Note #67: Freedom by diagnosis
Also: should you trust a too-clean reputation?
I’ve gone a month with no essays.
I suppose it was bound to happen sometime. But when it happened, it just happened. I felt bad about it, and I still do, but also I miss this, and I miss you. How’ve you been?
Me, I’ve been in a bit of a weird place: I’m feeling good and not as melancholy as I sometimes can be (despite, by the way, failing my exams). Somehow, though, I’m struggling to write—and to read, for that matter. I think the reading might be part of it: reading is a big part for me of what stimulates my thinking. But I think another aspect of it might be not being with a community of fellow writers for a while now. I had got to a point of writing regularly without that and done okay, but I think I need such a community again.
Maybe writing is like faith, after all: it starts to feel thinner when you’re isolated and still trying to keep it up (like Bilbo in The Lord of the Rings said about feeling like butter spread over too much bread).
Is there anything like that for you?
Diagnoses and freedom (not an essay)
A diagnosis can be disempowering.
But it can also be liberating.
It depends how you engage with it.
This is something I think a lot about, obviously: it comes with being a medical doctor. But being a psychiatrist means also that this diagnoses I’m giving often require some explanation. Schizophrenia is perhaps the commonest diagnosis among the patients I work with (a psychiatric intensive care unit), and nearly no one who gets it the first time really understands it, because thanks to Hollywood people think it means split personalities. (Spoiler: it doesn’t mean that at all.)
And yet, as serious as it is to have to tell someone they have schizophrenia (or any other health condition), I find again and again that for many people it can be deeply liberating to finally be able to name the problem they’ve been struggling with. And more importantly, to be able to no longer feel alone: because a problem having a name means they’re not the first, or the only.
In that way, even the most serious diagnoses can be freeing.
Working too hard (quote)
Brandon Sanderson is currently one of my favourite fantasy authors, and some of his lines are just amazing. I love this one where he has one of his characters describe his suspicion of people with too clean a reputation. What do you think?
Hand, food and mouth (proverb)
This week’s proverb is about the importance of activity.
If your hand is not stuck in either the plate or your mouth, you will eventually be full.
If you don’t give up on what you’re working at, something will have to—well, give.
Here’s to not leaving our hands stuck. Thanks to everyone who reached out.
PS. The Being Human website and the weekly Notes on Being Human are both completely free, but if you’d like to buy me a coffee—or more!—you can use the button below.
I do agree that even the most serious of diagnosis can be liberating because as a patient you are finally able to put a name to what has been troubling you.
For me it was exactly as you put it in your essay because even though subconsciously I didn't agree that something was seriously wrong with my mental health initially, when I eventually made peace with the condition, it was liberating to know that the illness I have has a name, has a treatment and most importantly has research going on to find out more about it. The diagnosis was a bitter pill to swallow but getting it was liberating in the long run.
A good read, as always...