Recently, I have found myself thinking more and more about mental health labels and being given a diagnosis. At this current moment in time, ‘Anorexia Nervosa’ is not something I want or like. It is a label that I desperate to get rid of. It would mean I am healthy and free to live a life without being held back by anxiety or rules.
However, I know this isn’t always the case. When first diagnosed with this illness, part of me was elated. It felt like I’d achieved something and I could be proud of it. I was special because I didn’t need food and I could easily dismiss it – something in which ‘normal’ people find very difficult to do.
Similarly, with depression, I was proud that I’d achieved this new label and status. It gave me an excuse for my low mood and subsequent behaviours.
But, now that I’m a long way into recovery, my view on labeling is changing some what. Looking back, I used my illness to my advantage. Yes, it was a good reason for certain things, but not everything. It was very easy to me to say ‘oh, I’m staying in bed today because I have depression’ when actually, I’m just being lazy and can’t be bothered to go to maths. I have done it with my eating disorder too – ‘I’m not going out tonight because I’m anorexic’ is too commonly used as the place I’m invited too may not even involve food or drink. I think we have to be very careful when we use our illness as an excuse and not the real reason.
I also think we have to be very careful when giving someone a mental health diagnosis. Don’t get me wrong, receiving one can be comforting and can explain why your thoughts and behaviour is irrational but in some cases it may encourage the illness. I have often felt as though I can’t do something because I have this diagnosis, and it’s not what people would expect from me. I mean, I eat pizza and chocolate, but how can I be anorexic and do that? From an outsiders point of view, I know how confusing that can look. Therefore, it’s very easy for me to avoid certain foods or places because it doesn’t ‘look’ right. In other words, I play up to my label.
As I have mentioned above, I am now in a place where I no longer want this label. I am not proud of it and can see now that it’s not something to cling onto or feel safe by. Mental illnesses or dangerous and unfortunately, still very stigmatised. Other labels that people may receive are ‘crazy’, ‘mental’, ‘insane’. These labels are quite possibly the worst kind and as soon as you have a diagnosis, you then have to prepare yourself for these too.
I am actually interested in what you think mental health diagnoses and labels in general. Should be labeling things so easily?