While studying psychology in university, I learned about a little something called the Diagnostic Statistical Manual, or the DSM. Currently in its fifth revision (published last year), it is a pretty exhaustive book that categorizes and describes mental disorders. For years the DSM has been considered one of the go-to references for mental health professionals, especially in North America.
The professionals behind the creation and subsequent revisions of this manual relied heavily on psychological research to help them categorize commonly co-existing abnormal behaviors and tendencies into what we know as mental health disorders.
In this age where a drug seems to be developed and prescribed for everything, something has shifted in our thinking. With every passing decade we treat this mental health classification system more and more the way we treat incurable physical diseases. As something we have very little control over, that we cannot possibly bear without medication, and that we’ll have to suffer with the rest of our lives.
Before I continue with my point, I just want to clarify what I’m NOT saying:
- I am not saying that there aren’t people out there who legitimately require medication to function better.
- I am not saying there are no mental health disorders with a strong tie to a person’s biological or genetic makeup.
- I am not belittling or slighting anyone’s current situation.
- I am not judging anyone for how they have dealt with a mental health disorder.
But what I am saying is that if a mental health professional pronounces you with a certain disorder (which, please remember, is a name attached to a bunch of commonly co-occuring tendencies), be careful not to see every aspect of yourself in light of this ‘diagnosis’.
Be careful not to let this world fill you with half-truths about yourself that cause you such alarm, you become dependent on the world to fix you. Because mental health disorders aren’t the full story. They’re not even a fraction.
You are you. You are not borderline personality disorder, you are not anorexia and you are not depression. You are not bulimia, you are not schizophrenia, you are not a phobia.
Even the smartest people in mental health are still just people with theories — most of which have not been proven enough to be considered ‘fact.’
You are not a theory. You’re a living breathing person with a life to offer God and gifts to use in this world. Don’t see yourself through the lens of a few words from a manual based on the statistics of the masses. Don’t live your life chained to a diagnosis, because it doesn’t seal your fate. Jesus Christ came to seal your fate. The Name above every name — including every name in the DSM.
I’m not saying go off your meds, totally ignore the issues you’re dealing with, or stop seeing a counselor. This isn’t about putting your head in the sand to the situations you’re facing.
But in the heartbeat of God, I present to you a full-truth: God created you with a divine purpose. To live for and express His glory, to exalt His name, to emulate His character. And He gave us a far superior manual to help us do just that. We are all called by Him and we can all be empowered by Him to go beyond ourselves — past our own limited understanding and to live fully for Him. And by faith in His Word, and trust in His ever-present help, we will!
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!”
- Ps. 139:13-17 (NIV)