If you have a mental illness or you love someone who does, what was your first reaction when you received the diagnosis?

Denise J: That is a complicated question…..there were many, many feelings and thoughts…..

Mariah R: Things finally made sense in my world.

Joseph M:  Silence. But, before the diagnosis, we heard that our parenting skills were the problem—we were either too strict or too lax, depending on the day and person talking to us. No apologies after the diagnosis.

Cindy G: Heartbroken.

Kristi M: Denial followed by anger,frustration,and bewilderment.

Robin F: I was glad to finally find out what my son was going through. I felt with the diagnosis that his drug abuse was more self medicating as he had never done drugs before. He no longer did drugs once coming home. He was in denial but soon realized this was his life to be. I grieved a lot and bargained with God to take my life if only my son could have a normal life.

Christina R: I did not believe she had a mental illness. I thought it was a misdiagnosis.

Tina O: I think a little relief, finally there was an explanation for his behavior, possibly going all the way back to childhood. And with it compassion, grief, sadness, fear, all the feelings.

Clarice G: I think my first response was denial but then realized that some of the things he did that didn’t make sense now did. So much so that he (my son) and I have started a Clubhouse for adults living with mental illness.

Judy D: Surprised! And I thought the pills would cure him and everything would return to normal.

Anne F: Devastated. Uneducated. Confused.

Stacy K: Devastation.

Iris C: For me relief. Why? Because all my life people called me “crazy” and now I know I have real medical illnesses which I am getting treatment for now. I know “why” I have suffered.

Lisa S: Lost, confused, sad, devastated… still searching for hope 5 yrs later my son’s currently been back in the hospital for 2 weeks now. Stopped his Clozaril. I just tried having a conversation with him he calls a lot to talk to me.

Patricia R: Discounted.

Sarah R: Deep sadness.

David B: When I was younger (20) I was diagnosed with Epilepsy. THAT was a relief as I had been dealing with increasing symptoms for 7-8 years. Nowadays, I compare it to schizophrenia or bipolar disorder as the “journey” was the same, except the symptoms and the stigma. But hiding it because I didn’t know what was going on, actually having thoughts of death, experiencing the “episodes” getting stronger, diagnosed in an E/R, medication allergy….

Lindsay M: Relief. Someone finally listened to us. Someone finally legitimized our concerns. Sadness. Truth is painful and this truth hurt…a lot. Frustration. Why did it take so long to get an accurate diagnosis? Why did A to Z have to happen before anyone would LISTEN to me? Motivated. The diagnosis gave me a place to start dive in and accurately advocate for my kiddo….get him exactly what he needed.

Ken L: My first reaction was something like: well, that’s awful, but if we know what we’re dealing with, at least we can work on it. Since my diagnosis came with my first anti-depressant prescription, I had a little optimism, I guess. Then I got home and my then-wife agreed that it’s good “that you had it confirmed you’re a head case.” That day was kind of a roller coaster, I guess.

Sherry L: Relief. I always knew he had a serious problem.

Laura P: I cried hysterically. For three years.

Jill C: Relief then shame

Paula W: Surprise at the diagnosis.

Laura M: Initially I thought i just thought I had a mental breakdown.

Linda D: It took months, inpatient before we knew what we were dealing with. I was and am devastated.

Danielle R: Simply put absolute devastation. I was young 12 yo to be exact and was told it was something i would struggle with the rest of my life. So i was just devastated. However as i do live with symptoms i have Incorporated several life tools, skills, and coping mechanisms that have given me a new found freedom. I’ve learned how to sustain mental wellness going on 11 years now but free from the imprisonment of mind that mental health diagnosis seemed to place upon me for over 2.5 years now. I still have days that i struggle but i can turn them around and that to me is my peace. I don’t regret the diagnosis now cause i get to help so many by overcoming the struggles I’ve had to. I know your question was just initial reaction but that wasn’t where i wanted my story to stay, it’s how i triumphed that i want others to know. Hope you don’t mind me sharing.

Alison M: I didn’t know what a disaster it was; I thought medicine would fix it

Ruth F: Are you kidding me? For 17 years My daughter and I to authorities that my son was paranoid schizophrenic, and begged for treatment. After he almost starved to death and was finally treated, their diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia was somewhat anticlimactic.

Jacqueline G: Why me?

Robin D: First when I found him on the streets seeing the condition he was in broke my heart – then hearing the words out of the asst manager at McDonald’s call him crazy with such coldness nearly killed me. The feeling of utter helplessness brought me to my knees. Lastly, having to leave him there on the streets (temporarily) destroyed me, and I cried and couldn’t stop as my beautiful son was lost to me. It felt like he had died & I was inconsolable!!!!

Amy K: A profound sadness came over me, a sense of loss and hopelessness. For three months I cried because he kept getting admitted over and over, they wouldn’t keep him in. Anger because the system is so broken. Anger because my kid had the world by the tail, so smart, yet this illness was robbing him, and torturing him. Anger towards the schools system, that treated him terribly. Anger towards his friends that dropped him. Back to sadness, for all of these same reasons. Fear because his illness wasn’t stable, confusion because I didn’t understand the anosognosia [“lack of insight”]. Frustration because I had to explain to every single person in our community what was going on. Overwhelmed by all that I would have to do for him now, because the system of supposed care is not there.

Bob A: I thought they wanted me to take the meds to sedate me to make it easier to attack me. I was a little paranoid at the time

Kyle L: Absolute denial.

Elizabeth P: We’ll take it as it comes! My daughter at four years old. My sister when I was eleven. And more. Was raised to accept people for who they are and work with them.

Paula H: Not the least bit surprised since it runs in the family.

Carol B: After years of trying to get a real diagnosis I felt relief. Then real life sunk in….it was and is devastating.

Andy S: The first time it was suggested, I was insulted–there’s nothing wrong with my personality! Once I did my research, I was so happy to know there was a name for my issues and I wasn’t just fundamentally broken.

David T: When I kept being told that I needed psychiatric medication due to a mental illness—I often thought that everyone was telling me essentially that I was just a perpetual ass-hole (think about it: going to a “behavioral health center”).

Lois D: Denial. Every church I reached out to says demonic. Then I thought vitamin deficiency. Until somehow I ran across NAMI. What an eye opening.

John T: Myself I suffer with bipolar and major depression. Talking is hardest thing I had to do. After trying to kill myself twice it’s not easy when others look at you not in the same way.

Laura B: Devastated, fear for them, lost.

Bobbi H: Feeling of the unknown but fast forward to the present day it’s been 20 some years of a roller coaster of varying emotions. Though we’re no longer together the largest struggle dealt has been his denial needing some kind of treatment due to doctor error from over medication. Those questioning why on earth do you still have contact with him? Well, for one, we have children together and he needs them in his life when stable to provide motivation to not give up. Another reason, despite all the hell he’s put me through, the lies told, I realize the person who did that wasn’t in his right frame of mind and he still needs my help sometimes. So yes even now when he loses his temper blows up at me, has his girlfriend convinced I’m the one setting him off even when at times he can lose his temper over my tone of voice sounding wrong to him, I still somehow remember this, to keep him at an arms-length until he balances out and then resume speaking to him as though it never happened.

Rachel O: I was 15, had been in hospital a few months before for depression. The antidepressant prescribed ended up pushing me into a manic episode. It seems very foolish now but when the doctor said I was bipolar, all I could think of was the different writers, musicians, other creative artists through the years that have been bipolar. Of course, I know better now, but it seemed like a mystical power had been given to me.


How about you?

If you have a mental illness or you love someone who does, what was your first reaction when you received the diagnosis?