Though for some it may be a relief to finally receive a psychiatric diagnosis, that relief — if it exists — is usually mixed with anxiety and fear. Common questions that might run through your mind include, "What does this mean? Do I have to take medication? Is everyone going to call me crazy?"
I was diagnosed with clinical depression when I was 16, bipolar disorder at 17, and, most recently, schizoaffective disorder at 29. With every diagnosis and every additional year, I've learned plenty about how best to live well with mental illness. However, there are a wealth of things that I wish I could have told my freshly diagnosed, 16-year-old self. Here are three of them.
1. Listen to suggestions, do your own research, and discuss any concerns openly.
Although you're certainly permitted to disagree with your doctor, remember that he or she is trying to help you get better — including when it comes to your treatment plan. Did your psychiatrist recommend antidepressants for your depression, or encourage you to exercise more? Perhaps you're the kind of person who never takes aspirin for a headache, preferring to wait the pain out for as long as it takes; maybe you're feeling so awful that you can't imagine leaving the house, let alone going for a 20-minute walk.
But it's likely that you'd wear a cast for a broken bone, no matter how troublesome it seems. Hear your doctor out. If you have questions, or are worried about things such as medication side effects, communicate. Don't simply take the prescription and throw it in the garbage on the way home.
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