I’ve been thinking lately (what else is new?)- about the power of a name..
There are so many uses for a name! People associate themselves with names, land marks and buildings have names, countries have names, and also illnesses have names.
Flowing on from the last post about introductions, I wonder…can you know someone without knowing their name? Like why does it matter what their name is? Yet, it DOES matter in terms of having an identity that you are who you are. If we didn’t have names, would we just be described by our behaviours or how we physically look like? That blind man over there…That fat old lady sitting there…I guess we may that to an extent if we didn’t know their names…
It’s really amazing the stereotypes that we associate with certain things..be it a gender.. “I am a boy, so I should be strong, I should not cry!”…”I am a girl, so I should know how to cook and clean!”. It could be a race, “I am Chinese, so I should be ashamed about the fact I do not know how to use chopsticks properly!”. Sometimes I feel like, due to all the names and labels that are put on us, we feel like we have to be or act a certain way to fulfil other people’s expectations of us. It’s like a self-fulfilling prophecy. You think you should act a certain way, therefore you act that way…and then you think it is because I thought I had to act that way so I did, or did I naturally want to do it? I hope you understand what I mean.
So, in particular I want to highlight why naming has such a big level of influence on someone ‘diagnosed’ with a mental illness. I will explain shortly why I put diagnosed in quotation marks. If you haven’t heard of the DSM, you can check out this link here… basically it is a bible of all the known mental illnesses of mankind at this point of time. It is always changing, things are added and things are taken out. For example, homosexuality used to be in the DSM, until people rallied to have it taken out. I imagine it would be a terrible time to live in if you were homosexual…if you revealed to a doctor you had homosexual tendencies…you would be subject to various, often painful, treatments in order to ‘cure’ you and make you ‘normal’ or heterosexual. Sadly, often these treatments did not work and caused terrible trauma and pain upon those individuals.
The DSM started off as a small thin book and throughout the years it has been continually added to…there are more entries going in than out..it’s now a huge book. So, it causes us to ask the question, “Are we just putting labels on normal human behaviours?“. So basically everyone has mental illness. If we are all mentally ill, then what right do we have to called others ‘Crazy, Pyscho, and Insane?”…
But my point is, are we really helping people on their road to recovery by sticking numerous labels on people?
I remember a time when I went to see a doctor about a problem… she initially diagnosed it as “XX” condition…then later she changed her mind and said it was “YY”. Did any of these labels help me to get back on my feet? The answer is N-O. It did nothing, except perhaps make me even more paranoid. I looked up Dr Google and looked up all the symptoms and things that people diagnosed with “YY” had…I went to forums and read how people’s lives seemed to be affected by having “YY”… I was confused, scared, and my anxiety was through the roof. I felt like I had a life sentence upon me, just because of the subjective, narrow-minded opinions of one individual who was useful for nothing except chucking labels. Like a self-fulfilling prophecy, I doubted my self to be normal and got self-conscious of every action that I did, did I do it because I have “YY” condition? Was I going to turn out like everyone else that presumably have “YY” condition..
I am so glad now, I left that doctor after realising how toxic visiting her was… I see a different doctor who does not just throw labels around. She genuinely wants to understand what I am going through and why I am going through those things…It’s not a matter of throwing my labels upon a person…it is trying to understand what they are going through and helping them explore options to why they feel that way. The first doctor had created a large chasm between me and her, she had elevated herself to be the ‘expert’ and I was just a ‘passive clueless’ receiver. Because I listed out a few symptoms that fit into the definition particular condition, she deemed I had it…it didn’t matter that there were exceptions to the rule, that I had strengths and characteristics not associated with that condition…it was because she used her subjective, stereotypical view and saw me as ‘abnormal’ and I needed to be ‘fixed’. She made it clear something was wrong with me and that I needed to change, she gave the impression she was normal. Now I think back, she was nothing but an evil witch. She didn’t want people to get better, she just wanted herself to feel better about herself by chucking labels on everyone.
I am not saying labelling a condition is not useful for anything…certainly if you want to have mental health sessions subsidised by the government you have to be categorised into having a diagnosis of some sort…the same is needed for insurance company claims etc…but if you are trying to help someone, it is not useful for helping them in their recovery by focussing on their deficits and not their strengths.
I have been meaning to write about this topic for some time now, but put it off.. because I am not sure if I can do it justice..
I would be super interested in hearing your thoughts about this!