Allow yourself to transcend the naming of your symptoms

French political cartoon of French cardinal Je...

Mental illness, diseases of the mind, behavioral disorders or however our community allows it to be named, it is all inadequate.

Mental illness, is a stale description.  It has sat in the open community air, over the many years when our awareness grew too slowly, when stigma and ignorance gave it the old cold frost-bite.  It reminds of me of the, Confessions of Georgia (Anne) Nicolson series, by the most hilarious Louise Rennison, When Georgia Anne says, “Have you gone mental?!,” in one-thousand-and-one ways.  There is just so much sniffing and eye swirling around the term.  I do not mind Georgia Anne using it at all.  It is fresh in her mouth.  It is not, however, winter green in ours.

Dr. Thomas Insel, Director of the National Institute of Mental Health, states that these terms are “impediments to progress.”  He uses the term, brain disease, as a way to diminish barriers to scientific investigation, hopefully leading to earlier detection and treatment.

Others, however, challenge even this term, brain disease, stating that it is premature and narrow.  The illnesses that demonstrate emotional and behavioral pathology involve more than brain and mentum.  They include the magic, the internal/external stressors, the arguments and the weather.  They include the intersecting paradigms that make us who we are, often referred to as the biopsychosocial model.  These, “Others,” argue that it is presumptuous to name pathological symptoms of emotions and behaviors with, “brain disease,” until we know what the brian does in the first place.

Questions:  But what do you think?  Are the terms we use more impediments to progress than they are tools toward?  Do you have any recommendations?  How have these terms affected your life?  Please tell us your story.

Self-care tip:  Allow yourself to transcend the naming of your symptoms.  

13 thoughts on “Allow yourself to transcend the naming of your symptoms

  1. I don’t think it matters what terms the medical field uses … people will apply their own language, what they feel “fits.”
    blessings ~ maxi

  2. As a friend’s husband once said, “we are all broken cookies.” Or someone else close to me has mentioned on more than one occasion “we are all insane”. I like these terms. I am okay with these terms, in fact more than okay. It infers (to my brain) that we are all in the same boat. Are some of us a cookie broken in two or some of us the cookie dust at the bottom of the bag?! Who knows but at least we are all in the bag together. I find that comforting, also I can look at my fellow man (or woman) and know that they are “broken” today and so am I and we can trundle along together.

    I feel deeply sad for those with deeper conditions that require boundaries for personal safety for themselves and their loved ones or people in the community that just “don’t get it”. As I mentioned in another posting our emotions our ego (I believe) are so wrapped up in protecting ourselves because we live so deeply in fear that when we see someone with deep mental illness, regardless of what causes it our very being can become so attacked (perception) that its very difficult to separate our selves from their selves. I know that might seem odd. But I needed to write that as I journey from separating my life today (stories) from my mothers deep mental illness, repeated suicide attempts, beatings, torture, violence, deep mental abuse etc.

    Do I always feel sad for her, nope not always, sometimes I feel down right violent towards her for what she did. I don’t have the compassion that I might someone else because its too close sometimes. Again, my paradigms are shifting and I am getting glimpses of what of how the mind might see things and make them real. It must sound odd but there are lots of shifts these days and my sense of compassion and understanding deepens. It just is. Full stop.

    So to answer your questions, does naming impede or progress. I think it does both. If we get stuck on a diagnosis and don’t move forward it impedes. If we get a diagnosis we can find some comfort in that, at least we know what it is now and how we can begin the journey of healing or at least creating coping skills.

    How have terms affected my life. At least when my mother was diagnosed finally when I was a child (and she did have electric therapy in the 70’s) more than once and did use lots of drugs and nothing seemed to help as she continued on in alcoholism. And when she was rediagnosed when I was in my early 40’s as having multiple personalities along with several “other” things, it helped me deeply, because it explained her behavior in a way that I could understand and I could begin to realize that her behavior and all that she did to me had nothing to do with me, ever! She was and continues to be mentally ill in a deeply profound way, to the degree that I have nothing to do with her because of it. I am unsafe to do so. Now that makes me sad.

    When we are looking at people with deep mental illness or whatever you want to call it, lets remember that there is a whole family out there that is suffering from mental illness as well. And would go so far as to say from my own experiences and watching my siblings and families around me that the families and friends are in many ways and sometimes more so as affected as the person. And once again, we can’t even see what “it” looks like to help makes sense of it. Now that is “crazy” making!

  3. I was once in a partial hospital program and noticed that my diagnosis stated BPD, so I asked about it. I was told it meant Bipolar Disorder. WHAT!? That’s not my diagnosis. Then others in the group noticed that theirs stated the same. They were quite upset about it. My comment was, “I don’t care what they put on the paper, as long as it keeps insurance paying for me to be here.”

  4. There used to about two dozen DSM classifications that pretty much covered it all. Now there are well over 300 ! Kinda like pharmaceutical racket where they invent diseases so you’ll need their “new and just manufactured” medicines.

  5. Great post! I think there are times when having a titled “diagnosis” feels somehow better than simply dealing with the chronic inner, sometimes frightening, feeling that you’re just somehow “different”. Knowing can also help explain things which didn’t make sense and such awareness might assist in coping/healing/managing symptoms.
    However, I like what Col wrote up there about “we are all broken cookies”. Thus, sometimes having a specific label might gear one toward having an “excuse” or shrugging your shoulders and merely “accepting the fate” of the illness, maybe even allowing it to define and/or defeat you…which can be counter-productive to positive mental health.
    So, I see postive and negative possibilities with this. As with most things, I suppose overall the usefulness of knowledge depends entirely on the one holding it.

  6. I prefer a label if I am being open about myself with friends and family. Otherwise, they will assume that I am moping around the house feeling sad and being lazy while I feel sorry for myself. And they feel justified in making a comment like they are too busy being a productive member of society and don’t have time to be sad.
    A friend of mine had a baby that passed away recently. He only lived to be a year and a half. He never had a diagnosis, it was a complete mystery. But the older he got, the more obvious it became that he was not a “normal” baby. So we just said he has cerebral palsy. People need a label, or else they can’t wrap their minds around it. As soon as they hear a diagnosis, the first thing they’ll do is think of someone they knew that had it and that somehow will make them think they understand. If you don’t give them a label that they need to hear, they’ll just keep asking what’s wrong with him.
    My dad was a drug dealer and user (which he always told me was a poor business practice to use a product you’re trying to sell. Smart man). When he tried to answer people’s questions, he would just say he’s a drug addict and leave it at that. And take a wild guess the first thing that popped out of their mouth instead of asking how they can help, “what kind?”
    Anyway, I don’t need a label/diagnosis for myself. It doesn’t matter or change my symptoms.
    So the best way I can explain it to some people is by saying that some people need to wear glasses, some don’t. I need glasses and can live the rest of my life without wearing them… but wouldn’t it make life so much better if I did wear them and was able to see better?
    Anyways, my name is Jasmine and I am far sighted. lol

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