Many of us who have received a mental health diagnosis can relate to over-identifying with what it means to have, for example, Borderline Personality Disorder or to be an emotionally sensitive person.
A few years ago, when I was diagnosed with BPD, (I no longer meet enough of the criteria to have the diagnosis. You can watch my video about this by clicking here), one of the things that I found most distressing was my experience or sense of a lack of identity.
In part, while very helpful to learn that there was a name for the collective symptoms that I'd been suffering from, and even more importantly that there were effective treatments to support me on my way to wellness, there was also the temptation to become my diagnosis -- a role I've engrossed myself in for years now, especially since this blog has become popular on a global scale.
I became obsessed with BPD. I read everything I could get my hands on. I watched films that had characters thought to have the diagnosis. Self-education is a good thing - don't get me wrong. I found out about DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy), enrolled, and ultimately found it to be the missing link for my recovery. I started this blog and now do a number of collaborations with other organizations that are working hard to fight stigma and spread awareness about BPD and DBT. Lots of great things have come out of learning my diagnosis.
What has also come out of it, though, is often a preoccupation with BPD and mental illness in general.
My DBT Life Coach Teresa Lynne and I discussed this today. When I came off as concerned that I've been experiencing agitation and irritability the past couple of days and that I'd made some seemingly impulsive decisions around my hair, she came right out and asked, "Gosh, is everything we do pathological?"
I'm not a person who curses often, but after our discussion, it felt incredibly liberating to drop the f-bomb and say, "Yeah, so the f*&# what if I did that? Is it really such a big deal? It doesn't mean there is anything 'wrong' with me."
I paused. I was driving home today from getting groceries when I realized just how much time I spend self-analyzing and assuming that every one of my thoughts, emotions, and actions is somehow related to mental illness or that these things -- which are very normal, everyday human experiences -- are, in a word, pathological.
We are allowed to have feelings. It is part of the universal, human experience. We are allowed to make mistakes, sometimes be impulsive, and to wish we had done something differently. I am going to be really mindful the rest of this week of what I tell myself/what thoughts I have during the week.
I am going to be mindful to notice when I automatically connect my experiences with any mental health diagnosis or with something being "wrong" with me.
Can you relate? Do you find yourself saying, "This is my BPD" often?
Are you willing to be mindful this week of the thoughts and begin to notice which of your experience are just plain and simple human experiences?
Thank you for reading.