The Semantics of Mental Health

I read a great post by gavin8r which included a paragraph on the way we talk about mental health issues. It’s a great read, I highly recommend it. Here’s a quote:

I learned that depression, anxiety, psychosis, mania, or whatever, is something that happens TO me.  I am not those things.  I am not Bipolar.  I have Bipolar.  I might sound like semantics to a lot of people but to me it is the tipping point in battling my disease.

Now, sometimes it is perfectly accurate for me to say “I am anxious” or “I am depressed” because at times one or both of those issues may be so much a part of my life that I can only respond to the world through the lens of those conditions. In the same way I sometimes say to my therapist “I am sad” rather than “I am feeling sad”.

However, as gavin8r points out, more often than not to identify one’s being with a health concern is not particularly helpful. My preferred term is “I live with …”. This indicates the chronic nature of the condition and can be used during good times and bad. On other days, when things aren’t going to well, it might be “I am suffering from …”. And then there’s the black-and-white statement: “I am …”.

As gavin8r says, for some people this may sound like we’re playing with semantics, but for me it’s a matter of accurately reflecting what’s going on.

If you live with a mental health issue, how do you refer to it? Alternatively, if you love someone who walks that path, do the different ways people refer to their mental health affect you?

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