“My colleague and I work in the field of mental health. I work as a psychologist, she works as a psychiatric nurse practitioner, and we work together in a practice that we share. Recently I was talking to her about a patient that I was seeing. She asked, “What is his diagnosis?” I was inclined to answer, “He has the same diagnosis as everyone else that I see: He has a mind.” Or I could have elaborated: He takes his thoughts seriously. He is embedded in his thoughts. He believe the conversation going on in his head is significant.” That is his – and everyone’s – diagnosis. ~Dr. Solomon Katz
Do you want to know one of the major roadblocks to healing?
Thinking that you’re not normal.
Thinking that what you’re experiencing is not normal. “Pathologizing” yourself.
Instead of introducing yourself as “Hi my name is Jessica” you say “Hi my name is Jessica and I have anxiety.”
Now that’s an extreme example but not far off from what I have experienced and seen. Within a very short time of meeting someone, we tend to disclose that we have a “mental illness.”
There is an intense need to fess up to such personal information.
And therapists and doctors are harmfully perpetrating that experiences like anxiety or depression are not NORMAL. They do not tell the truth – that we will all experience different mental states in our life, including those that are intensely awful.
Instead, patients are given a “diagnosis” and told that they have a chemical imbalance.
Healthy adults AND children are told that: “just like a diabetic needs his insulin, you need medication for a chemical imbalance.”
Am I saying that ALL people on Zanax and Prozac don’t actually need it? No I’m not. Medication can and does have a time and a place. I am not denying or minimizing anyone’s experience here. Please trust that I’m not.
Medication has gotten me through some tough times.
What I am saying is that the millions and millions of people naming and vigorously claiming to have a mental illness is what’s not normal.
It has become an attachment. A safety blanket of sorts. Once a person announces their mental illness in this society, no one better question that. Life itself which operates in a “gloves off” reality had better put those gloves back on.
Well I wanted that coddling myself.
But my husband would have none of it. He did not believe for one second that I was mentally ill. Yes I felt minimized by him and not understood. But you know what? I have him to thank for standing on my own two feet right now.
If it weren’t for him and his hard truths, I’d still be on medication and introducing myself as “Hi my name is Jessica and I have anxiety.”
But instead he said “Jessica, you’re normal.” He would have no talk about me being different or experiencing weird things that others don’t.
And he was right. I took me almost 8 years to truly believe what he was saying, but once I did it changed my life.
Normalizing what you’re going through makes you feel less alone. It brings you onto the same playing field as everyone else. You realize that we are all interconnected. We experience the same struggles.
BUT some (I used to be guilty of this!) don’t like normalizing their experience because then they realize they’re not unique. They’d rather wear their mental illness badge for attention or to possibly escape adult responsibilities.
Well right now I’m going to take the gloves off for you.
And this may seem harsh, but it needs to be said: Attachment to mental illness does not somehow make you special. Struggles with anxiety, depression, or a variety of others mental states are experienced by EVERYONE on this earth.
No one gets to escape that. It’s a part of the intricacies woven into our time here on earth. Unbridled joy coupled with heartbreaking sorrow. Transcendent peace and unrelenting anxiety.
It’s all going to be there.
And it’s all normal.
But your attachment to being “mentally ill” is bringing you grave harm. I completely hear you right now as you angrily shout at me:
“You have no fucking idea how much I’m suffering. How dare you say that.”
And I get that reaction. I really do. I have struggled as you have. For many many years. And I too struggled to let go of the “mentally ill” label.
But my suffering COMPOUNDED when I believed that what I was going through would last forever because I was inherently messed up. That I would never find relief without medication because I was “off.”
Please understand that the intent of this article is NOT to encourage everyone to throw away their meds and stop seeing their doctor. Of course not.
The intention is to give you the freedom to LET GO of labeling yourself.
Please dear one, let go of thinking you’re so different. Let go of the lie that you cannot accomplish things that you want in life because of your diagnosis. Break free from the limitations that you and others have put on you.
And please know, that truly anything can change at any moment. I have had shifts that broke me free from anxiety. I never thought in a million years that that was possible. After so many years of struggle, I had given up hope, and believed the lie that I was broken.
But I wasn’t. And I’m not. Nothing lasts forever. Even mental states like depression and anxiety. Will I struggle with both of those things again and still do to a lesser degree? YES. And do you know why?
Because I’m HUMAN.
And every human gets the privilege of experiencing the full spectrum of life. There is no favoritism. It’s not personal.
All that you ARE is beautiful. You have meaning. You are loved.
The sheer fact that you’re still here speaks to your irrepressible spirit.