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Thank you for visiting. Content MAY BE TRIGGERING ESPECIALLY FOR THOSE WHO HAVE EXPERIENCED ABUSE, STRUGGLE WITH SELF-INJURY, SUICIDE, DEPRESSION OR AN EATING DISORDER. Contains graphic descriptions of suicidal thoughts, self-injury and emotional, physical and sexual abuse. Do not read further if you are not in a safe place. If you are triggered, please reach out to your support system, a mental health professional or call 911.

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Disclaimer: Although I have worked with persons with mental illness for twenty years, I do not have a Master's Degree or a license. This is not meant to be a substitute for mental health care or treatment. Please obtain professional assistance from the resources listed on the right of the page, if needed. And call 911 if you or someone is in immediate danger.

A key word that you will see:

Fragmentation: a mental process where a person becomes intensely emotionally focused on one aspect of themselves, such as “I am angry” or “no one loves me,” to the point where all thoughts, feelings and behavior demonstrate this emotional state, in which, the person does not or is unable to take into account the reality of their environment, others or themselves and their resources. This is a term that my therapist and I use and is on the continuum of dissociation.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Are You Suffering?

Okay, I need to air a pet peeve of mine because it has been bugging me more and more as I’ve been looking at unfamiliar blogs. Please do not take offense, as it is not directed at one person, but it shows how the words we use can make subtle differences in the way in which we view and approach others. There are many phrases that mental health professionals and non-professionals use that I do not think are very helpful or are condescending, but I’ll admit to using them too with other professionals because there is instantaneous understanding. However, the phrase I am referring to does not help in that manner.

The phrase is “suffering from.” In very rare cases, do I think that this is an appropriate term to use. But, I really understand people using it and I know that it is old language and comes from the medical model. However, I’d like you maybe to think about the words that you choose. I’ve been reading things like “Those suffering from borderline personality disorder,” “I suffer from bipolar disorder, and “My patient suffers from depression.” Oh, that is like nails on a chalk board to me.

My problem with it is that is seems to automatically set up roles for a victim role, that the person is always suffering and is a victim of the illness. Which to me, would also imply that therapist subtly views the client as a victim and herself as the one to rescue the victim from the illness. Yes, there is a power differential in a client/therapist relationship, but it is not one that most call attention to at this level. It is usually a team effort. To me, it comes across as a bit condescending and it also makes me feel a bit defeated by my illness. My illness does not define me should be the primary focus of who I am. It is simply one of my characteristics.

Whose business is it to say that “I am suffering from depression.” Yes, I am a person diagnosed with a major depressive disorder which, at times, is excruciating. However, I may be managing, may be struggling, may be coping or may be in a really deep depression and in great pain. To me those are much more accurate and descriptive phrases. They also make me feel more like a person instead of the focus being on my illness.

Do we tell people that they are suffering from diabetes, from heart disease, from a broken leg, or a sprain ankle? What kind of subtle message do we send. You are a victim of your illness. Everyone who has this illness must, feel as if they are suffering. I don’t know maybe I just get lost in the semantics of it all.

But, please do not refer to me as suffering from major depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. I am a person who has been diagnosed with major depression and post-traumatic stress disorder which is very difficult for me to manage, but I actually have a great life except for the symptoms from my illnesses. Just changing a few words can make all the difference in the way someone feels or views themself.

Thanks for reading my vent…time to get off my soapbox. Next?


Anonymous said...

they are all just lables any way. It should not define us for who we are. Yes I have this problem. Yes I can funtion in my life. so if I "suffer" from X Y or Z or do I have X,Y,Z does sound better to me as well.
Hugs and God's Blessing.Mike G.said that!

Wandering Coyote said...

I fall into this trap, too, but I am trying to change my language. I may say, "I struggle with" or "I am challenged by" or "I live with" or something like that. There are a lot of ways to put it that are way less victimizing, but it takes consciousness.

Clueless said...

@Mike. Thanks for your opinions. Always welcome.

@wandering coyote. I wasn't trying to criticize those of us with mental illness, but those who refer to us and write about us. From the phrases you use, you use what was "politically correct" when you were diagnoses and/or receiving treatment. That is normal.

Tamara (TC) Staples said...


Good point! Although I have to admit that I don't think I use it often but I might occasionally be guilty of saying "I am suffering". It is just a habit if I happen to use it because I don't truly feel that I am suffering. Like you I have a great life except for a few symptoms.

Have a wonderful weekend,

Clueless said...

You too, Tamara

kathy with a k said...

Words can be very powerful, especially when they become labels and have that defining quality.

On a different subject, wanted to recommend "Stolen Tomorrows" by Steven Levenkron/Abby Levenkron. If you haven't read it, take a look. Some valuable info.

Anonymous said...

I whole-heartedly AGREE!!

Yes, yes, they're _just_ words. Right?

But we use them to symbolically convey a thought to one another. It's not necessarily ALL suffering... AND it's not necessarily that you're a victim of one thing or another.

How about empowerment? How about using the term "conquerer"?

Yes, that's better.

He is in the process of conquering bipolar disorder. It's not quite like succumbing and not an un-conquerable feat. Oooh I like that.

Clueless said...

Thanks Ash...you get it!!! I like the way you think. Words can be so subtle.

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