On Diagnosis: Striving For A Label To Reject?

I cannot make you understand. I cannot make anyone understand what is happening inside me, I cannot even explain it to myself.” – Franz Kafka

Amongst humans, the desire to explore the meaning of life is a significant question. It appears to be that human nature tends towards ‘filling a gap’ rather than accepting the idea of absurdity and nothingness. We even named a whole movement (Existentialism) around an approach which emphasises the existence of the individual person as a free agent who can determine their own development through acts of the infinite will. This provided an apparent, but misguided, meaning for our existence. There should be no attempt to refuse the irrational – one must accept absurdity, revel in it. Why strive for a categorisation?

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A label isn’t the missing piece of the puzzle.

Diagnosis is a label of the symptoms presented by an illness. I obviously recognise the medical benefit of a diagnosis: moving forward to address an appropriate treatment plan for the patient. I believe that for those around you, a diagnosis makes things easier and is a method for them to attempt to empathise – your doctors know the degree of your discomfort, your family are able to research, your friends know you’re ill. But what about for you?

An aspect of my illness I personally struggled with was the unanswered. My focus for the past five years was getting a diagnosis (which I finally received around 3 weeks ago), but for what? I feel no different, my symptoms persist: I am the same. The one thing I strived to get for so long made me feel more like a subject than a person.

Once categorised, people think they are able to grasp what you endure. However, I want to emphasise that you are still the one who tolerates the discomfort, the pain, the nausea, the feeling. I joined a website which is a series of forums for people to gain an understanding of illness, symptoms and to share support. The first thing I was asked for was “Date of Diagnosis”, which I considered ludicrous – you do not need a diagnosis to be ill or to know that you’re ill.

A diagnosis never truly grasps what an illness is to you; therefore, on a personal level it should mean nothing to you, except purely as a means of treatment. Kafka’s attitude towards multiple diagnoses was the reluctance to be rationalised or categories. He was not defined by illness, claiming “all language is but a poor translation”. This optimises everything flawed with a diagnosis, a purely medical explanation means nothing towards what your illness is in nature, and that is what is significant.

As humans, our tendency towards vindicating the unexplained is what motivates our desperation for an explanation of illness. A medical diagnosis is often ascertained, and then rejected by us anyway. Our feelings of denial largely contribute to a reluctance to accept something. Denial is a mechanism which aids us in distressing situations; it is a refusal to accept a truth or a time when one’s sense of control is threatened. Refusing to face facts isn’t healthy which is why you should consider your diagnosis only as a medical advancement.

I wanted to share my experience of diagnosis with you, so that you can appreciate that a diagnosis is not definitive of illness, and certainly isn’t worthy of being your title.