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The labels that define us

And how we limit ourselves by becoming them

I remember it so well. The day I became ‘a sick person’.

It was such a shock to me. I’d always been proud of my health. “I’m ‘a healthy person’, I’ve got good genes”, I’d say to myself, and anyone else who’d listen. I was someone who could put her body through endless abuse, and come out smelling of roses. Sure, I got my share of colds and ‘flu, but nothing worse than that. Until one day in my late 30s, that is.

You’re sick. You have ulcerative colitis. It’s incurable. You’ll be on meds for the rest of your life.”

That’s all it took. Those words flipped a switch in me, and I became ‘a sick person’.

My behaviour as ‘a sick person’ was very different from my behaviour as ‘a healthy person’. I took fistfuls of meds — to stop the flares when they happened, and to prevent them from happening. I panicked if I was more than a minute from a toilet. And spent hours scoping out routes I could take to alleviate my panic. I stopped exercising, not wanting to stress out my body any more than it already was.

I lurched from one flare to another. I had no idea what brought them on — it didn’t seem to matter to me. After all, my disease was incurable, so why spend time on such trivialities? Instead, I spent my time on my visits to doctors. Lots of them.

People felt sorry for me. My friends and work colleagues, and complete strangers in pharmacies and medical labs. They looked at me as though I had a life sentence hanging over me. Because that’s how I looked at myself.

After about 18 months as ‘a sick person’, something happened. I woke up one day with a clear picture in my head of a much older me. And this me was bursting with health.

In that moment, I stopping being ‘a sick person’ and started being me.

Without realising it, I’d become the person I’d been told I was. A sick person. I’d become the label I’d been given. In so doing, I’d handed over full responsibility for myself to others. In believing what I’d been told, I’d absolved myself of responsibility for my body, my health.

This realisation both shocked me, and spurred me into action.

I started a lifelong quest to educate myself. About this disease and others like it, and about health, in general. And to understand and love myself. Deeply. This was the only way I could take back full responsibility for my body and my health. Which I did, with great success.

Turns out, I’d been living the labels I’d been given my whole life. The dutiful daughter/wife/friend. The good person. The rebel. The outsider. And, in living these labels, I’d limited myself. So much so, that I’d become someone I’m not.

I’m not alone in this. I see people living their labels all around me.

  • The single mother.
  • The cancer survivor.
  • The daughter
  • The grieving widow(er).
  • The mother.
  • The business(wo)man.
  • The son
  • The [insert your religion, here]
  • The father.
  • The [insert profession here]
  • The sister
  • The ex-pat.
  • The immigrant.
  • The brother
  • The [insert your label, here]

I see you over-identifying with your labels. To your detriment. You’re limiting yourself, because that label is but one aspect of you. You are so much more. You’re limitless, multi-dimensional. Not the unidimensional person that label makes you.

Today, I decide how I live. I decide what goes in and on my body. I decide what — and whom — I surround myself with. I am neither ‘a sick person’, nor ‘a healthy person’.

I am me. And I’m limitless. Just like you.

 

Sarah Blick is a very tall, dog-loving, morning person. She loves to be in the great outdoors, to write, to eat well, to be active and healthy, to make her own household and personal care products, and to listen to indie music. She’s an ENFP (Myers-Briggs) and a Rockstar (Fascination Advantage).