You are NOT Your Disease

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For those of you who are awake this morning (or this evening, for my Aussie and other readers), here’s a brief Sunday morning rant for you.

I was talking to a patient on camera last night and he made the statement that I hear, in its various permutations, many times over the course of a week.

Well, Doc, you know I’m ADHD, and so concentration has never been an easy thing for me.

Substitute anything else for ADHD. Go ahead. Try it. I’ll wait.

See how that works?

“I’m bipolar.”

“I’m schizophrenic.”

“I’m a depressive.”

“I’m a psychotic.”

Time out! Stop this!

If you have a mental illness of any stripe, you are NOT your disease.It does not define you. It is not the sum total of your existence. It does not put a stamped sign on your forehead that announces to the world that you are suffering every time you walk into a room.

I know, I know, this is a little thing, but believe me, I notice it and you should too. I have a couple of friends who are word people and words matter, people!

If you have a mental illness like bipolar disorder, or if you have a medical illness like cancer, diabetes, or lupus, you are still you.

Don’t ever forget that.

The disease may cause you great pain and suffering, it may alter your lifestyle, and it may cause you problems with jobs and relationships. It may even kill you one day. Still and all, it is a disease. It’s a thing to be evaluated and diagnosed and treated and managed, so that you may go about your life the way you want to.

You have my permission to live your life to the fullest in spite of your illness, not declare your life over because of it.

There.

I feel better.

That needed to be said today.

Enjoy your Sunday, my friends.

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14 thoughts on “You are NOT Your Disease

  1. Dear Greg,
    I can’t thank you enough for this post. Destigmatising mental illness, or indeed any illness, starts with recognition of the person as a person.
    It doesn’t matter what diagnoses I have, or you have. They are just labels. They are not the real us at all. We need to remember we are people, of importance and value by the simple virtue of being alive and having a beating heart. I wrote about letting go labels a while ago. http://wp.me/p3BTRI-1p You have expressed what I was trying to say just beautifully.
    Thank you again
    Jocelyn

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  2. I believe that I am one of the “word people” who is lucky to be counted among your friends. Consequently, I have a lot I could write about this subject and it is one about which I often ponder. But I am feeling introspective this morning and have instead taken a mental inventory of my own use of diagnostic labels. I was feeling pretty satisfied with myself until I did a replay on a statement I made a couple of weeks ago describing someone as “being Axis II.” The statement, in retrospect, was neither accurate nor respectful.

    Thank you for the reminder.

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  3. Great advice. It’s another one of those easier said than done things though. It just is. That’s why this is such an important post/reminder. Thank you!

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  4. It is a process of being mindful of our words and deeds. Perfection is not necessary. In other words, we are still “da bomb”.

    Have a good day, Greg and I congratulate you on your progress toward time off.

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  5. Greg,

    My sister-in-law worked very hard at “just being herself” & not her diagnosis of brain cancer during the year that she eked out before cancer won. For herself, for my brother, for her ten-year-old son, for us…she tried so hard to just be Emily. Watching her, helping her, caring for not only her but also Ryan (especially those middle of the night ER visits spurred by her seizures)…the main thing I got from her was to just talk to her & treat her as—Emily. Nothing else. Put the flipping disease aside. Take away the horrible side effects of chemo. Try to overlook the limitations that actually came on very very quickly for her. She was still Emily. Anyone with a disease…any disease…as you so correctly observe, is NOT the disease. They are still the amazing person God created. They still have gifts. They still love & are loved. They just become more special than they were & they try to squeeze every minute of life out that they can. At least Emily did.

    Thanks. Good words. Have a good day, friend!

    M

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  7. We’re glad to have your permission, Doc, and your point is well-taken. But, what about the rest of society–the health care community in particular? It’s one of the things that has amazed me about the on-going debate over “profiling” in all its forms. Consciously or sub-consciously, it seems we have an innate tendency to profile each other. It only stands to reason we’d do the same to ourselves, though in so doing we certainly sell ourselves short as you say so well. Rob

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