What’s In A Name?
“Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
What’s Montague? It is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other word would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,
And for that name which is no part of thee
Take all myself.”
– Juliet Capulet, Romeo & Juliet, William Shakespeare
What’s in a name then? I felt Juliet Capulet had a few interesting thoughts on that, though we’re not really here to discuss names, are we? No, this post is on a slightly different slant. More specifically: diagnosis.
Plenty of people have asked me over the years why I am committed to delving as deeply into my mental health as I can to find out exactly what I struggle with. After all, I do seem to dig deeper and deeper until I’m satisfied that everything that is there is diagnosed – which is how my Borderline Personality Disorder came to light.
But why do I do it?
A Society Neatly Labelled
We have a lot of labels in our society. Naturally, it makes sense that things around us have labels, but we find a lot of people have them too. Everyone, nowadays, seems to have some kind of label, no? Some defining attribute, something in their physical appearance, something else…it gets taken and turned into a label.
So it is with mental health as well, for people find their diagnosis becomes their identity. Just as the classic line for AA says “Hi, my name is X and I’m an alcoholic”, we find plenty of people are being labelled according to their mental health. People are known by whether they’re depressed, anxious, bipolar, have a personality disorder, or even an array of physical health conditions.
Assuming all that is accurate…why, then, would I want to find out what all my labels are?
Quite simply: it names the beast.
The Name of the Beast
Call me crazy (although my mother had me tested…no, only joking) but I find a label helps me to cope with my mental illness. In the same way someone else can identify it, I find that I can better identify with it as well. It helps me understand what I’m dealing with. In a sense, it gives me a truer understanding of the problem.
Alright, let’s sidetrack a moment. Imagine you’re in the swimming pool with your child – for argument’s sake, we’ll say a four-year-old, as I’ve got experience of that. As she can’t swim well, she’s got a rubber ring on but you find the rubber ring keeps deflating. That implies that there is a hole in it where the air is escaping, but you can’t fix it without knowing where the hole is. So begins the epic hunt for this tiny pinprick so that it can be fixed. The only trouble is you have to know exactly where that hole is.
Likewise, having a diagnosis provides me with the information that I need to be able to cope with the condition. Before the diagnosis, I know something is wrong. I know that there are things that will need changing, perhaps, or things that will need attention before whatever it is can be made better. But without knowing what it is that needs fixing (as opposed to the location for the rubber ring analogy), how can I fix it?
So for me, having a name for whatever is wrong, having a diagnosis is helpful.
The Caution to this Tale
Knowing what the illness or condition is is all very well, but what happens afterwards, what we choose to do with it is something else entirely. For some, it seems to be that they collect medical diagnoses almost like scout/brownie badges, as avidly as a collector. That’s not disagreeing that they have those conditions, but does it really help them move past it?
Others will take those labels, make them their own and continue to hold onto them the way a miser holds onto money. They cannot be parted from them because suddenly it is an immovable part of their personality or psyche and no one can take that away from them.
It’s important, as we gather these labels, that we don’t stick them to ourselves with superglue. We still have that responsibility to try and work through them instead of sitting in them. If we don’t move forwards, we will be forever stuck with them when there is still the potential to move past it or through it. (Granted, some conditions are lifelong and that’s OK, but others aren’t and it’s those that this last comment concerns itself with).
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