Recently, I was asked to get a second opinion on a mammogram and ultrasound that showed a nodule on the left breast. With barely enough energy to muster the strength to do so for fear of the dreaded label that I faced with my sister experiencing a double mastectomy only two years prior, I somehow managed to make all the contacts necessary to follow through. At my visit, I was asked to wait for the doctor to review my films because a biopsy was needed. I was seated in a waiting room with several other women awaiting the reports of their films as well. Interesting how the Universe works!! There were lots of technical difficulties on this particular day at the hospital, and we women were waiting together for what amounted to eight full hours; a full work day filled with mental exhaustion and anguish. Among these women were different cultural backgrounds, different races, and socioeconomic statuses. All the preconceived notions for all the different women may have been present, but it was hardly noticed once we all began to converse. For a moment in time, we all connected with one particular experience…one that we all related to; one that showed no preference for religion, color, or affluence. For this one moment in time, we were one. There were no labels and no preconceived notions. We were just women supporting each other through a scary time. In spite of my fears, I reflected on this and thought how fortunate I was to have experienced this connection with no prejudices to speak of. It made me realize the harshness of labels and the injustice it does for humanity as a whole. And although one may argue that labels have their place, and may be necessary under particular circumstances to move forward, I question what a world would be like if not for the labels we place on it. We spend so much time saying something or someone is good or bad. But isn’t good and bad a relative term? For instance, one may believe losing a job is a bad thing. But, if losing that job opened you up for a new experience and new opportunity that was in fact more fulfilling, would you then label losing the job as bad?
We use labels for so many circumstances. We read tons of labels for the foods we eat, as is recommended when dieting, yet we are having the largest obesity crisis we have ever known. Have the labels benefitted us? We do the same for our children. My client’s mother cries…genuinely cries every three years when her son gets reevaluated. The tests indicate extremely low scores, labeling him as multiply handicapped or rather many kinds of specific learning disorders. Are these labels benefitting my client or his mother? Some may say that it is, so he can be classified correctly and receive the services he needs. But, at what point can we stop labeling him and just treat him according to his needs? In other words, his mom was fine and happy knowing she has been doing all she can for her son, and going about her life. Yet, once the tests were implemented and the labels were passed out, and nothing other than that had changed, she was tormented and needed time to come to a place of acceptance. My heart aches each time she goes through this, and all I can do is be present. I tell all my client’s parents to let go of the labels. Your child is simply that…a child! It would be interesting to experience what would happen if we let go of the diagnoses. Would we treat these children differently? Would the therapy services differ? And what would happen if we let go of the religion or color or socioeconomic status of a person, and simply regarded them as…a person?
Sadly, we are a long way from deleting labels in our thoughts and in our vocabulary. Yet, I had a glimpse of utopia where several people came together and were one. I asked myself if this scary experience was in fact a “bad” experience or a “good” one. Once I surrendered the fear and opened up to the love in that room pouring from each and every woman, my name was called. I am well! All is well!