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Being Grateful for a Diagnosis - Re-Orienting my Perspective
 Submitted to theEmpowerment Magazine by Melissa Hensley
 

Recently, I was re-assigned a very stigmatizing diagnosis of mental illness.  When this first occurred, I was filled with feelings of shame and anger.  I felt as though I was being labeled by my mental health providers as a person who had done something wrong—who was manipulative and difficult to work with.   I am trying to think through this diagnosis to see if it can have some value or meaning in my life.

 

To promote my own recovery from mental illness, I am working on ways to reduce the amount of shame that I feel.  One way to do this is to promote self-compassion.  Self-compassion does not come easily to me because I am a perfectionist.  I am choosing to promote self-compassion by discovering reasons to be grateful for my psychiatric diagnosis.

 

One reason I am grateful for this diagnosis is because it has provided me with therapeutic opportunities to learn how to manage strong emotions.  Through medical treatments as well as cognitive and behavioral techniques, I have been able to manage my emotional experience more effectively.  The quality of life that I enjoy today is remarkably pleasurable.  Because I had this diagnosis, opportunities for evidence-based treatment were provided to me by professionals who have faith in my ability to achieve wellness.  In addition, opportunities for healing were available through peer support and peer-based interventions (Copeland, 2011).

One reason I am grateful for this diagnosis is because it has provided me with therapeutic opportunities to learn how to manage strong emotions.  Through medical treatments as well as cognitive and behavioral techniques, I have been able to manage my emotional experience more effectively.  The quality of life that I enjoy today is remarkably pleasurable. 

 

Because I had this diagnosis, opportunities for evidence-based treatment were provided to me by professionals who have faith in my ability to achieve wellness.  In addition, opportunities for healing were available through peer support and peer-based interventions (Copeland, 2011).

 

Having a psychiatric diagnosis has also helped me to accept that I cannot define the potential for healing for myself, let alone any other human being.  The professionals who tried to predict the course of my illness, the ones who told me to lower my expectations and quit expecting great things of myself were mistaken. 

 

 Today, I have a career that I love, and I am in a long-term loving relationship with a special person who loves me for who I am.  From this I learned that if I am willing to adopt a recovery and wellness approach to my mental health, I can achieve my goals, regardless of what others say.

In addition, I am grateful for the odd sense of kinship that I feel with others who struggle with mental health symptoms.  I’ve had many useful conversations with peers about effective coping strategies and ways to facilitate joy.  Participating in a self-help support group helps me to understand that I am not alone, and that others are willing to listen to me and lend their lived-experience expertise.  Having a psychiatric diagnosis has given me the humility and the willingness to listen to other people, as well.  Most of all, I need to be humble enough to know that other people’s capacity to recover is potentially unlimited also (Copeland, 2011).  This has made me more compassionate toward others who struggle with a mental health diagnosis.  The sense of connection to the community that I now have, now that I am willing to claim my diagnosis and relate to others with similar experience, is amazing.

 

Honestly, I do have difficulty knowing how to manage the experience of strong emotions.  I am grateful that I have had many rich opportunities to master better ways to cope.  Through diligent effort on my own part and the support of professionals and others who really cared about me, I have been able to reclaim a life with meaning and a deep sense of connection to humanity.  I wouldn’t choose to be given a psychiatric diagnosis, but I can make the choice to use it to improve my life.  That is definitely a reason to be grateful.