My mum once told me that everyone you meet has a disability. Sometimes you can see it and sometimes you can’t, but without a doubt it is there – you just have to figure out what it is. Sometimes the disability is mere ignorance or arrogance, but you can bet your boots that every person on the planet has a flaw that can somehow be a diagnosable condition.
You don’t have to believe in my mother’s reasoning, it was just something she said to me when I was diagnosed with countless learning and behavioural disorders as a child. I felt alone, different, secluded and unworthy, as though I had been thrown from the product line due to faulty parts and she said this to me in the hopes of comforting my fears a little – and it worked.
Her words came barrelling through my mind when I was officially diagnosed with Epilepsy in my early teens and again when I confronted infertility a few years later. It was a comfort to know I wasn’t all that different to other people, despite my many disabilities, because in my mind everyone is disabled in their own way. Not everyone has to have a script in their hand to be disabled and not every disability is the same.
Some of us battle with depression every day to the point where the mere thought of getting out of bed is enough to reduce us to tears. There are thousands of people out there struggling with anxiety, bipolar, PTSD, eating disorders, or any one (or more) of the countless phobias that can cripple a person.
No mental disorder is ‘better’ or ‘worse’ than another. Every person lives with their own struggles and faces their own demons on a daily basis, whether they have a clinical diagnosis or not. Don’t assume that because someone doesn’t have a diagnosis that the battles they face are any less real. Sometimes people just don’t have the energy or the willpower to confront a potential diagnosis, so they continue to struggle through as best they can until they can summon enough strength to face their reality.
Getting a clinical diagnosis can often be a persons breaking point. For me, I knew there was something not right, deep down I knew I was depressed and that there was potentially more going on than I was aware of, but I saw myself as being strong for not seeking help. I guess I thought that if I could overcome it on my own then I would prove to myself that I wasn’t weak minded and I guess in the back of my mind I always figured that if I never got diagnosed, then it would essentially mean I never had the condition in the first place.
It took me many years to learn just how wrong I was and in that time I almost broke many friendships and relationships along the way.
I still remember mum taking me to the doctor for ‘sleeping pills’ for my insomnia and when we were finally called in, she closed the door behind us, knowing how much that would freak me out. I felt the panic rising within me, my face flushed, my skin went clammy, my hands began to shake and my heart pounded through my rib cage and forced my pulse through my veins with such strength my arteries felt as though they were trying to break through my skin.
Then mum started talking to the doctor about my mood swings, my daily routines and my hygiene habits. I had never felt so betrayed in all my life. I started yelling, first at her, then at the doctor (which really didn’t help my case), I stood up with the intent of throwing my chair to make a point (because that would really work), but before I realised what was going on, my energy levels drained and I found myself sitting on the floor crying not really understanding what the hell was going on.
After being given some recovery time, I walked out in silence with a hand full of scripts and a bunch of new disabilities to contend with. For some reason being diagnosed was like suddenly realising I was broken without any warning at all. As though I woke up that morning a normal, functioning human being and suddenly I was being told that I was damaged.
It wasn’t easy to deal with at first, but it was the beginning of my recovery, because I was determined to ‘get rid of’ the diagnosis, so I started taking one little step at a time towards proving to the doctor that I didn’t need the scripts anymore.
Don’t ever be afraid of a diagnosis. You’re NOT broken, you’re NOT damaged. You’re a unique human being with the right to live your life and be happy. Don’t deny yourself that right by being afraid of a diagnosis, or through fear of what others may think of you.
A diagnosis is a bit like a marriage – it’s just a piece of paper. Just because you have a diagnosis on a bit of paper, doesn’t mean you are any less human or have any less rights to happiness any more than a marriage certificate makes a relationship work and keeps partners loyal and in love.
And just like marriage, just because you DON’T have that piece of paper, doesn’t make your relationship any less meaningful, just as a lack of diagnosis doesn’t make your struggles any less real.
Trust in yourself. No one understands what is truly going on with you like you do.