I remember a grocery store we used to shop in when I was young would have a box at the front door with cans and jars with no labels. They were free to take; however, you had no idea what was inside until you opened it. I have heard that food banks often have them now.
Labels are important so we know what we are dealing with. If you are planning dinner and wanting some veggies to go with it, you might be a little unsure what to do with the can of peaches you just opened.
As a society, we seem to need labels on everything so we can maintain order.
- Continents, countries, regions, cities, areas, streets and house numbers all help us to find where we are going. We get our mail and deliveries through this intricate labeling system.
- Schools, universities, colleges, and other places of learning, shops, malls, online stores, and businesses, all have names to identify them.
- Cuisines, food items, snacks, etc. are “labeled”.
I could go on but I think you get where I am going there.
Some “people labels” are perfectly fine as in men and women, young and old, short and tall, etc. However, there are many labels that can make a person uncomfortable.
Race and religion are two very gray areas. A person can be referring to a nationality, a skin color, faith, gender, sexual preferences, and so on in a matter of fact way – an accurate and positive description. However, these same “labels” (or more derogatory ones for the same person) can be used in a very hurtful way.
This is how it can be for people with chronic illness of any kind.
When I first became outspoken about my mental illness many people (some in my church, friends, and family) distanced themselves from me. They took it as a totally negative thing – an excuse to write me off. Others, however, embraced me for being strong and speaking out on behalf of others. It took awhile, but these are the people that I have kept in my life and who have actually motivated me to rise above the labels and the illness.
It is actually harder to rise above labels when you have chronic physical illnesses.
I think it is because physical ailments are more “invisible”. We try to act normal when we feel as far from normal as you can get. I have learned when someone who hasn’t seen me for a long time says I look really great and how am I to say “I’m glad to be here”. I honestly think most people don’t really know or understand what it is that is physically wrong with me. And that probably is a lot my own fault because I keep it to myself. I am so used to the mental labels (manic, “loopy”, neurotic, depressed, etc.) that I shy away from getting physical ones.
I hope that this post doesn’t sound angry because that is so far from the truth about what I am trying to say. My point is just to say to everyone – the labelers and the labelees – labels are words, nothing more.
They are descriptions just like on a can of soup.