by Danielle Bonsignore, BA 

One of the many things that people associate with mental illness or an impairment of mental health is the word “diagnosis”.  A diagnosis is something that helps mental health professionals better identify what an individual may be experiencing and also to simply give that experience a name.  Someone may be told that they are a perfect candidate for disorders such as depression or bipolar disorder, however it is extremely important to never be overpowered by a label.  Being more than a diagnosis is not only essential to one’s self esteem, it is also among the first steps of reaching a point of stability in one’s life.  You may have a mental health disorder that you best identify with, but that does not mean that you live and breathe your symptoms.

In societal terms, let’s look at the word “diagnosis” in a deeper and more analytical manner.  According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the common definition for the word reads, “a statement or conclusion that describes the reason for a disease, illness, or problem.”  In other words, a diagnosis is a medical recognition of something that is “wrong” with an individual.  When we think diagnosis, should we think disease, a disorder, an illness, impairment, a disability, or should we just simply acknowledge a difference?  Many of the aspects associated with a mental health related issues include a loss of or lack of a sense of self worth.   Just because a mental health professional has given you a name for your experience, does not mean that you are that particular word.



Here are some ways to be more than your diagnosis:

1.) Do things that you love to do and that you identify with

For example, if you love to paint, run, sing, or dance then you are a runner, painter, singer or dancer.  Doing things in life that you love to do is not only therapeutic by taking part in them, but it is also healthy to remember that you have many parts of yourself of which you identify with. 

2.) Remind yourself that you’re not alone

Yeah, you may experience anxiety or changes in mood, but you are not the only one!  Any one of your diagnoses is not only your own, many other individuals can relate to you in very real ways.  Remembering that you are not alone will help you feel less insecure about what your diagnosis is.

3.) Remind yourself that you are only human

You are allowed to make mistakes and to feel the ways that you do.  Just because you may be struggling with something more than the next person may be, does not mean that you are all that different.  Just as anyone else, you identify with many other adjectives that do not have to be in relation to a mental health issue. Remind yourself of the positive things that your friends and family say about you.

4.) Be aware that there is no such thing as “normal”

Just because you have been told that you operate differently than others does not mean that you are abnormal.  In our society we love to throw words around such as “normal” or “weird”, and words make more of an impact on us than we like to admit.  Don’t let the negativity of words refer to you and focus on how amazing you are!

In conclusion, if you are struggling with the words, the diagnoses, and the stigmas that you have been associated with, please remember that you have the power to be more than those labels.  You are many many things, but your diagnosis does not define who you are.