Labels and you; who is who?

Having labels can be both really detrimental, and really helpful. To label a collection of symptoms, it becomes defined and certain. It is steadfast within the limits of the diagnosis.

In the mental illness world, having the right diagnoses enables you to get the right treatment and support. However, beyond this healing work, labels can also work in a very different way.

They can make you feel confined within the limits of the word. Your symptoms become a cage, and you, the prisoner. You may feel that the line between the mental illness, and yourself, becomes blurry. Who is in control here?

Silhouette of Woman Leaning on Metal Railings With Background of Body of Water by the Shoreline

They can also make you feel stuck and hopeless. The stereotypes attached to mental illnesses only serve to be detrimental; they are not constructive for healing. If there is a common, societal idea that self harm solely belongs to “attention seeking teenagers”, then it is difficult to exist beyond these limits of this stereotype.

They can make you feel inferior, and unworthy of treatment, especially if you are undiagnosed. With particular mental illnesses, such as eating disorders, comparison can play a large role. Knowing the stereotypes for this conditions, and blinded by the lies of the illness to placate you, can lead to the message of “I am not sick enough, and therefore I don’t deserve treatment.”

art, backlit, dark

Although, please don’t get me wrong, I am thankful for the way that diagnoses allow for access to the right treatment. I am also thankful that they allow me to think in the way of “my brain is doing this thing in particular, and it is not who I am.” Finally, I am thankful because they provide closure in one way. They provide some answers to years of confusion, and enable moving to the next step.

However, sometimes I feel as though I am depression, I am anxiety, I am all these different words found in the DSM-5. I am overwhelmed by “what” I am, “what” I might be, and where I fit in. I hear all the words spoken in therapy, and know which ones are being delved into further, and quite frankly it scares me. Sometimes I wonder who I really am without it all.