What’s the Make, Model, and Year of Your Mental Health Struggle?

Hi, I’m Chelsea. I drive a minivan.

I didn’t want to drive a minivan. When people learn that I do drive one, they start assuming other things about me. They also assume: I drive slow, am distracted, have no taste in vehicles, have children, will make a bad decision whilst driving because I’m probably turned around yelling at said children, and that I shop at Costco every day.

Now…. some of those things might be true. But, guess what? am not the minivan. I just drive it. am a person. My name is Chelsea. I am not slow, distracted, tasteless, children, bad decisions, or Costco. I am a human and I am also worthwhile.


When you go out into the world, what sort of vehicle do you drive? Van? Jeep? Truck? Bicycle? Bus? Sedan? Train?

Are you large, difficult to turn, and roomy like that van? Are you fun outside but hard on the joints over speedbumps like a Jeep? How about pushy and a bit too high off the ground like a truck? Maybe you can’t really afford much in life or are environmentally conscious like a bicycle.

Our mental health struggles are our vehicles.

Say that you go out to the workplace after a difficult morning, only to snap at someone because they echoed a mean thought your Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder chugged and chugged and chugged. That wasn’t you, though. That was the OCD you have to take to work.

What about the night that Depression was your ride? That dark interior, battered trim, and iffy transmission was only how you got to the party, not who came inside.

And let’s not forget the lunchtime meeting you had with Anxiety. Your mechanic still shakes his head over the number of ‘strange noises’ you swear it kept making, the sudden stops, and its refusal to even start when you were at a traffic light.


Thinking about mental illness as a vehicle might make you say, “Well, then, why can’t we just get another car?” Money, mostly. Circumstance. What your insurance will cover. What you need for your size of family, parking space, parking expenses, and (again) budget.

That’s not to say you’re stuck forever in your quirky transport, nor that you can’t address some of its more-limiting issues. In fact, you really need to address them.

-If you are repeatedly blocked from getting the engine to even start

-If you are constantly arriving late

-If you cannot seem to ever get out of the seatbelt when necessary

It’s time to see a mechanic -er, a therapist or mental health doctor of some sort.

No matter the age or condition of the vehicle, they can always help. No, your car will not be the same as when you first unknowingly signed that crappy contract and drove it home -but, do you want it to be?

And, sometimes, you do get a different ride. Sometimes you have no choice. Sometimes it’s better, sometimes worse. But, the car you drive is still not you.

You are you. Most importantly, you are always the driver. Never forget that.

Photo credit:
Rodolfo Mari
James Sullivan

Mental Illness Labels

My list of mental illness labels is a long one. I have been diagnosed with postpartum depression, bipolar 1 disorder with rapid cycling and mixed episodes, PTSD, generalized anxiety disorder and borderline personality disorder and I am a suicide attempt survivor and a former self-harmer (cutter). The labels used to define my mental illness are a mouthful, but they are only labels. Words used to diagnose a person (me) who is so much more than this long list of words and labels. Those words helped treat my mental illness, but they should be used for nothing more and nothing less.

I must always remind myself how my mental illness labels helped me become a better person. They taught me so much more about life. I learned more about living and dying, and life and death from living with and surviving my mental illness labels than I could have ever learned in any other way.

My labels taught me to look for the positives in life and to appreciate the smallest of pleasures. Those labels helped me see another side of life and people I could not have learned without the labels I was given. Those labels helped me see the good in people.

My mental illness labels showed me how strong I really am. They give me the strength and understanding to know I can conquer anything I put my mind to. Those mental illness labels helped me to be resilient and persevere in ways I could never have ever imagined and in ways most people could not even fathom. Those mental illness labels helped me become the person I am today and reach new goals in my life.

I am happy and thankful to be alive. I appreciate the newness of my life. I appreciate having a new beginning and a chance to start over. I must make a positive difference and become a better person—the person God always intended me to be.  I am on my way. Thank you, God.

The labels I prefer to use for myself are:

  1. Mother (my favorite)
  2. Christian
  3. Survivor
  4. Sister
  5. Friend
  6. Aunt
  7. Daughter
  8. Cousin
  9. Former Special Education Teacher
  10. Mental illness advocate
  11. Writer
  12. Blogger
  13. Good
  14. Kind
  15. Compassionate
  16. Honest
  17. Resilient
  18. Healthy
  19. Well
  20. ALIVE

Can you think of any other labels? What labels do you prefer to have or use to call yourself? What labels best help to define or describe the great person you are?

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