Tag: Essay

Diagnosis- The End of Carrying the Blank Label

I have been thinking about our attitudes towards a certain topic quite a lot recently.

Diagnosis.

It is somewhat an anvil of a word isn’t it? It brings to mind dramatic scenes from soap operas and the clutching of Kleenex. We see diagnosis as bad news because it is the indicator that something is wrong. As a minor detour lets look at ‘wrong’:

wrong (rông, rŏng)

adj.

1. Not in conformity with fact or truth; incorrect or erroneous.

2.

a. Contrary to conscience, morality, or law; immoral or wicked.
b. Unfair; unjust.
3. Not required, intended, or wanted: took a wrong turn.
4. Not fitting or suitable; inappropriate or improper: said the wrong thing.
5. Not in accord with established usage, method, or procedure: the wrong way to shuck clams.
6. Not functioning properly; out of order.

7. Unacceptable or undesirable according to social convention.

People have clearly put a lot of thought into this word, and what it means. However I personally think wrong itself is wrong and that humanity established that there is no such thing as ‘simply wrong’ a long time ago. Even for things which 99.99% of the population are adamant about, the 0.01% still has an opinion. It is still right for the remaining few. Plus if anything was truly wrong wouldn’t it just fail to exist? There must be a grain of right in every wrong. When people go to the doctors we should ask if they are okay- not “What’s wrong?”.

Which brings me back to the topic of this post. When people go to the doctors because there is something amiss they go to find out what the problem is, and thus what they can do to sort it out. Of course some will receive a devastating diagnosis, medical verdicts I can’t even imagine having to receive. Ones with time labels, with words like ‘progressive’ and ‘palliative’ attached. For these people diagnosis is often not a good thing, it is a realisation of a horrible truth which some might well prefer not to know.

Hayley Cropper (Coronation Street) Recieveing Diagnosis

However imagine having an ailment which no one can attempt to fix, because they don’t know what it is for definite. Imagine ticking some boxes for one condition, some for another and falling into the canyon in between. You have a ‘hum’. Something which requires occasional mentioning for practicality’s sake, but yet has no name. Perhaps doctors don’t listen, family don’t understand. But you are not wrong. You are just experiencing something different to the people who you cross paths with on the way to the shops, sit next to in waiting rooms and work alongside at work/school. Being different isn’t a bad thing as long as you are comfortable and accepting of your difference. Plus there will be at least one person somewhere who is going through or has gone through the same physiological battles as you.

Lack of diagnosis is something which many people encounter. It is a day to day struggle to describe something which doesn’t have a name. Having nowhere to direct people to for more information and no support networks you can fully identify with. This is a problem across the board-  for those with mental health problems, long term illnesses and disabilities. It seems you can’t get help until you get a label.

We see labels as bad things, when in reality we all have them hanging off us day and night. Some are positive and some are negative. At summer school last year one of the most emotional experiences I had was when we all rotated around the room writing labels for each other and then sticking them onto the intended person. When it came to reading the stickers people had given us there were hardly any dry eyes in the room. Seeing good labels; positive affirmations and compliments makes you feel good. If you ever get a bad label (which in this example at a Christian summer camp was unlikely) at least you can see it. You can make efforts to change, rub out the pencil scrawls and replace it with something positive. But what about a blank label? What can you do with a blank label? It will always be there but no one knows what it is, you know how it feels to have it stuck to you but you can’t give it a name. No explanations just thoughts.

A rough self portrait drawing of me (a teenage girl with short hair) with a blank label tied around her wrist and foot.

I have never cried out of sadness when I have received a diagnosis. I have been lucky that none of them have been life changing, they only added some clarity to what I already knew. They came after a long time of searching, upset and confusion. Once the blank label had been written on I knew what the hum was. No more scary guesses, just answers. Especially in the case of mental health, where a condition can make you think or do things which you disagree with, it brings solace to know it is not your personality causing it. It is a disorder or illness. In the case of my OCD the original lack of medical intervention riled the guilt and self-doubt which is integral to the condition. I had been told I was ‘just a teenager’ too many times, and was digging myself into a rut. However after a referral from a different doctor and talking through my ‘quirks’ for an hour in a room of many chairs, I was given diagnoses. I cried with relief because someone believed me. Someone else saw this hum as a problem. The story is similar with my sight loss, years of searching lumbered with a blank label, concluded with a medic wielding a metaphorical sharpie- writing the name, and with it engraving hope for my future living with this condition. Diagnosis is day 0: from then on you know what ball game you are playing and how in the long term you can win the tournament.

To everyone holding a blank label:

Don’t give up. I don’t have the sharpie and the knowledge that you need, but I will certainly write ‘hope’ on the back of your hands. Don’t let the label choke you, wear it on a bracelet. Then hopefully one day you will find you are wearing it less and less.

my book of labels from summer school

A Letter to The Years

Dear 2013,

Look where we are! It’s cold outside and we are looking at the start of a brand new year. To say you have been a year of two halves is a massive understatement. There have been massive highs and lows- that’s for sure. But maybe a person needs that kind of year every now and again so that we can truly understand the difference between the good and bad, and make the most of both. 2013 you weren’t that nice to me in the beginning, but you certainly built momentum. You took me through my GCSEs which right now seem so long ago. I sat large numbers of exams, some were successful and some were not so, but somehow I got through and passed all of my subjects. You are the year that I properly set about ridding myself of the eating disorder which has controlled me on and off over the last couple of years. A lot of people are unaware that food was, and is, an issue for me but many have provided me with valuable support which I can’t say thanks for enough. I would like to say I am anxiety free, but I’m still work in progress. You’ve been the year that I cemented my relationship with my beautiful guide dog and celebrated our one year anniversary. Now it feels like she is a limb of mine and without her I’d be completely lost. I also left school, which closed a very stressful chapter of my life. But my word that book was closed well- with a lovely prom and a fantastic summer camping trip with friends. As I’ve said before, school wasn’t easy, and many people helped me get through it when I really didn’t think I would. Thank you to those who have given hugs, been on the ends of phones for lengthy chats and listened to my keyboard screams through messenger. In the summer I went to the Czech Republic where I met lots of fantastic new people from all over the world. You also changed completely for the better from september onwards when I moved to my new college, which has definitely changed my life for the better. I have made amazing friends there who I refer to as my ‘non-biological family’ and I’ve also managed to keep good contact with friends at home. I am so lucky to have such amazing influences around me- friends and family, of both the human and furry variety.

Dear 2014,

You are so very close now. I wish my friends and family a very happy and successful year where their hopes and wishes can be achieved. For myself I aim to continue with the highs of 2013, and keep aiming to improve myself and my outlook on life. I also want to write more often, be more adventurous, hopefully raise some money for charity and keep speaking out about mental health. I also hope to be writing a similar post in a years time, accounting all the things I did in 2014 and wanting to see what’s next.

P.S. I know what I said to 2013 about maybe a person needs a year of highs and lows to acknowledge everything- but I wouldn’t mind if you cut out a few lows this year. 🙂

—-

To the lovely readers who stumbled across my blog, or were funnelled here by social media. Thank you for all your lovely support during the last year and for your ongoing readership of this blog. I hope next year I can carry on writing factual posts and keep trying to reach my aim of making this blog a bit more personal too. I think this post is a good start. Who knows maybe I will throw in some fiction next year? I want to get much more creative with what I do- both on here and on youtube and twitter. I hope you have a very happy new year, and I will see you in January!

20131230-170915.jpg

Music:

Mary Lambert – Auld Lang Syne

Sara Bareilles – Brave

Who Am I? Personality vs Persona.

This is a question that I have come across quite a bit recently on literary forums, psychology forums and (possibly less intellectually) twitter. Walking through Ferens Art Gallery in Hull I came across a piece of art which reminded me of this idea. The piece was by FiND3, a local day centre for autistic young people and young people with learning disabilities. Every young person, no matter what ability level, took part by painting with their fingerprints a picture which represents their lives outside of their disability. The message in this piece and the pieces around it was “yes I am different, but I am more than my disability”. The pictures were vast and varied- from trains to polka dots and it was truly a brilliant way to represent the individuality of each person who had taken part. Sometimes it is way too easy to characterise people and put them in boxes. With disabled people this is often found to be a problem and to show you have a personality aside from your disability is something you have to be assertive about. These young people broke out of their neatly labelled boxes and said “There’s more to me” and the fact that such wide varieties of likes and dislikes can be seen through their work proves that they are far more than just labels of disability.

Picture of Me pointing to a large picture which reads "Find Identity Respect". Noodle the guide dog sits below the giant canvas.

So what is personality, and what is a persona? Where does identity come into it? During my train journey home these questions began to bubble. Then this brain shattering question came up: ‘what am I?’. After some brief definitions courtesy of wikipedia:

  • persona (plural personae or personas), in the word’s everyday usage, is a social role or a character played by an actor.
  • Personality is the particular combination of emotional, attitudinal, and behavioral response patterns of an individual.

I began to build some ideas.

Personality is something we can’t help. It is the fact that we aren’t civil when woken in the morning, the way we may be more inclined to get angry/sad/happy than others and it is the way that (most importantly) we treat others. Our personality is deeply ingrained into us and, though it can be moulded through time and training, it cannot be changed. A persona is the entire person that you wish to portray. It is the face and the attitude that you put on and show the world everyday. Though this persona may be truthful of your personality (which may have occasional flaws) most often it is different or varies from your personality’s traits. Unlike personality which is constant, your persona varies from situation to situation and can be determined by surroundings. An example of this might be that someone who has a ‘shy’ trait in their personality, may give themselves a loud and outgoing persona to use amongst friends however they may refer back to a more discreet persona when with their family.

We often create, adapt and discard personas without even thinking about it. Personas also don’t tend to vary too vastly, which is handy because it allows us to function when two social situations combine, like dinner out with your friends and family. Though personas are a creation of the mind and not the DNA like personality is, I don’t believe it should be classed as an act that is ‘put on’ or fakery. It is these personas that allow humans to be so versatile and to function with others so well. If this was left up to personality alone we would probably find it very difficult to function with anyone who didn’t share exactly the same traits as ourselves. Personas have their flaws though, and it is proven that the anonymity of the internet can bring out the worst in people. This is caused when they gain a more powerful persona online without thinking, which raises real life issues like bullying and fraud.

But what am I? And how do I know if I am seeing personalities or personas in people around me? Well, I am a sixteen year old human being who has a personality of various traits with degrees of good and bad, and I probably have a handful of personas to subconsciously use in various situations. Do I need to know more? No. My personality and personas combine to form me. I am represented by the things I do and the people I make an impact on in the world. Whether it is a smile as I cross the street or a life long friendship I am making an impact, and so is everyone else. I am an output of my environment, personality, personas, circumstances, finances and a million other improbable factors that have near impossibly come together to form one me. This is identity. My disability doesn’t dictate who I am, nor do the personas or niggling tendencies in my brain’s anatomical structures. This is why you shouldn’t care about whether you see a persona or a personality in others also, because you will find out so much more about them through a healthy and growing friendship rather than a psychological analysis. Oh and if you want to make new friends, there is nothing that kills future conversations more than asking to do a psychological analysis of someone…

What personas do you have? Do you think you are a personality, a persona or a mix of the two?