How Labels Can Influence Our Actions

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by Jaime Christmas |

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My husband and I were married on March 15, 1995. Looking back at these 26 years, I can see the gray and black stain of trials. However, our marriage has been filled mainly with a tapestry of beautiful colors. We have four exceptional children and live in beautiful New Zealand. Our way of life would be like most others if not for my husband’s illness.

Aubrey’s journey with hereditary ATTR amyloidosis started well before his diagnosis in 2013. At first, there were subtle signs, like bouts of diarrhea and a slight tingling in his hands. But these were never a cause for concern. When he lost his sense of taste and began losing a copious amount of weight in a short time, he pushed for further investigation, which led to the confirmation. We’ve been on this amyloidosis path ever since.

I honestly don’t know when my label as Aubrey’s wife changed to Aubrey’s caregiver. I can’t recall who first labeled me that, either. A healthcare professional, maybe? A friend? That label was stuck on me at some point by others, and over time, I accepted it and assumed the role.

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If you have read any of my columns, you know that I believe a carer’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being are important. I share from my own personal journey, and my intention is to foster hope and let readers know that they are not alone. We are no good at attending to our loved ones if we are unwell.

Most struggles that caregivers and patients face stem from our thoughts. We are what we think we are, so being mindful of our mental state is very important.

One of the pathways to psyche misdirection is labeling. Labels are the words we use to describe ourselves. We may have adopted them ourselves, or society may have attached them to us. Labels can range from “I am a wife/husband/daughter” to the more sinister “I am useless/hopeless/unwanted.” The spectrum is broad.

The critical factor is the defining box we are placed in. Negative or positive, what we profess daily about ourselves will significantly affect our concept of ourselves. What we actively affirm will dictate the trajectory of our actions. Labels can be helpful in many ways, but they can also be unhealthy.

In preparing to write this column, I dissected the label “caregiver,” which I freely use these days. What unconscious connotation do I attach when I say that I am Aubrey’s caregiver? Am I a compassionate, capable, giving, and generous caregiver? Or, am I selfish, hopeless, defeated, and weak? As caregivers, we can become so narrowly focused on the tasks at hand that we may fail to take stock of what goes on behind the scenes in our heads.

Roman emperor and philosopher Marcus Aurelius said, “The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts: therefore, guard accordingly, and take care that you entertain no notions unsuitable to virtue and reasonable nature.”

Whatever we sow in our mind, negative or positive, will grow. The labels that we (or others) slap on ourselves can either be a powerful motivator or undermine our potential. So today, cultivate an awareness of positivity. Don’t allow negative factors to overwhelm your situation. You have the power over your labels.

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Note: FAP News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of FAP News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to familial amyloid polyneuropathy.

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