So, you recognised some symptoms from my previous post maybe and you noticed the way you have been feeling lately and decided to speak to somebody about it.
That led to a GP appointment maybe or a visit with another professional and now you have an “official” mental health diagnosis.
What happens now?
You could be feeling a multitude of things right now from denial, anger, relief or even disappointment. Nobody likes to feel “sick” or unwell whether that’s physically or mentally. You might have even more questions now than you did before this diagnosis.
- Relief—My problem has a name, and now I know why I’m not feeling well.
- Hope—I can find a treatment that works. Now I can figure out how to cope with this.
- Fear—I’m scared of what I think my diagnosis means.
- Shock/Denial—This can’t be happening. Not me. Mental health problems happen to other people. This is a reflection on who I am as a person. I feel flawed.
- Shame—This is a reflection on who I am as a person. I feel flawed.
- Confusion—I don’t understand what all of this means, or no one has given me the answers I need. I don’t think my diagnosis matches how I see the problem.
- Anger—Why did this happen to me?
- Guilt—How did this happen? Why didn’t I see it, or see it sooner? It’s my fault.
- Grief—My life will never be the same. I feel like I’ve lost myself.
- Loss of control and hope—I feel powerless. I don’t know what to do. I don’t see how I’ll ever cope with this.
Maybe you don’t know how you’re supposed to feel or what is supposed to happen next. What I want you to remember is one of the most important points of this blog: you are not alone and you are not your diagnosis. You are still you whether that be mother, friend, sister, friend etc. You just happen to be living and dealing with a mental health illness and that is okay.
Things to understand straight away:
- Your feelings are valid
- Your diagnosis is just a starting point to feeling better
- You’re not alone
- You are stronger than you realise
- You have options
Once you have come to terms with your diagnosis you can begin to move forward with it.
Here are some ways to begin that process:
- Learn more about mental health and your particular diagnosis: ask professionals, find support groups, read books or listen to podcasts that can help you to have a better understanding of what you’re going through. These can also help in reassuring you that you’re not alone as well.
- Consider if you want any treatment: this could be medication, therapy, holistic treatments or if you want to explore natural remedies (this is dependant on your diagnosis).
Recovery from a mental illness is expected. It is not a life sentence. You can also learn how to cope with symptoms so they don’t have a big impact on your day-to-day life. Treatment for a mental illness may include a combination of medication, talk therapy and healthy living skills. Your exact combination will be unique—there is no set formula that works for everyone. So it may take some time to find the best combination for you.
- Consider starting a journal or blog: having a space to keep a record of your moods, feelings, thoughts, progress – and relapses – can be helpful as a way of expressing yourself freely. To learn more about the benefits of journalling for mental health, check this link.
- Decide what self-care steps you want to start taking now that you have a diagnosis. This can be anything from making sure you take any medication, attending therapy, having a bath or shower every day, writing in your journal each evening, starting to exercise a few times a week. Whatever works for you. Try for 3 new self-care steps and schedule them into your routine.
- Be prepared to answer questions if you choose to share your diagnosis with friends, family or loved ones. Step 1 will help you to better understand your diagnosis to be able to explain it in a way that you’re comfortable with.
- Be prepared for setbacks. Mental health illnesses are like a rollercoaster of good days and bad days. These are normal but they don’t mean you’ve failed or you’re not going to get better.
- Be gentle with yourself: Treat yourself with the TLC and patience you would with your own young child. Just as they are learning, so are you and you deserve to be able to do that without your own self-critical judgement.
If you’re still finding it hard to come to terms with your diagnosis and need some more help so that you can begin to move forward, here are some places to look:
- Your GP
- A trusted friend or family member
- Your local mental health service via the NHS here
- A mental health organization like MIND or The Samaritans,
- A private counsellor, therapist or psychiatrist
- An online support group such as:
The Mighty online community
Turn2Me Group Support
Kooth online support
Bipolar UK eCommunity
Beat Message Boards
Big White Wall
SANE Support Forum
Friends in Need.
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