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Diagnosing Doesn't Make the Pain Go Away but Maybe It's Still Helpful. Maybe It's Not.

I had a therapist unofficially diagnose me once. I really wish I could remember what the diagnosis was. She said she wouldn’t officially diagnose me but she thought maybe giving a name to what I was feeling and the way I was being might be helpful to me. In the moment, I think I very much agreed with her. But then it became a kind of sentence to this pathology, like I was stuck with it now, it was the lens I had to look at myself through. I didn’t like it in the end. Maybe that’s why I don’t recall the diagnosis.

It’s similar to my dislike of all the personality stuff. I’ve taken the Strengthsfinders, Myers Briggs, and Enneagram tests, each at someone else’s request. I promptly forgot my results every time. I like to think of myself as a pretty self-aware person and I have a pretty thoughtful and analytical inner life. And I do see myself in the lengthy descriptions that follow the tests. I just don’t like being resorted to a couple of paragraphs, as if there is nothing I can do to surprise the universe, and I don’t like relying on labels to explain why I am the way that I am. “Oh, he’s such an IMFTGEZX07.” I hate this shorthand way of explaining a person. It overrides all the nuances and surprises that comprise a person.

Don’t get me wrong. Diagnoses definitely come in handy. Once, I had this terrible pain in my chest area. First, I thought it was a bruised sternum, then I thought it was gallbladder stones, and then I found out it was shingles. When I thought it was the sternum, I waited for it to heal itself. When I thought it was gallbladder stones, I gave myself a homeopathic gallbladder detox. When I found out it was shingles, I didn’t do anything because the doctor said I could either take some pills and possibly have headaches as a side effect or just wait until the pain went away. The diagnosis helped me to know for a fact that there was light at the end of the tunnel and reassured me that there was a reason for the pain that I could specifically point to. But the diagnosis didn’t help me out of the pain. It did help me name the pain. I’m not convinced that that was helpful. But I’m not convinced that it wasn’t, either.

Today is the Day

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