The Hemp Connection + [women]

Fear of Diagnosis: Dealing With Labels You Don’t Want

Every day, we get labeled, or we label others. We look at people and think: fat, white, bow-legged, ugly, sexy, hot, poor, sleazy, mentally ill, or any of a thousand other labels. We get labeled by characteristic, behavior, appearance, ethnic group, religious practice, and a myriad of other things. Some of it we don’t notice, some of it makes us laugh, and some of it enrages us. That applies to the medical and psychological world as well.
Last week, I wrote about getting labeled pre-diabetic. Other labels that are common in our world may include: obese, overweight, morbidly obese, diabetic, depressed, hypothyroid, or infertile. A label suggests that you’re nothing more than a diagnosis, or a set of characteristics. And, while it’s true that you wouldn’t get the label if you didn’t have the symptoms, I see people as people first, and I try to work with doctors who treat my clients the same way. So instead of being “the PCOS patient in room 2,” you’re “Janet, who has PCOS and mild depression.” If you catch someone referring to you by your disease instead of your name, correct them.
Medical and psychological can make us sad, angry, and scared. Sometimes they also please us, because they validate our symptoms, and give us something to focus on. For many PCOS patients, it seems that they’ve bounced around from doctor to doctor before finally getting the diagnosis that makes everything make sense. Nonetheless, there may be a lot of fear. I know when I was first diagnosed with PCOS, no one told me about the laundry list of potential complications I faced, not even the fertility problems. I didn’t know enough to be scared until years later, when it felt a little overwhelming.

Anger is a common reaction to a new diagnosis. If you’ve already got one or more diagnoses, you may be thinking, “great, what’s next?” Or, “What am I supposed to do with THIS, on top of THAT?” Or, “More restrictions, more medications, more tests, more doctor’s appointments, UGH!” Anger is healthy, and it’s energizing. Let yourself have your anger, and then you can settle down and learn about your condition and start treating it proactively. If you get stuck in your anger, a psychologist can help you work through it.
Sadness is another common reaction, and it may follow anger, or be present with anger or fear. It’s normal to be sad about loss of good health, feeling like your body has failed you, and of not being “normal.” And of course it’s normal to be sad if one of your diagnoses is depression. As with anger, if the sadness goes on for a long time, seems really extreme, or even makes you feel suicidal, you need to be treated by a mental health professional. Tell your doctor so he or she can give you a referral to someone who knows about the complexities of medical issues and treatments.
Learning to accept the labels that health care professionals apply to you can take some time and practice. If you’re really sensitive to a term, talk to your provider about it. Medical labels have different implications to different patients. Your best self-care approach is to honor your feelings about the labels, but not ignore the labels.
Gretchen Kubacky, Psy.D. is a Health Psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles, California. She has completed the inCYST training. She specializes in counseling women and couples who are coping with infertility, PCOS, and related endocrine disorders and chronic illnesses.
If you would like to learn more about Dr. HOUSE or her practice, or obtain referrals in the Los Angeles area, please visit her website at www.drhousemd.com , or e-mail her at AskDrHouseMD@gmail.com. You can also follow her on Twitter @askdrhousemd.