Living with a Diagnosis

Two or three times last night I considered dropping out of school.  I’m not going to, but I can see there are going to be some difficult times for me.

Given the nature of the work it’s only natural that mental illness comes up.  I haven’t shared that I have bipolar disorder, or that I’m an alcoholic. Actually that’s not exactly true.  I did share that I’m a recovering alkie in my personal essay for one of my classes, but the professor was the only one to see that.  Even then I struggled about whether I should reveal that.  I haven’t even shared that mental illness and addiction run in my family, largely for fear that it will beg the question of my own status.

This is because more than once it’s been said or hinted that if you have a diagnosis, you shouldn’t be in this field.  Now, keep in mind that all of my previous advisors knew these things about me and think I’ll be a wonderful counselor.  My own therapist urges me to continue because she believes I have a lot to offer.  Still, sitting in class, I begin to doubt.  Am I too screwed up?  All joking aside, am I going to screw up others?  Will I be competent?  Yes, I take my medication religiously.  I see a therapist every week.  Yes, I function perfectly well.  But, you know, I have bipolar disorder.

I am less than.  I’m not good enough.

Those old tapes start to play in my head until I manage to turn them off again.

It was a bit ironic last night.  We were talking about prejudice and discrimination, and the subject of mental illness came up.  People started talking about people with schizophrenia and bipolar, but especially bipolar.  They started making these generalizations, including the professor.  I held still and silent, but was squirming inside.  All of these objections rose to my lips but I didn’t speak any of them.  Not all of us act out on manic highs or depressed lows, making life miserable for those around us.  There are quite a few of us out in the world functioning just fine, thank-you very much.  A large number of famous people from all walks of life have bipolar disorder.  They have contributed amazing things to the world.

But it was all “they” and “them” in the discussion.  I am a potentially dangerous “other.”  It hurt.

To be fair this was meant to be a shallow discussion, not an in-depth look at mental illness, so generalizations were perhaps more appropriate.  Even though I understand that, it didn’t change the way I felt.  I was stigmatized, and the object of prejudice.  It was just so odd to have been talking about discrimination and prejudice, and how wrong it is, only to turn around and do it to people with mental illness.  My therapist was fascinated by that when I talked to her about it today.  She told me that they were the ones who needed to reconsider their attitudes; I’m going to be a terrific counselor.  I have so much to offer.

I’ve decided that if I’m going to listen to any tapes in my head, I’ll make them of her, not those old “you’re not good enough” standbys.

And I’m not going to quit.

This entry was posted in College Life, On Being an Alcoholic, On Being Bipolar. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Living with a Diagnosis

  1. Keep up the good work! You are an amazing person and are going to do a really great job. Sometimes people say things and they have no idea who they might be effecting. I mean, what if someone in the class had a sibling, parent or loved on with one of those disorders? It shows an appalling lack or respect and an inability to think before they speak. Truthfully, it doesn’t give me a lot of hope for them as counselors.

    Remember this- being able to empathize is huge. Knowing where someone has been, understanding their struggles- those things make you a better, more humane counselor. Your capacity for compassion is something that well benefit you in the long run. I’m with your counselor. You’re going to be awesome.

    And if you need some video reel to add to the tapes –

    You are awesome. You are a great person. You will make an awesome counselor. You are a good friend. You deserve love and respect.

    Nothing is more true.

  2. Aravis says:

    I love you Alecya. You know that, right? :0)

    I started to write a response to you, but then I realized it would make a better post. This next post, therefore, is dedicated to you.

    I’m so lucky to have you. Did I mention I love you? *G*

  3. Pingback: Follow Up to “Living with a Diagnosis” | Exploring Aravis

  4. I love you too. You’re an amazing woman. I hope you know that. In the times where you don’t, I’m here. And while I might consider our meeting luck (although I think we make our own) there is certainly not luck involved in our friendship. There is, in my case however, good fortune- that I have someone who gives the same amount of consideration, compassion and love to me that she gives to everything she does. You’re a great friend. That’s not chance.


  5. swisslet says:

    I’m with AG here. You’re not the one with the problem here. I appreciate that you hear this stuff and the old tapes start to play, but you do realise that everything you say here and everything you’ve learnt (the hard way, I might add) better qualifies you to counsel other people on this stuff than anyone. Period.
    Never mind that, and again to echo what Alecya is saying, you’ve shown me many times over the years that you are one of the kindest, most compassionate and wisest people that I know. You might doubt yourself, but I have no doubts about you at all. You counsel me all the time!
    Stay strong and keep believing.

  6. Aravis says:

    Thank you so much.

    When I’m feeling down and doubting myself in the future, I’m going to come back here and read what you’ve written. You’ve no idea how much this meant, both of you.


  7. Leah says:

    I would like to chime in as well, Aravis!

    “I have so much to offer.” – Yes, exactly! Your compassion, your big heart, your high level of intelligence and love of learning, your life experiences…these are qualities that will surely help you become a great counselor.

    Cheering for you SO MUCH!

  8. Aravis says:

    *HUG* Thanks Leah! Thank-you so much for the encouragement. It means so much!

Comments are closed.