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Identifying through labels and illness

For the first time this week, I heard about the controversial side to Lyme’s disease.

I read a New York Times article where the author covers a lot of ground on chronic Lyme’s disease and it’s skeptics, but the bit that interested me was the idea of a community identifying themselves through illness.


I worry that I’m doing that to myself. Mental health is one aspect of my life – and it’s one that’s very prominent at the moment – but that it hasn’t always been like that.


I think the reason I write about it so much at the moment is because it is so front and centre. I have had many patches – even this year – where that hasn’t been the case. Mental wellness and mental health have been the last things on my mind because I have been content and free of any emotional pain.


I think the basis of my worry about this New York Times article is that I’ve applied some of the author’s logic about chronic Lyme’s to mental illnesses. It is this continued trend of doubting my own experience.


It’s the part of me that queries whether I have any right to say I have a Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder diagnosis. This is the same doubting self that undermines my memories of the trauma that stemmed this diagnosis.


What worried me about reading this article on chronic Lyme’s disease is that it validated this narrative I’ve built in my head - that invisible illnesses aren’t real or valid.


I can see some similarities. Like Lyme’s disease, there is a strong community of people online who talk about their experiences of mental health. But I suppose that is the same with many illnesses, like cancer survivors and people with autoimmune conditions.


I think the heart of it is a dislike that I have labelled myself so strongly by an illness.


I don’t want to deny my own experience. I have only just found my voice, and I do want to continue writing about life as I experience it. Maybe the lesson for me here is that what I’m experiencing at any point in life will not be all of my story. I need to treat it like it is just one

chapter.

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