Mental Illness: Don't Put Me in a Category!

Ah, yes, categories. When first diagnosed with a mental illness, many of us already feel as though we are suddenly defined by our illness. We immediately need to drastically change our lives. That's tough enough but, more often than not, we also have to explain to those in our lives that, yes, we have been diagnosed with a mental illness, but we are still the same person. You and I both know that this isn't easy, but it is a great way to weed out those who will support you and those who may not.

Can You Categorize Mental Illness?

Well, I suppose you can, and these words confirm that: Depression, anxiety disorders, personality disorders, major depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, obsessive compulsive disorders, eating disorders, addiction, attention deficit disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, psychotic disorders, sleep disorders, agoraphobia and...on and on and on.

This is just off the top of my head and, yes, I know this does not even begin to cover the realm of mental health related diagnosis. The reason I utilized nearly 100 words to categorize mental illness is simple: the categories that our illness falls into, the stigma we feel because of this, makes recovering from mental illness even more difficult than it needs to be.

Categories aside, how can we define ourselves outside of our diagnosis? How can we help those in our lives to understand that we are not just a person who falls into a category?

Educate People in Your Life. . .

But not everyone. Don't waste time with people who won't take the time to listen to you. To be more specific: people who will not listen to you and understand that your illness, the "category" it falls into, does not define you.

I have found that the people who mean the most to me don't put me in a category based on my diagnosis. They view and know me as a person capable of giving and receiving love; a person with talents and hobbies. A person and not just a mental illness.

Kick Categories to the Curb and Get on With Life!

Remember that living with a mental illness involves coming to a place of acceptance. It's a journey we all take as we come work towards stability. It can be hard to separate ourselves from our diagnosis--particularly when it is recent--but remember that it's just a small part of you The things that really define us--the memories we make and the friends that we keep--those things matter most.

APA Reference
Jeanne, N. (2013, June 3). Mental Illness: Don't Put Me in a Category!, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 21 from

Author: Natalie Jeanne Champagne

Ernie Richards
June, 5 2013 at 11:47 am

Great post. One of my problems with categorizing mental illness is the discrepancy between what I was told by the psychiatrists after ending up in an institution and what the official paperwork reported. And with DSM-V my verbal diagnosis is one disorder and the written diagnosis is another disorder. I am so confused and now I do not care. I just want to get better.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Natalie Jeanne Champagne
June, 6 2013 at 5:47 am

Hi, Ernie:
First, glad you enjoyed the post. It means a lot to me. The DSM is like the bible of mental illness and, like most massive text books, is not always correct. People are not a sum of their symptoms. Talk to your doctor; tell him/her how you feel.
Thanks for reading and commenting!

Moms World
June, 5 2013 at 10:37 am

I absolutely LOVE this post! I shared on my blog with plenty of credit of course! You rock Natalie! xoxo

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Natalie Jeanne Champagne
June, 6 2013 at 5:48 am

Well, thanks!:)

John O'Keefe
June, 4 2013 at 5:10 am

Great post- really enjoyed it! If any of the readers know someone who has been diagnosed with a mental illness, or have been diagnosed- they might benefit from reading my book on Kindle "So, You've Been Diagnosed with a Mental Illness...Now What?"

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