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Grief and Mental Health Diagnosis

I have worked with many clients over the years who had great difficulty receiving a diagnosis never mind accepting it. The stigma of Mental Health makes it that much harder to accept a diagnosis but also to get support as it is hard to share the news.

Finding out that you have ADHD, Anxiety, Depression, or another mental health disorder can be a relief as you are now able to appreciate or understand why your brain works the way it does. It can help to validate your experiences and appreciate that you were going through something challenging at the time.

This is often followed by feelings of loss and grief. If you are diagnosed later in life there is a natural pain that occurs as the what ifs and what could've beens enter our mind. We can be upset with our parents and teachers for not noticing something wasn't right. You may direct your frustration at your physician for not suggesting you get assessed or knowing what was causing you the difficulties you were having in your life. Similarly there is the grief for the future as our outcomes may be impacted. You may worry that you will not be able to achieve your goals. A sense of despair may arise.

The conversation about grief and diagnosis cannot occur without mentioning culture. Culture is not race, religion, identity, ethnicity, or any other way we choose to describe ourselves. Culture is all of these things, it is our understanding of who we are and how we are. Who and how we are impacts our ability and our willingness to accept a diagnosis of a mental health disorder. Culture and our understanding of it create stigma or may reduce it. The important thing to appreciate about culture is that although it may seem like it is a concrete thing it is most certainly a construct that we can adjust, reframe, or tear down.

All of these feelings are a natural part of the process. The important thing is to get diagnosed and to decide on treatment options. One of the things that we always look for is maladaptive behaviour. Is this a problem in your life? If your mental health disorder is not causing challenges for you then maybe you don't need to do anything about it. It is likely however that the mental health disorder is causing you some difficulties. If this is the case there are many treatment options.

Seeing your physician or psychiatrist to get a prescription for medication is often one of the first treatment processes. You may not want to go that route, in that case therapy can help. Regardless if you're taking medication or not therapy is always useful. Your therapist can help teach you skills to manage the symptoms of your mental health diagnosis. Remember that the pill doesn't teach the skill.

Whether you are grieving your past, fearful for your future, or need support managing the symptoms of your mental health, therapy is always a great option.

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