Are You Your Diagnosis?

September 15, 2010

Often times, a diagnosis from a doctor provides relief.  It’s a reasonable explanation for symptoms and validates concerns and feelings that something is wrong.  “I knew something didn’t feel quite right,” we think.

Sometimes I believe we are so welcoming of a diagnosis that it becomes a part of who we are.  When we think of ourselves, that diagnosis is part of what we consider.

A lot of thought and attention, and time and money, might go into trying to fix the diagnosis.  Conversations are had with friends and loved ones, advice is given from health care providers, and endless internet searches are performed.  The diagnosis gives us something to do, something to research, something to worry about, something to update friends and family on.  We receive treatment, care, medications, advice, sympathy, empathy, worry, concern, help…

I think sometimes we can get so attached to a diagnosis, that getting rid of it becomes harder than just the symptoms going away.  Letting go of a part of our being seems more difficult than letting go of the headaches…or the IBS…or the depression….

As a healthcare provider, I choose my words very carefully.  When working with cancer patients, for example, I rarely use the word “cancer.”  I’ll ask how they are feeling, and about their sleep, pain, energy, emotions, etc.  I would rather the patient focus more on their daily life than on the fact that they are a “cancer patient.”

Additionally, one of the benefits about being a Chinese Medicine practitioner, is that I treat patterns.  This holisitic approach allows me to find out how migraines, for example, are part of a person’s pattern.  Do they have a pale complexion, dizziness, a light menstrual flow, and dry skin?  If so, I would treat the pattern of “blood deficiency” and aim to “supplement blood.”  Or if the migraines are accompanied by irregular menses, ribside pain, irritability, and a wiry pulse, I would treat the pattern of Liver qi stagnation and aim to regulate Liver qi.  By treating symptoms in this way, patients report not only improvement in the area they initially sought treatment for, but also “side effects” like increased energy, better quality sleep, healthier skin, less anxiety, etc.

I wonder what would happen if instead of saying “I suffer from depression,” one said, “I feel sad today.”   Of course that person may have felt sad yesterday and the day before that as well, but how awful would it be if that person was having a happy day, but thought to themselves, “Wait this isn’t me.  I’m a depressed person.”

How we think of ourselves, and the words we use in our minds to describe ourselves are powerful.  Choose your thoughts carefully.  Use your diagnosis to learn what is going on in your body and mind, and to make choices based on that knowledge, but try not to make it define who you are.

Think about it.  And share your thoughts.

In good health,



2 Responses to “Are You Your Diagnosis?”

  1. altonwoods Says:

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts in this insightful post!

    While it may be a fact that we have a sickness or a condition,it’s not necessarily a foregone conclusion or a truth that it should have us.

  2. Cecilia Says:

    This really made me think! While our tendencies and patterns are a part of us, we are also defined by the life choices, changes, and improvements we make! It’s comforting to know that a single person is complex and capable of so much — one characteristic doesn’t have to become our identity.

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