Sometimes I worry that I overidentify will my OCD or my mood disorder. While a year and a half since my OCD diagnosis and a year since my mood disorder diagnosis both seem like a long time, the truth is I am still learning how to navigate the world as someone with mental illness.

I keep reminding myself that this is okay. I don’t have to know all the answers. These diagnoses don’t have to provide all the answers, either.

For example, when I have a bad night of sleep, I have a tendency to immediately blame my brain. And true, it really is the culprit a lot of the time. But sometimes I just couldn’t get comfortable, or my cats kept jumping on and off my bed, or I drank too much caffeine throughout the day and it was still affecting me.

When I look back at my childhood, I can see signs of OCD. When I mentioned them to my therapist, she was quick to point out that many children without OCD do the same things. It could have been a sign of my illness, or it could have just been me acting like a normal kid.

On the one hand, my diagnoses have made it a lot easier to understand certain events in my past, like a bizarre religious breakdown I had a few years ago. It makes it easier for me to figure out how my brain works and why I feel the need to behave certain ways or do certain things.

It also allows me to act as my own watchwoman. Knowing the symptoms that may signify my brain is spiraling out of control allows me to reach out for the help I need and use all of the tools and coping skills I’ve learned from my therapist, and hopefully head off a major episode. These illnesses have a major role in my life, whether I want them to or not.

But I’m still me. Some of my quirks are just quirks, not signs of something deeper. My emotions and moods aren’t always fueled by my illness.

It’s part of me, and it influences me, but it’s not me and I’m not it.

Photo by Eiimeon

Photo by DaveBleasdale