I think I have – in other posts – already shared my opinion or concerns with regard to obtaining a diagnosis when it comes to mental health or mental illness – especially in this ‘litigation-minded’ world of ours.
But actually, when it comes to the whole question of obtaining a diagnosis (and especially a psychiatric diagnosis it seem) many, many moons ago, and far more than I am willing to admit to. I came to the following conclusion…
Getting a diagnosis, except in situations where you have a specifically identifiable condition – such as a fracture or a rash etc, is more of a test than it is anything else.
It is (or [for the sake of fairness] can often be)…
a) a test of your patience and commitment to obtaining one.
b) a test of your (or your representative’s) understanding of your condition.
c) a test of your (or your representative’s) ability to communicate said understanding.
d) a test of the doctor or psychiatrist’s ability to accurately interpret and identify what you (or your representative) are telling them.
e) a test of their willingness to be objective and to ignore popular current trends.
f) a test of their willingness to come to a finite conclusion.
g) a test of whether they are willing to share that conclusion with you (or your representative).
And yes I know that this might seem a little cynical, but ask yourself this. “As cynical as it may sound, just how realistic does it also sound?”
Now, I share that with you in order to be open and honest about the personal mental framework in which I think about my own diagnoses in general.
But, the above having been said, I do find that I am generally satisfied with the accuracy of my diagnoses. Having received the relevant labels – for, after all, isn’t that what a diagnosis really is? – my research on those conditions seems to confirm the diagnosis and so the labels seem to fit.
But labels can be either good things or bad things according to how you treat them and what you do with them, can’t they?
In truth, when it comes to mental health, correctly identifying and labeling an illness or condition should then accommodate or facilitate the correct treatment or management of said illness or condition which in turn should then lead to an improved or enhanced quality of life.
But is that always what happens? Do we live in a world or society or culture where this is truly possible?
I have to be totally honest here and say that the answer, as far as I can make out, is sadly no, not really.
In a world where pharmaceutical companies seem to be more and more greedy and thus medication is becoming more and more expensive. In a world of; Medical Insurance controlled treatments, increasing populations, and consequently increasing demands placed on medical and mental health practitioners. Is it any wonder that all too often (or so it seems to me) the treatment of mental illness appears more and more crisis-avoidance based rather than about improving or enhancing the quality of life experienced by the patient?
I do, of course recognize that I cannot speak for everyone and indeed I do not have experience of what it is like in every country. But as someone who suffers from mental illness and who actively writes and reads about Mental Health across the world, I do feel that my previous statement is true of a lot of people’s experiences.
You see, I truly believe that a diagnosis is or should be a means to an end, so to speak.
I think there is a very basic and very understandable process which goes on when it comes to the purpose of diagnoses.
Purpose of diagnoses
We experience symptoms – Symptoms which for us (and/or those who love us) are very real. They are often very confusing, often disruptive, often very frightening, and which tell us (or our loved ones) that something is wrong.
As a result of this we need to understand them. Why they are there. Where they came from. What is happening to us. What can be done about them.
Yes, we need to understand them. We need to know what is behind them and how to treat or remove them so that we can properly deal with them and have a better quality of life.
Where that end is lost or changed, doesn’t the whole process become somewhat impotent? Indeed, where that end becomes lost or changed doesn’t it also run the risk of becoming harmful?
And let me share a couple of examples of this…
Stigma and Stereotyping.
Yes I know that many people think that we bang on too much about stigma and stereotyping when it comes to mental illness or poor mental health. But the truth is that we only do it because it is still very real and still very present.
Stigma and Stereotyping both result from the harmful application of a label with no consideration for the quality of life of the person to whom the label is being applied.
As human beings, as a society of human beings, we actively recognize and very often fight for the recognition that, whilst we can and often do indeed all share some commonalities, we are all unique.
But how willing or ready are we to recognize that, whilst those commonalities are there and whilst there are indeed commonalities in the effects of mental illness or poor mental health, exactly how the mental illness or poor mental health effects each individual will in some ways be unique to that individual because that individual is (him or herself) unique?
Until we are able to see each unique individual person with mental illness or poor mental health as exactly that – a unique individual person – and to consider their personal quality of life, then we are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past and we will never cut out stigma or stereotyping.
Living the diagnosis.
And my second example of where the end of the aforementioned process of the ‘purpose of diagnosis’ has been lost or changed, is slightly more controversial and is in respect of those folk who seem to simply live the diagnosis that they have been given.
(I freely and openly accept that it is possible that my even including this section could place me at risk of being accused of being uncaring or judgmental. But in the interest of objectivity and fairness I feel it is only right to include it.)
I am convinced – from personal experience – that there are some folk who, having received a diagnosis, seem to simply live that diagnosis rather than trying to fight the illness/condition or improve their quality of life – or the quality of life of those around them.
Of course, I do understand that for some, the condition or illness itself – including some mental illness – removes their ability to fight the condition or illness or to try to improve their quality of life. But I am not speaking of such folk. I am speaking of folk who have that ability but simply who have simply seemed, once they have received their diagnosis, to have accepted it and to live by it.
I have someone in my life – who I love and care for deeply – who struggled with poor mental health and who displayed several symptoms, but who tried to fight those symptoms and to have (and afford others) as good a quality of life as they could. But the minute they received a diagnosis of the poor mental health – which was already there and which they had previously fought – the fight left and they simply accepted their diagnosis and (it would seem) gave into it and is to all intents and purposes simply living it out without any regard to how it affects their own (or anyone else’s) quality of life.
Once again the end of that process of the ‘purpose of diagnosis’ I mentioned above has been lost or changed.
I said before (above) that in many ways a diagnosis is a label. And I made the statement that labels can be either a good thing or a bad thing. (This is in fact something which I have written about before.)
But whether they are a good thing or a bad thing is, I am convinced, (to a large degree) dependent on how we approach them or allow others to approach them.
My diagnoses are (as far as I am concerned) just labels. Labels which identify not who I am, but rather just some of the circumstances and conditions in which I am me.
I am, as it says in the photo, more than just what it says on the label and more (so much more) than just what I have been diagnosed with!