A blog about labelling ...
I hope that my October blog finds you all well and positively working towards your own recoveries. I am sorry I missed a blog last month, I have been hard at work on ideas for further development on Its just a feeling and also assisting in the production of the Its just a feeling book which will be a mobile version of the web site for clients to carry with them in times of need!. There will be more on future developments as they come up.
In this blog I want to talk about Labelling as I feel that it is a really important topic to cover when we are talking about emotional issues such as Anxiety or Panic symptoms and Depression.
When I use the term labelling, I mean by when you research into your symptoms and give yourself a Diagnosis or in fact even receiving a label or diagnosis from a professional. Labels for example could be things like Panic Disorder, Agoraphobia or OCD, the different ways that Anxiety manifests in different people.
My blog this month I want to explore whether it actually helps or hinders people to have a label and work out how anxiety has manifested in them.
Findings can be good to reflect on, to work out if it really is worth knowing and how that could be a good thing for people who use the information positively and to continue to work to symptom remission or a bad thing for those who use the information as a reason or even excuse to stay stuck.
The whole point of symptom remission is essentially about working towards recovery and quality of life, rather than an excuse to wallow in symptoms and to stay as you are. It is not about using your label as a reason not to tackle your anxious feelings or low mood feeling like things will never change and feeling powerless against what is happening to you.
Quite a number of years ago, whilst in the midst of my own acute anxiety, panic and depressive symptoms I saw a Therapist and mentioned to her about my own research into things and what I felt was wrong with me. I suppose in a way I was looking for confirmation that there was something there and a reason why I was feeling this bad and almost Her response was to almost dismiss my question and she told me "not to label myself". I remember at the time feeling confused and over the coming years I did often think back to that moment and to reflect on why I thought the situation had turned out as it did.
Only now when I have understood things much more and my own symptoms have been in remission for many years do I understand what I feel she meant and through my own experiences I have become much more aware of the positives and of course negatives of being given, or in fact giving yourself a label.
I will try and explain. In my experience I believe that achieving remission of symptoms from any Anxiety Disorder or Depression requires a good general knowledge of the symptoms and thoughts that this type of stuff is going to throw at you and recognising that it is not part of you. It is about not falling into the spaghetti that it creates (fixation on thoughts, rumination and physical symptoms), instead seeing the manifestation of the anxiety that is throwing symptoms at you and seeing the bigger cycle for what it is.
Remission is also about focusing on the end goal of removing unhelpful habits and symptoms from your life and to make the correct choices along the way that will take you towards this. This is regardless of how bad those correct decisions make you feel in the short term. It is about motivation and commitment to your cause, a willingness to face your vulnerabilities and fears and jolly hard work. Labelling in the broad scheme of things sometimes seems irrelevant. It becomes more about where you find yourself right now, whether you like that or not and then asking yourself where you want to be and working towards that.
It is not about blaming your label or anyone or anything else for that matter, it has always been about taking responsibility for yourself. If you must use a label, use it productively to gain the knowledge to stand back from the cycle it is creating, not as an excuse to live in it. Ultimately it has to be you who takes responsibility for you and you who learns the techniques and coping strategies that will reduce your feelings of anxiety and low mood in the long term.
So what is the benefit or possible blocks to remission from labelling and what do you really gain from a label?
Well let me start with the negatives of having or giving yourself a label:
- Becoming your label and blaming it for being like you are, Once some people get a label, they "become" it and their anxiety or depression becomes them, who they are. This is not true your condition is not you, it is a very small part of who you are. You are underneath just waiting to shine through once more, think of a blanket of symptoms, moods and thoughts covering you, once you remove this you are underneath ready to emerge and embrace life once more.
- A reason for sitting in symptoms and not doing things that are "difficult" because of your label, Say you have Panic Disorder, you may begin to think and say things such as "I have Panic Disorder and I can't do that or go there because if I do it may cause a Panic Attack. Management of conditions like Panic Disorder comes from going towards fear not moving away from it, so here your avoidance due to your label will work against you. This is why you end up sat in symptoms and doing not very much at all.
- A reason for staying stuck, When you sit in a label and hide behind what you think it means, you will stay stuck.
Now the benefits of having or understanding your label
- Creates understanding and removes fear- Knowledge is power and understanding the issue and the symptoms it may create allows you to stand back from the spaghetti it produces and reduces the fear associated with symptoms
- Helps you to separate yourself from your anxiety or low mood. Taking your Anxiety or Depression with you while you work to remove it is a choice and a vital part of the success of this choice is to learn to separate yourself from it, allowing yourself to continue with the day's activities while your symptoms rage around you. It was one of the most productive moves I learnt, whilst I worked towards my remission all those years ago. Yes ok, you have an Anxiety Disorder or Depression, but neither stop you from doing things, you do.
- Allows you to separate yourself from the condition and negative emotion that surrounds it. Using the information about the condition to help you to separate yourself from it. Seeing the cycle as separate to you, something that can rage around you and do its thing while you continue to do yours is a very powerful step in overcoming emotional issues. This is not you and the symptoms it creates are something it gives you, not something you generate because you're a bad person.
- Allows you to take responsibility for yourself. Lots of people go through bad times in life and have bad things happen. Anything that affects your quality of life will affect your function. You have a choice how and whether to move forwards regardless of what happens to you and ultimately ONLY YOU can sort you out. Taking responsibility for yourself is very important and using your label productively can help you to do this.
The danger here is all really about what type of person you are and whether you tend to focus on the negative aspects of labelling or positive?
It is important to only use a label in a positive way if you are working towards symptom remission.
At the end of the day it has always been counterproductive to focus on what caused this or why you are feeling this way, you may never know and going over and over things looking for a solution is a recognised symptom of anxiety and depression in itself - rumination. If you are constantly ruminating or feeding this symptom your focus will still be on your anxiety and as a consequence your anxiety will stay around.
What is important is to look at where you are now and decide to go forwards, work with what you have and play the cards that you are dealt. You do not have to like it, but honestly the only thing that will get you out of this mess is to accept it and decide to move forwards, working to that goal, trust me I know!.
Feelings have to be felt to be processed and you need to process negative feelings by dealing with them. The subconscious mind cannot process a negative emotion, it will just re present it until it is solved.
Personally I know that if for example I was to get a negative thought, I no longer pay attention to the content of that thought, I know it is anxiety generating the thought and not me. I am more likely to wonder why I am getting such a thought and to apply my maintenance programme. I know I have a tendency towards anxiety (because of my past), however I use that knowledge productively as a reason to ignore it and also to ask myself why I may be getting a warning sign. Have I not worked out enough, am I doing too much, eating the wrong things etc?. I use my labels to help me maintain my own remission and to move forwards, not to sink and retain my focus on anxiety. To me a label is to make me aware of the negatives and as a way of being able to stand back from them, not to stay stuck or focus on them and encourage negative habits.
I hope that this makes sense to everyone and you can weigh up the pros and cons of a label, deciding yourself whether to use this positively for gain of quality of life and symptom remission or to stay firmly stuck and live in the spaghetti of your symptoms. As will most things anxiety you have a choice and you must constantly chose the right choice to move you forwards.
Wishing you all good health and happiness until my next blog which will be about Self esteem and acceptance.