Why the words we use to describe ourselves matter so much

I was reading an article on a blog  in which the author says, “I am a borderline.” I see this terminology on The Mighty where I publish my stories about my life with BPD on a regular basis.  I usually enjoy reading what my peer writers submit but I have been troubled by this young woman’s choice of words when describing herself. Now, you might be wondering why I would react negatively to this. If she has BPD doesn’t that make her “a borderline”? Let me explain.

Word labels carry meaning

The labels we choose to attach to ourselves have a lot of meaning. 31 years ago I was diagnosed with Type II Diabetes. I remember sitting in the nurse practitioner’s office and saying how upset I was to be “a diabetic”. She challenged me on that. She said, “You HAVE diabetes but that does not MAKE you a diabetic.” I was pretty surprised by this because, to me, those descriptors seemed interchangeable. So, in the same way that someone who has cancer would never identify themselves as “a cancer” I see this in the same way. BPD is something we HAVE, not something we ARE.

When you label yourself like that what does it say to you internally? Does it mean that you are buying into all the stigma attached to the illness. There is SO much stigma attached toBPD, so much so that once a person has received that diagnosis it can be extremely difficult for them to find a psychiatrist who will see them.I am extremely lucky that my psychiatrist doesn’t see me as my illness or give in to the stigma. She works with me to help me regulate my emotions.

Be careful abut what you give yourself for

When you identify yourself in this manner does it sort of “give you permission” to “live up to the way other people view those of us with this illness? Does it give you “permission” to act out when the going gets tough? Does it fundamentally change the way you view yourself based on the way the world views us? I think it does. Identifying yourself in this way has a trickle down toxic effect on self-esteem and self-worth and self-image. Please think about it the next time you decide to say this about yourself For your own sake.