A diagnosis, or label – whatever you want to call it – I have them.
I have had these issues for many years but was only diagnosed 5 years ago.
So, what does having a diagnosis or label mean to me?
Well it’s a tough one. When I was diagnosed as having depression and anxiety I didn’t bat an eyelid. I knew I had suffered with them for years so it didn’t come as a shock or a surprise. Anorexia on the other hand was very different for me. When I was told that was what I had, and had lived with through my teens I was adamant that the Dr had it wrong!
I am 26 for a start and I don’t only live off an apple a day. No way was I skinny enough to be anorexic!
Now that very response is a huge part of the problem with labels and diagnosis’ for mental health issues in particular. There is such a stigma and a host of incorrect information attached to the names of these illnesses that it makes receiving them officially, very difficult at times.
Anorexia is still believed to only be diagnosed to extremely thin teenage girls who live off the water and the occasional apple, which is simply not true. Yes of course there are people that this does apply to but it’s so important to remember that this is not everyone.
I was at one point very underweight but being 5 foot 10 I didn’t reach a low enough weight for the professionals to refer me for any further help. Again this is so wrong and led to me getting much worse and attempting to take my life!
I do still find anorexia as a diagnosis very difficult. It’s the one I struggle most to admit and talk about and that’s almost entirely because of the misunderstandings around it.
Borderline Personality Disorder, I was in hospital 5 years ago when the DR first told me this diagnosis. I had never heard of it before but the name was a little unnerving. To me, it seemed to suggest that there was something wrong with my personality! However, I was printed off a big chunk of information from my psychiatrist and left to go away and read it.
Wow! what I was reading was pretty incredible to me. The title of all this information could have been – AMY STEVENS – It was describing me so much! It was a huge turning point for me. I finally felt like Yes, finally I now know what is wrong with me. Why I act the way I do. Why I feel things so much more than other people. Why I have such extreme mood swings …. the list went on! I was honestly like someone had flicked a switch in brain!
In this case, for me having a label or diagnosis really helped. I went away and researched all about BPD. I read a lot and bought self help books and worked (and continue to) work hard to understand my diagnosis and how I can recover. It honestly felt like a huge weight had been lifted and felt like I could see properly for the first time!
It was honestly such an amazing feeling. I know I am far from recovered but being able to understand why I think or do certain things and then work on positive skills to cope with them, is so helpful. Although, as with anorexia there are still a lot of misconceptions surrounding BPD and that can be difficult but I am keeping myself informed and am happy to continue talking about it to banish the misconceptions and stigma surrounding it.
Sometimes I know that people hate to have a diagnosis or label and I totally get that but I have found that sometimes it can be essential in getting access to further help. Don’t get me wrong I don’t feel like my illnesses define me – I am Amy who has illnesses not the illnesses themselves.
I know of parents that have fought and fought to get their child a diagnosis just so that they can gain access to the care their child desperately needs. It’s not a nice situation for anyone and this is what can be very wrong about the system.
Like I said I have both good and bad experiences of being labelled or diagnosed but what I think is important is that I don’t let them define who I am. They are just a small part of who I am. I don’t love them and I don’t hate them. Without them I wouldn’t be me.
Be kind always.
Love Amy x