Does diagnosis help or harm? Or, why we name our demons
Mental health diagnoses are often attacked for being unscientific, oppressive, and prone to abuse. But for many, they remain the only route to dignity and sanity.
Content warning and disclaimer: Contains potentially distressing material, including reference to suicidality. Sanity by Tanmoy is not a therapy platform. Please do not self-diagnose if you experience a mental health concern. Consult a professional.
I usually dread the question with which Anamika, my therapist of three years, starts every session.
"So, what's on your mind?"
On most days, I have no clue what's on my mind. The mind isn't a table. You can't just scan it and say: there's my child's toy aeroplane, and yesterday's leftover sandwich, and aha, there's that broken fridge magnet I've been meaning to fix. The mind is occupied by absurd, shadowy things. It's a pain having to catalogue them in intelligible words at 10 AM on a Tuesday.
But this Tuesday, I was ready. I wanted a specific outcome from the next 60 minutes. So when Anamika asked me, I told her exactly what was on my mind.
“Do you think I have borderline personality disorder?”
You see, I've had this nagging suspicion for a while that the shittiness I feel these days is different from the familiar racket of depression and anxiety with which I have lived my entire (adult) life. Let me try to describe it: a ghastly mix of fear of abandonment; short periods of feeling okay, even good, about myself, followed by abject self-loathing and self-directed anger; extreme highs and lows in how I see other people; spells of intense panic when I stop breathing; unbearable sensitivity to the tiniest of real or imagined slight from people near me, like a toothache that grips my whole being; and a strong urge to dabble in what Anamika calls 'self-annihilation'.