What’s in a name? Lots, or a little?

Jul to Dec 2010 061

Seriously, don’t you think this dude has the best name a barrister could have? I love it!

Names are important, aren’t they? I feel quite miffed if someone consistently mis-spells my name in real life (I get far less miffed if someone mis-spells “Dysthymia” – even my spellchecker struggles with that one!). In my twenties I broke up with a fellow who couldn’t get my name write after a few dates. If you value me, you’ll know how to write my name down, goddammit!

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about the names psychiatrists have put on my mental illness. I’ve been thinking about how my psyche shows ways of being “less than whole” in ways which can’t be fully explained by my latest formal diagnoses (major depression with melancholia; dysthymia; generalized anxiety disorder). In particular, I’ve been thinking about the way my mood moves, and the moderately compelling evidence of a fractured sense of self.

However, I’ve decided not to get bogged down with diagnoses. The only one I hope they’ve got right is the fact that I am actually ‘monopolar’ depressed, and not somewhere on the bipolar spectrum; if the latter, than a different medication regime is indicated – but, let’s face it, I’m now up to five psychiatrists who have looked at that one, and their results have been unanimous (though a small part of me wonders whether perhaps I just tell them what I want them to hear …).

On Tuesday, I suggested my psychologist and I refer to whatever’s quirky about my mind and brain as “the black box”. My undergraduate work was in physics, and physicists do love that term! We’ve decided that however we might label those “differences”, what’s most important is to understand what triggers them, and how best to respond.

Speaking more generally, psychiatric labels themselves are problematic to me. Take the diagnosis of depression. One depressed person might lose their appetite and suffer insomnia; another might eat more and sleep longer hours than usual. I don’t think there are many diagnoses in general medicine which would so blithely wear contradictory symptoms like that!

So much for names, and diagnoses, and labels. As I type this, it’s Friday morning. I hope that wherever you are in the world, your Friday starts well and continues well!

xx DB


Filed under Up

14 responses to “What’s in a name? Lots, or a little?

  1. Cal

    It’s raining, I’m cosy in my bed, and my dad is at work so I have the house to myself. Today’s going to be a good day!


  2. John Conquest is an awesome name! It’s like Max Power from The Simpsons.
    While I do like having a name for what I am going through, I don’t like being put in a box. I find that when I deviate from the “typical” traits of a diagnosis, I get more confused and go back to- “what is wrong with me?”


  3. rod

    I feel that diagnostic labels are frequently misleading. I have little faith in DSM procedures or the need of medical insurers in the US to have handy labels.


    • I agree. I’m writing from Australia, so am operating under a different medical system, but your point is valid nonetheless. For instance, a medication I take is only subsidized for certain DSM diagnoses. Doctors have been known to fudge diagnoses to make drugs affordable for their patients. It’s the difference between $130+ or $37.50. Likewise, different numbers of sessions with psychiatrists per calendar year are subsidized for different conditions. Hmmm…


    • Ah, back at my laptop where I can think/type with ease! I was trying to show how our medicare system also relies very heavily on DSM labels, labels which I, like you, have little faith in.


  4. Wonderful blog! Do you have any tips and hints for aspiring writers?

    I’m planning to start my own site soon but I’m a little lost on
    everything. Would you propose starting with
    a free platform like WordPress or go for a paid option?
    There are so many choices out there that I’m
    totally overwhelmed .. Any recommendations? Many thanks!


    • My advice would be just to get started! 🙂 As for platforms, I can’t claim to be an expert, but I’d definitely go with WordPress; I’ve also tried Blogspot in the past, and WordPress is far better in terms of the ease of linking with other bloggers. Personally, I chose to fork out the bucks not to have ads appear on my WordPress site, but you can choose that for yourself, or not. On the writing front, I decided how often I wanted to write and have stuck to that schedule, with occasional changes to suit circumstances. At first it was helpful to have a list of possible topics, in case I was struck by writer’s block, but I find I don’t need that any more.
      Good luck!


  5. I’m with you on the labels. At first I was thrilled to get an actual diagnosis because I’d been thinking for decades that I was just screwed up for no good reason. But…several years and lots of med tweaking after that diagnosis, I’m realizing that the label really doesn’t matter any more. It’s all about understanding the dynamic that happens for me and working on managing those symptoms.


    • Yes. I think that it’s important to get some of the labels right – the key one which springs to mind for me is major depressive disorder vs bipoplar II, because the medication regimes can be quite different and the stats show that suicide rates are higher for BPII, so you’d want to get that right – but I have moved to a point where, like you, I’m more focussed on living well.


  6. I’m in the sleep more/eat more category myself. 😉


  7. Pingback: Language and Meaning | In & Out, Up & Down: Dysthymia Bree's Musings On Mental Health and Psychiatric Wards

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