When I was 16 I sat in a grey, cold hospital office where I was told in a matter of fact way, I had dysthymia and mild social anxiety.
Fast forward a few years later, I’m 20 sitting in my university’s basement being told softly I have Major Depressive Disorder.
What are these words?
What are these doctors saying?
How do they know this?
What does this mean?
Getting a diagnosis (at least in my experience) is scary, and totally confusing. Google made it even scarier. It felt dirty; putting a label to my feelings felt wrong in every way. Especially getting a new diagnosis – that felt like I was doing something wrong, going backward instead of forward.
But why did I feel like this? What was I ashamed?
Short answer: It was unknown. It was new. I didn’t understand.
It wasn’t until I started taking notes for this post that the shame feelings fell away and I began to understand why a diagnosis can be a blessing instead of a curse.
I am not a doctor or a professional; I am just a girl. This is just how I felt, and this is just how I define the two labels.
The way the doctor described this to me was a minor long-term depression. At the time of the assessment I had been feeling it for almost a year. It was like a buzzing sound in the back of my mind. I knew there was a lot of sadness there; I had started self-harming so I was aware I wasn’t ok, but I could move beyond it. I was going to school, work, I was being social, active – I was functioning but with the buzzing always in the background. I thought that with time it would pass, just like a bad storm.
MDD (Major Depressive Disorder)
At the time of this assessment I had been self harming for 5 years and it had become my mode of survival – how I kept myself alive. The buzzing in the background became all encompassing. I could not move, feel, grow, hear, see, there was only buzzing all of the time. The colour in the world had been taken away; I was living in grey. I didn’t think I would survive it.
So what? Why am I telling you this? I’m telling you this because I wrongfully assumed that having a diagnosis made me weak, weird, officially crazy. Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. In both cases the diagnoses confirmed and validated that what I was feeling was real. They helped me and the professionals who were helping me refine my treatment plan. When I was told I had Major Depressive Disorder I thought that all my work I had done to get better from the Dysthymia had been pointless, a waste, and that I would never truly be better. Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, again! Just as a child grows taller, people learn new languages, our hair grows, our brains can change too, our circumstances can change. Our diagnoses can change because we are real human beings who grow, develop, and change. That doesn’t mean we should give up, quite the opposite we should keep fighting.
If you are struggling with a diagnosis, a label, or maybe an unknown, I encourage you not to entertain the shame feelings like I did but to instead take a step back and breathe. These words, dysthymia, depression, anxiety, and so many others are not and should not ever be a judgment, or a death sentence like I thought they were. We ultimately have the choice to accept these words or not, your brain, your body, your choice. However I now think that these words original intent were not to harm but to help guide us in the long and complicated road that is recovery.
I am so excited to experience this part of the road with you all over the next few months. Remember that you are loved, valued, and important.
Until Next Time,
About Chelsea Moore
My name is Chelsea! I am in my third year of university studying Anthropology and Sociology. I started self harming when I was 15, had my first suicide attempt when I was 16, and that is when I was diagnosed with Depression. Since then my life has been about recovery, and throughout this journey writing has been my safe place. Throughout my journey I've learned that everyone has a story, and hurting together feels a lot better than hurting behind closed doors.I am passionate about bringing awareness to mental illness, and couldn't be more excited about this opportunity to write for Healthy Minds Canada!