Illnesses need not define us

Dr Mary Wren
Dr Mary Wren

We get very concerned about how our food is labelled in the shops-that the labelling accurately reflects the real product, writes Dr Mary Wren.

I have thought a lot about how we label ourselves and how doctors can label patients, and sometimes I think we are much more careful with our food than we are with people.

I can remember during training that people would be labelled as “the hysterectomy in bed seven” rather than “the lady who has had a hysterectomy.”

Or the “mad, depressive” rather than the man who suffers with depression. It seems very subtle-but if we label someone or label ourselves as an illness, it affects how we see ourselves and what we think is possible. It is important to recognise the person is the same whether they have an illness or not-and make sure we don’t define them by the ir illness.

Labels can restrict us.

Doctors can also make pronouncements such as “you will never walk again” or “it will never get better” It seems doctors can play God in what they say without realising it-and people take it as truth.

I have heard of someone who was told their child would never speak-and now they can. Or the person who was told they would always be depressed and now they are not!

Then there are the ways we label ourselves. When my heart was very erratic and I felt ill, I sometimes would tell people that “I am ill” meaning that I was restricted, feeling ill and uncomfortable.

Then I realised that I was seeing myself as an ill person, rather than a well person with a part of my body that was not working quite right. I made a conscious decision to change and started saying I was a well woman, but sometimes my heart was erratic and I felt ill because of it.

I was separating who I was from what my body was doing and that really helped. It surprised me that as I did that I actually felt better and more in control. So don’t label yourself or let others label you inappropriately.

Remember you are a person who has a mind and emotions, who lives in a body. Sometimes the body can misbehave but it doesn’t change who you are inside. We are more valuable than food!