Receiving a mental health diagnosis can be a stressful and anxiety-inducing experience. Over the years, I have been diagnosed with many things; it was hard at first, so I want to share some lessons I learned along the way.
First of all, let me tell you that ultimately, diagnoses or “labels” are just that – labels! They don’t reflect who you are as a person and the symptoms don’t have to define you. In fact, when you think about it, diagnoses are just words and categories made up by a bunch of people a long time ago. So, the first thing to remember is: don’t panic. Be curious instead.
Ask for information
Usually, people are diagnosed by a mental health professional. It’s important and reassuring to ask lots of questions and get answers. Some questions you can ask are: what does this mean? How is this diagnosis likely to affect my life? What are the next steps? What is the prognosis? Are you sure this is an accurate diagnosis? Can I ask for a second opinion? (since misdiagnoses are quite common).
This is important. Make sure to find reputable sources. Do lots of research! For example, if you have an anxiety disorder, research anxiety, read stories of other people struggling with one and look up treatment recommendations, like therapy or medications.
Go to a support group
If you feel alone in your struggle, find a support group. When you attend a support group, you will soon find out that indeed, you are not the only one who has received a diagnosis and you won’t be the last one, either!
Talk to your loved ones
If you have a supportive person in your life, talk to them about how you feel. Share whatever you feel comfortable with. Sometimes, simply being listened to can make a huge difference.
Continue seeing a mental health professional, whether that be a GP, a psychiatric nurse, a counsellor, a psychiatrist or a registered psychologist.
Be kind to yourself
Take care of yourself, too. In my experience, sometimes you even have to grieve. I know that when I got diagnosed, my life turned upside down and was never the same. Everyone has a different journey, but sometimes receiving a diagnosis can make you question who you are. So I will say it again: a diagnosis is important, but it is also important to remember that your struggles do not define who you are.