It’s easy to believe a diagnosis is an end. And in some cases, it most brutally, irreparably is. But anxiety is not death. Depression is not death. Chronic pain is not death. Diagnosis of any of these is not an end, nor is it a statement of your worth.
A diagnosis is not your identity.
It is, however, evidence of the presence of pain. And though pain is a given in this world, in no way is it an all-encompassing definition of who you are. Pain is not forever.
Pain is blinding. It is hard to see past it. It affects your mind. It affects your body. It affects what you believe you are capable of. It affects your ability to see the needs of others.
But just because you cannot see properly, or sometimes even walk, does not mean that it is an end. It does not mean that is your forever identity, even if it is right now your blinding reality.
This is where it becomes necessary to realize humans are not meant to make it alone. Silence, withdrawing, refusing to ask for help will absolutely make your diagnosis feel like death. But death is not your purpose. Death is not your identity.
In a lot of cases, a diagnosis is an invitation to a different kind of life – a life that requires you to depend on others more than you are comfortable with. A life that forces you to slow down and appreciate the now. A life that cultivates gratitude. A life that with humility opens a new beauty.
A life that invites compassion when you let others see your limp.
A life that refines your eyes to see past your own.
It is easy to adopt mental illness or chronic pain as who you are. It easily becomes a crutch, where all of a sudden you are excused from things that are unwanted, and you don’t have to try anything uncomfortable. It becomes an extended reason to live in fear.
But my anxiety. But my depression. But my chronic pain. But my diagnosis.
That kind of thinking isolates. It strips you of your purpose and robs you of joy. It steals the essence of your humanity.
We forget that crutches are a temporary aide to help us get through the pain and learn to walk again. No doctor subscribes a patient crutches with the expectation that they will walk with them forever. They are merely something to lean on as one daily works through the pain.
When you have an injury, the other muscles around it activate and overcompensate. They help protect. They try to do the job of the injured part of the body, often producing a limp and decreased overall function in your entire body. They guard. Those muscles anticipate pain and which movements to avoid. The healthy muscles are trying to keep the injured part of the body from feeling the pain.
But what if you let down your guard? What if you give yourself permission to feel the pain? What if you let somebody into it so they can help?
Your pain, your anxiety, your depression, your whatever, are actually not you. They are not yours to keep. They will not be with you forever.
The pain you feel right now is actually a beautiful part of humanity.
Experiencing pain, allowing yourself to feel it, learning how to walk through it, leaning on others through it, hoping in the midst of it, opens yourself to a most precious gift.
Instead of being unable to see past your own hurt, you can now see the hurt of others – even if they are trying to hide it. It opens you to compassion and empathy as you realize you can offer to be a crutch for someone else. It cultivates the truest form of community that is watered by humility and love.
Showing up for someone in their pain is the essence of humanity. Meeting someone in the hurt where they are, and helping them see that their identity, their purpose, is more than this current horrid reality.
The truest function of being human is finding someone in their pain and helping them crawl out of the grave that they are in. Pain births the potential to save another from theirs.
Be brave. Ask for crutches. Learn to walk again.
Then lend your crutches to someone in your community and help them learn to walk again too. I dare say this is your responsibility.
Your diagnosis is not your identity. It’s an invitation to be more imperfectly, compassionately human. Do the hard work and walk through it.