Should we use labels?

‘Don’t restrain me.’
‘Labels are limiting.’
‘We shouldn’t put people in boxes.’

‘Everything is fluid.’
‘Categorizing someone stops them reaching their full potential.’

We don’t like labels.

Talk to anyone who is in tune with the 21st century about political correctness and common courtesy and phrases like the above will arise.

Yet it has been blatantly obvious from the very beginning that I have fixed a very firm label on myself and others on this blog.

Here are some of them:

Watchers – those in a close relationship with chronically suffering people

Wider Watchers – those who are not in a close relationship with chronic sufferers

Loved Ones – the chronic sufferers themselves

Labels restrain us

Why have I done this?

To be perfectly simple, I wouldn’t be able to write without them. I need to have these definitions in order to muse and blog and think about our specific situation.

First things first, let’s clear the waters and accept the inevitable truth:

Labels (inadvertently or otherwise) do place limits.

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Can good come out of bad? – A Personal Journey

A few weeks ago I did a talk for a Cancer Council morning tea on living when you can’t see God working and my own personal story about waiting for Him to fulfil His promises and bring something good out of chronic illness.

This is not a neat, polished story, tied up with perfect conclusion, because real life isn’t like that. But it’s my story, and all I have to offer. Here is the transcript: 

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Cupcakes beautifully made and lovingly gifted by a lady at the Tea.

” Firstly, standing up here today, I want to tell you I feel inadequate.

There are two reasons for this.

Firstly many of you have lived through difficulties I never will.

There are harder stories to tell than my own. I want to acknowledge that.

The second reason I will tell you after my story.

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Idealism or Pessimism?

It happens. We are feeling over the moon with joy – bubbly about life, hopeful about the future. Yet the person next to us is cynical. They sigh and shake their head and otherwise communicate that we are mad.

It irritates us.

We want to shake them.

Can’t they see the sun is shining? Can’t they see that however painful life is at the moment, it is life and it’s beautiful?

If we are idealistic we hate pessimism (and vice versa)

Or perhaps we are the one feeling down.

All we can see are the troubles and trials that are crouching on the horizon, ready to billow into our lives. Our Loved One’s suffering is just too much, and there is no relief on hand.

To our disbelief and possibly anger, the person beside us can’t seem to control their giggles.

They (inadvertently) tease our sadness and spout enumerable things to be ‘thankful for’.

But it doesn’t help and internally we shake our fists. Can’t they go away and be happy elsewhere?

When someone’s emotional state is at odds with our own, we judge them.

We grumble at their ‘shallowness’ or their ‘pessimism’.
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Why you should use cliches when talking about chronic illness

Clichés fly thick and fast around the world of chronic illness.

Keep fighting. You’re so strong.

God has a plan.

It will turn out all right in the end.

He has his ups and downs.

Do these phrases make you wince? Does anger bubble up your throat when you hear them? Do they make you want to go on a hashtag rant on Twitter or write a Facebook essay speckled with ‘angry’ emoji?

I know the feeling.

Why we can’t get rid of clichés when we talk about chronic illness

Clichés are part of life. Some words simply fit better than other ones. And so we reuse them.

And reuse them, and reuse them…
… until they lose their meaning.

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