One of the first things that our marriage therapist made us to come to terms with is the fact that I am not the disease I have. Though it seems like an incredibly simple idea, it was a hard concept to implement at first for both my ex and me. I hadn’t realized how much we both had integrated Lyme into my identity. Once we both grasped that concept, it became easier to release some of the blame that belonged on the disease, not on each other.
In digital Lyme groups that I am a member of, I frequently see the term “Lymies” to refer to those suffering from Lyme disease. It makes me cringe every time. Calling those who have Lyme by the name Lymies equates them with their disease. The idea of “people first” language is not a new one; I remember studying it in a special education class in college in 1992. The premise is simple: When referring to a person with a disability or disease, refer to the person first and their disability or disease second. The man with visual impairment rather than the blind man. The person with Lyme rather than the Lymie. The woman who has schizophrenia rather than the schizophrenic. The person comes before their disease as the person is not their disease, and the person is more important than the disease. While it might make a sentence wordier, that extra bulk is well worth preserving the individuals’ identity over their disabilities and diseases.
It is vitally important not to identify as the condition you are fighting. It’s equally important not to call it “your” disease. Once you taken on that disease as part of your identity, it becomes much easier to lose yourself to the disease. If you make the disease an integral part of who you are, then that makes it even harder to heal because you would be losing part of your identity in regaining your health. Identifying yourself as your disease holds you back from being all you can be.
© 2014 Green Heart Guidance