Removing the Labels of Mental Illness

September 8, 2011 Natalie Jeanne Champagne

Mental illness is chronic in nature. It is, by its very definition, a disease. I, like many other people who struggle with mental illness, have a hard time digesting and accepting the words chronic and disease. A person with a disease is sick. A person with a chronic disease is consistently sick.

Does Having a Chronic Mental Illness Mean That I am Sick?

Yes, and no. An example: if you have bipolar disorder you have a chronic illness but if you are in recovery, the mental illness is in remission. You are then considered well; the illness remains but you are free of symptoms or they are drastically reduced.


The Negative Effects of Labels

It's hard, even when you are in recovery and stable, to forget that the mental illness carries baggage; in this case - labels. When I am stable, I go on with my life. I work and I visit family and friends. I write and play guitar. I go jogging with my dog at the beach. But even then, it's hard to shake the fact that I have a disease; I have bipolar disorder and I am a recovered addict. Even when life goes as smoothly as it can, it lingers in the back of my mind.

And I am not alone in this. Many of us diagnosed with a chronic mental illness struggle with the labels.

Separating the Diagnosis From the Person

When I was first diagnosed I had trouble separating myself, Natalie, from the illness. When you are first told you have a chronic mental illness, you wonder what it really means. You might wonder who you really are. Are you the same person you were before the diagnosis? Will you be the same person after you are treated?

In order to recover, we need to understand that we are not the diagnosis. Yes, the illness is chronic and yes it is a disease, but it is not who we are. Just a small part of it.

Leaving the Labels Behind

Once you accept that you have a mental illness and are willing to treat it, mental health recovery becomes possible. It takes at little work, patience and practice, but you can push the labels aside and embrace yourself. You are not your illness, you are simply yourself. Recovering from a mental illness is enough work, trying to figure out what the words chronic and disease mean are not necessary.

Just work to take care of yourself. Push the labels aside and put recovery first.

APA Reference
Jeanne, N. (2011, September 8). Removing the Labels of Mental Illness, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 17 from

Author: Natalie Jeanne Champagne

Alistair McHarg
September, 8 2011 at 11:08 am

At first, you are defined by your illness. Then, you are defined by how you approach it. Later, by how well you manage it. But there is a day when you come out the other side, when you have a totally integrated and balanced personality. (I still have the genes and personality that prompted the manic depression that crippled me for so long - technically I still have the illness.) But bipolar disorder is, at this point, merely an aspect of what makes me, me - like gray hair. Over time people have hung labels on me, and they always will. I live in such a way as to repudiate them, not merely prove them wrong, but demonstrate the complete idiocy of applying them. I am happy today. The labels are a problem for the people that affix them, not for me.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Natalie Jeanne Champagne
September, 8 2011 at 3:44 pm

Hi, Alistair:
What a fanastic reply. I agree completely. It takes time, and patience, to reach acceptance and disregard the label.
Thank you for the comment,

Dr Musli Ferati
September, 24 2011 at 8:49 am

Your close analysis on removing the labels of mental illness presents a useful contribution on satisfying treatment of any mental disorder. It is very intelligent suggestion to separate psychiatric diagnosis from the person of yourself. This recommendation, however is much easier to said than to done, because the integrity of personality is complex and infinitive issue. In order to accomplish this hopeful mental activity, it should enhance the conscience of general public on mental health wellness. To be honesty we have yet many suspicions for someone with mental disease. As long as these primitive and antipsychiatric overlooks remains in our heads the removing of labels of mental illness would be difficult undertaking. Therefore, the treatment of mental illnesses w'be loaded with impassable hindrances.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Natalie Jeanne Champagne
September, 25 2011 at 6:08 am

Hi, Dr Musli Ferati
First, I want to thank you for following my blog. I could not ask for more informed and educated comments. Thank you. Removing labels is,of course, easier said then done. I can vouche for this as I still struggle with it. Words cannot really descripe the experience.
Thanks Again,

December, 2 2012 at 2:43 pm

I find that, when I do decide to share my diagnosis or how I'm feeling, they tend to have an "oh crap"moment or not believe me, because I smile and joke. I still feel that I am my diagnosis mostly because it is managed only slightly. Daily life is still a struggle. Your post gives me hope that there will be a time when I can see past my bipolar. My blog is just starting out and mostly about my current struggle to continue breathing. But there are times I feel hope that one day I will cease drowning.

Barry Hingley
June, 19 2017 at 10:14 pm

After diagnosed 46yrs ago!Pros told me could never work in healthcare!Which I;ve done for over 30yrs!Having BP taught me compassion &kindness &understanding for others!

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