It seems we all want to label things. It helps to categorise thoughts, feelings and actions. It helps people feel organised, orderly and complete. It helps outsiders know what to expect. It helps to form judgements and opinions, sometimes before the whole picture is revealed. Labels and pigeon holes make a person see another person in a certain way and it breeds misconceptions that can hurt, damage or confuse. I know, I’ve bought into stigmas in the past.
What do we really think about mental illness? In particular, what do we really think about depression? Its a condition that has affected people close to me but something that I’m not sure I will ever really understand or feel comfortable talking about in terms of ME.
I totally rejected my GP’s diagnosis of PND when my son was eight months old and I stand by that belief today. I didn’t want to be labelled that way, for many reasons. Firstly, I didn’t feel that it was true. I went to my doctor asking for help in dealing with my feelings after my son’s birth and I was dismissed. I was told that I couldn’t control my womb and so therefore feeling upset about the birth was ridiculous. If he’d read my notes, he’d have known that my womb had nothing to do with what went wrong. Instead, he wanted me to take some tablets and put myself into a box with a nice rounded diagnosis.
I don’t want PND. I don’t want it for many reasons and I might admit to those reasons one day. I don’t want any diagnosis but I do want to work though my feelings without tablets. I’m worried that I perhaps view depression as something to be ashamed of; my GP certainly made me feel ashamed tht day. Is that why I felt the need to fight his diagnosis? Why I asked those close to me whether they thought that I was depressed? Why I obsessed about whether or not I was depressed and why I wanted so badly not to be? It still bothers me now that the letters P. N. D are anywhere near my medical records.
If I accept the diagnosis, I accept that there is a chemical in-balance in my brain which I cannot control. That, I understand. If I accept the diagnosis, I am labelling myself and leaving myself open to judgement and criticism. If I accept the diagnosis, I am forcing people to se me differently and to make different decisions about my future.
For the record, my GP no longer believes that I am suffering from PND, or that I ever was. I’ve been given another label that helps me to allocate blame elsewhere, away from me a bit. The question still remains, though- why does depression cary such weighty pre-conceptions and stigma? Why did my GP make feel ashamed: is this his problem, or mine?
His, I hope. I know that depression is nothing to be ashamed of and I hate that I felt that way but I guess that had more to do with my feelings of failure after his birth than any real misconceptions about depression itself. In the meantime, I continue to exist with only a few labels and I hope I ca keep it that way.