Are there some conditions where you’d be better off just not knowing? Illnesses or disorders which, when identified can be a help – but also a hindrance. Not simply in the way that other people view them, but the way you view yourself?
I’m thinking for example, of depression. I can’t speak for anyone else who struggles, but in my own life I’ve wondered if having an official label has done me more harm than good.
Here’s some of the pros:
1. it has helped me to recognise that my feelings can’t be trusted.
2. it reminds me that I’m a whole package and things like sleeping/eating/exercise/stress have an impact.
3. (biggest pro) at times when I’ve felt like I literally couldn’t go on, I was able to get pharmacological help so I didn’t do anything stupid . At times like this, I don’t care whether there’s a stigma attached to antidepressants – if it’s a choice between taking a pill or and giving up, then I’ll take the pill. (See yesterday’s post)
4. it gives other people a framework to understand my behaviour – like a short hand, (this is also a con, but more on that later).
5. it gets me out of doing some things that feel overwhelming (another potential con)
6. I don’t feel like I’m so alone and it gives me an instant point of contact with others for mutual support. Plus the wisdom of years of other people’s experience.
7. It helps me understand myself and feel understood
8. It’s a buttress against the self-hatred that is a feature of the illness
9. Sheer relief that It has got a name
10. Confessing weakness and powerlessness is a powerful gospel aid! It can help you open up to others and the Lord
Here’s some of the negatives:
1. The tablets have side-effects: e.g; tiredness, low sex drive, feeling a bit fuzzy, growing a second head (ok not that one) etc
2. your label can become an excuse – even for things that aren’t affected by your condition. Sometimes it means I don’t apologise or repent eg; for biting Glen’s head off when he looks at me the wrong way. Feeling bad isn’t wrong, but using it to justify tantrums and general nastiness is.
3. seeing yourself as the victim of a malign force you can do nothing about. Yes you often need help, a lot of help. And it’s hard. But you gotta fight it too.
4. it gives other people an excuse to judge or sideline you.
5. depression and medication becomes the norm.
6. It allows me to medicalise issues that aren’t always biological.
7. It can encourage me to feel like a victim and demand that others become my carers.
8. While there’s relief at putting a name to it, that label might be the wrong one
9. It raises your expectations for a solution that might not be there
10. It can give you a false sense of control. Instead of praying about it or turning to God, you can look only to the meds or a programme.
At the end of the day, the gospel speaks into all areas of my life. But my greatest need is for rescue from sin, not depression or anything else. In the same way, I have to remind myself that my identity as a beloved and redeemed child of God is bigger than any label.