Thank you Sandra Ingerman for this moment of clarity.
I won’t argue that this is 100% true. What I believe Sandra meant and what became clear to me in the moment she said it was that labels weren’t designed to serve us.
Labels allow the health care system to organize, research, and treat people. And labels allow the health care system to get funding for organization, research, and treatment.
Which might be one and the same as serving us but we’ve lost our way a bit.
Our institutions aren’t synonymous with the values they are supposed to espouse.
Are the courts just?
Does the church show mercy?
Sometimes. Not always.
Do hospitals act as healing agents?
Sometimes. Not always.
So the system of diagnosis is somewhat askew. We can’t take it as truth.
It is part of the truth.
I have written in the past about labels and how they mean many different things. And how the answer is not to treat based on the label but to go inside and find out what is going on for a person and together we explore this and the answers emerge.
What Sandra said broadened the picture a bit. It isn’t just that we can’t tell what is going on by a label alone. But also that the label is an outside force, designed for another additional purpose – the purpose of organizing and funding treatment. Labels were not designed exclusively to enable individual healing.
I think the answer is to weave in and out of labels. Organization, funding, treatment, research – these things are important. And we have to hold them lightly. The system is designed by flawed humans for flawed humans. And like all large systems, it has turned in on itself in certain ways. That doesn’t mean we reject the system but we hold that the truth is greater than a diagnosis or prognosis.
A new label can offer new insight, new avenues for exploration and study, new ways of talking with others about ourselves and the world.
And a label is just a piece.
A piece that makes it easier to organize us humans on a macro-scale.
And a piece that circumvents the unique experiences that have brought you to where you are now.
I have never heard so much truth as from a diagnosed schizophrenic client.
Which brings me to why this is important. Because what is “wrong” with us is part of who we are. Our troubles are our channels for understanding and growth. Our challenges point the way.
Using depression as a label we treat it like a mole that needs to be removed.
“I want my depression to go away.”
Or – “My depression is part of me. It offers understanding. It is expressing something. ”
We have to give our experiences their rightful place – to honour their expressions as important as we would honour the words of a child or our best friend.
We can embrace the treatment model for ourselves – believe me – I have some things I want to treat. But in so doing we ostracize parts of ourselves – an internal lepers colony of sorts.
Which is a set up for significant distress.
What can we learn from each part as it expresses itself?
And what kind of care can we show it?
I’m sitting here wondering if I can do this. Hoping and praying I can. And that you can too.
I think the work of gathering ourselves into ourselves is the first part of caring for all of us. And for the forest. And for everything.