Category: Mental Health
According to a recent poll on my sidebar, about 45% of visitors on this
blog are individuals who have been diagnosed with a mental disorder.
Another 19% of visitors haven’t been diagnosed but they suspect that
they may have a disorder. Those are really high percentages, although I
guess it makes sense since this blog is about psychology and personal
development, and who better to need advice than those who may have been
put into an unfair disposition.
In light of this poll, I wanted to ask myself, “What is one piece of
advice I would give to those who have been diagnosed with a mental
Then I was reminded of something I one time read on a forum for
individuals with bipolar disorder (I don’t personally have bipolar
disorder, I just like “getting in the trenches” and learning more about
disorders by talking to people who actually have them). The person said
something really thought-provoking. He didn’t understand why people say
“I’m bipolar.” He found it too identifying. He mentioned how we don’t
hear people with cancer say “I’m cancer,” or people with depression say
Isn’t bipolar just a condition like any other physical or mental
condition? Why should those with bipolar disorder then identify
themselves as “bipolar?”
I believe the truth is that even those with other mental disorders
often identify with their disorder. It begins to become their whole
being. It’s a thought that lingers behind everything they do; they wake
up in the morning and think “This is me. I am a person with X.”
Now, of course, a mental disorder can play a large role in who we are
– but I think we should always be cautious when we narrowly identify
ourselves. No, you’re not just a person with bipolar disorder or ADHD or
schizophrenia, you might also be a mother/father, a friend, a coworker,
an artist, a movie enthusiast, etc. There are so many facets to your
being besides your mental condition – don’t forget about them.
I understand that this advice may be easier said than done, but I
urge you to actively expand your view of yourself. In fact, I urge anyone
to actively expand how they view themselves. Our “self” is a
psychophysiological entity that is in a constant state of flux. It is
always taking new shapes and forms, from moment to moment, and from year
to year. This blog often emphasizes this changing nature.
Those with mental disorders (or any illness) should try extra hard to
expand how they perceive themselves. I strongly believe that we choose
to define ourselves by creating our own meaning in life.
And while I understand that many mental disorders are biologically
determinant, and not exactly inside our control, how we define ourselves
is very much inside our control. It’s a mental attitude, however, that
takes consistent practice to cultivate. I believe that so long as you
don’t fully identify with your mental disorder, there is plenty of room
to improve your life.
The Emotion Machine
Psychology and Personal Development