My sister’s best friend Jean is standing in our kitchen, her face strained, her movements quick and agitated. “It just gets so frustrating,” she blurts. “I just want someone to acknowledge...” Unable to finish her thought, she brings her hand sharply down on her knee, a nervous tic that I’ve witnessed from her countless times.
Jean’s plight is one familiar to me: she is suffering from any number of mental imbalances, anxieties, mania, and depression, and what she wants is a diagnosis. Unfortunately for her, her father's primary care physician is not supportive of this desire for clarity. His reason is fear based; he doesn’t want his daughter put in a box or labeled.
In the wake of such recent incidents as the frenzied overdiagnosis of ADHD (also referred to as “The ADHD Explosion”), I can understand some caution. Diagnosis of mental disorder is a delicate and tricky business, and one symptom could apply to a myriad categories. Diagnosis can come to define a person in a way that quashes outward perception of personality and self conduct.
In the world of what diagnosis can mean from the perception of one’s family, I know that I am very lucky.
Immediately, my family sprang to affirmative action, my father mapping out a path for me and printing out literature on Bipolar Disorder for my siblings to read, my siblings in turn asking intelligent and sympathetic questions. In the world of what diagnosis can mean from the perception of one’s family, I know that I am very lucky. They were on board, in it for the long haul.
Another gift of this diagnosis was in treatment, which became easier to pinpoint and more focused. At last, I had the validation I so desperately required. The road of mental illness is a long and craggy one, but it is my personal experience that diagnosis can at least shine some light on it.