The Meaning of a Diagnosis

My whole cognitive life I’ve been struggling with the disabling question, “What is wrong with me?”

When I was young, I was told that I was a grumpy, stubborn child and that I never liked to be hugged. “You were never a happy child,” says my mother. (Yes, mom, you did say this.) But I’m glad she did, in a way, because it really triggered my thinking about what actually is wrong with me. Why should a 7-year-old be so frustrated with the way her clothes feel on her body? Why should a 7-year-old even be concerned with her body? But I was, and it caused me great anxiety which would later develop into a great depression and morph into a menagerie of borderline-bipolar-avoidant-yadda-yadda behaviors.

For a long time now, I have been searching for a tangible diagnosis. One that would sum up every one of my disabling problems. Having a diagnosis would mean getting to the crux of the matter. I could address that one, solitary issue; and in a perfect world, that would create a ripple-effect to the rest of my problems, slowly allowing me to be able to cope better and better with each arising situation.

But there is no one diagnosis. There are multiple. And they keep shifting. Daily. And it puts a severe damper on my creative writing.

For more than 20 years, I have been reflecting on my life, more specifically, my thoughts. I can comfortably say that I’ve been living in the past (in my head) for at least 15 years. I can’t remember if I lived in the present during grade school, but I certainly always looked towards the past after that. It’s a strange, not-so-romantic nostalgia that has heeded my living a life full of, well, life. And it makes me terribly sad. But I know tomorrow I will wake up, and I will continue to reflect on years long gone when I was a different person. This horrible cycle will continue day after week after month after year, until everything is a blur and the music that plays on my iPod creates such a strong atmospheric time-warp that just listening to something that I heard during the years when I wore 70’s dresses could actually convince me that I was alive during the 70’s.

The one awful thought, though, that frightens me most is: How much longer can I sustain living life in the past while constantly wondering how much longer can I take of the sheer melancholic world I’ve concocted for myself? This thought is the one consistent thought I’ve had. It is, ultimately, the beginning of the end. And has been. For 20 years.

And for the reasons above, I have always longed for that definitive answer. “You have ______________.” Even though despite the already numerous diagnosis I have had, I still cannot accept that I have a mental illness. I just want validation that this can’t be what life is about. Crying every damn day. Thinking up elaborate entrepreneurship ideas and failing miserably at them. Wanting just one good night’s sleep to solve all of my problems.

Stigmas against mental illness also frustrate the living hell out of me. As if it weren’t bad enough that I cannot accept my own shortcomings as a documented illness, society, too, doesn’t accept many flaws in personality as being a medical disorder. Even though there may be an actual name for my illness, if you can’t see the illness, it doesn’t exist. I’m better off calling out sick to work because of a common cold, than I would be because of a major depressive episode. And so I’ve lost jobs, walked away from jobs, and had missed opportunities because of this.

So, to me, there is such a heavy importance in having a diagnosis, because I could then start the process of accepting it and hopefully one day shout to the world, “I’m not an asshole! I have ____________________!!!!!”


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