Is My Diagnosis My Identity?
I recently meet with a group of pastors who were concerned that many of the students and adults at church referred to their mental health struggles as their identity. They often heard people saying “my anxiety” or “my depression.” It’s a great sign that people are being open with one another about mental health issues. We want to create the kind of faith community where everyone feels safe to be real and NOT say everything is fine when it isn’t. That’s a big part of breaking the stigma.
The concern is when we over-identify with a certain label and narrow our beliefs about ourselves to solely include our struggles. According to the National Institutes of Health “illness identity affects hope and self-esteem” and can further create a self-stigma for the very illness that we’re fighting.
One of the hardest things about mental illness is that it can distort our view of ourselves. Our symptoms can mask our skills, natural personality, good intentions, and desires to connect. That’s all the more reason we need to be clear on who we are.
The hope is that we can reconstruct our identities if we feel that we have lost them through this process of a diagnosis. In next week’s mental health tips we’ll talk about restoring a healthy identity.
Remember, we all more than a label or a diagnosis. 1 John 1:12 tells us…
But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God…1 John 1:12 (ESV)
What are your thoughts on Idenity? I’d love to hear from you today, comment below.
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