Personal Stories

To My Future Providers: I Am More Than My Diagnosis

by Madison Fidler

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When I think about future providers — the doctors, nurses, therapists who will be diagnosing, treating and supporting people with mental illness — I often reflect on what I want them to know. As someone who has mental health conditions, I have a wealth of experience with caretakers and would like to offer some advice.

So, to all future providers: When you enter an exam room, please think about who you will be walking in to meet. As symptoms and diagnoses churn in your brain, I urge you to think about why you have chosen this path. To treat symptoms, yes, but also to help people. People who exist beyond a list of diagnoses and medications.

I am Madison. I am not post-traumatic stress disorder; I am not depression; I am not cancer; I am not borderline personality disorder; I am not epilepsy — or any of the other labels that are listed in my chart. I am me; a complex, multi-faceted person with a unique experience to share.

Are diagnoses, symptoms and treatment history important? Yes, of course. They tell us so much about the patient and person. But, in the end, the person — Madison — should come first. She is different than the other patient you saw with the same diagnoses. She deserves time and to be seen beyond her history and scars.

All of us have scars, and we choose each day how we are going to grow from them. I have not only grown but am beginning to blossom. This is due to hard work and amazing people (doctors, nurses, techs and friends) who chose to fight this battle with me.

So I urge you, as you keep growing in whatever field grabs your attention, to ask yourself, who not what will I be helping today? The medical labels are not a core part of who I am — they are sticky notes on my chest that I work to remove. This work takes time and many people but in no way is it Madison, the person.

For far too long, I existed as my medical labels and Madison was lost, even to myself. I write this short letter in hopes that maybe, just maybe, the next person is not lost.

Ultimately, I hope that you will remember that people with mental illness have unique stories, and they are deserving of your time.

Thank you for your future work.