Monday, October 1, 2007

What's in a name?

When I chose Sick Girl Speaks for my blog title, it was the first thing that popped into my head. I had no intentions of it going much beyond this blog. I certainly never thought it would be the name of the book or the name of my business. But, guess what? Every time I came up with new names for the book, people always told me they prefered SGS. It just stuck.

And now, here I am, for better or worse, stuck with the phrase that labels me a "sick girl."

This morning, someone asked me if I felt, by using this title, I was feeding my subconscious the information that I was, indeed, defined as a sick girl. I am a strong believer in the power of words and this is a concept that I have considered. Especially lately, when I am introducing myself and following my name with Sick Girl Speaks.

As I said, I am stuck with this title for now, so my inclination is to protest and declare that this moniker does not define me. Of course, I don't have direct access to my subconscious mind and therefor can't be sure what is going on in there. However, based on my strong defensive reaction to the question posed, I would have to say it does effect me.

I have always rejected the idea that I was a sick person. This is partly why, until very recently, I did not have any chronically ill friends. I just didn't want to put myself in that box. Even when I was incredibly disabled, I was sure to clarify that my body was sick, I was not.

Ironically, I have begun applying this label to myself at the time of my life in which I am experiencing the best health in all of my 34 years. So, why now?
I think it is partly what I stated above: I never expected it to become my tag line. I also think there was a bit of humor, I said it to myself tongue and cheek.

Perhaps, though, the deeper reason, was that this was the first time I had enough distance from illness to feel comfortable calling myself sick. Perhaps, I finally feel healthy enough to be able to say those words without feeling as though that acknowledgment will cause me to drown. I feel a faint sense of sadness when I say those words. I feel sad for the girl who has been so sick for so long. Maybe there was a time to avoid those words. Maybe now is the time to embrace them and process their meaning.

The truth is, I will always be a sick girl. No matter how healthy I am, I will never forget that that is something that can change in an instant. I have experienced how quickly one can go from healthy to sick. I have seen it happen to those around me. I can never just relax into health. Does that tempt illness or does it strengthen my gratitude for today? Perhaps both?

I don't have a perfect answer for this question because I don't have a crystal ball. If I did, I might be able to say "no, I don't become sick again for 20 years so calling myself a sick girl had no impact."

All I do know, is that balance is key. My job is now to represent the sick folks out there who are currently too sick to speak out for themselves. That is when I assume the role of SGS. I am also many other things and I do other things. Maybe if I am able to keep a good balance, I will not convince my psyche that I desire to become sick again.

My work makes me very happy. It makes me feel strong and very much alive. Maybe that is enough to counteract the label. What do you think?


Jen! said...

Hmmmm... I am torn as well. I definitely believe in the power of words. But I guess in this case you are not walking around saying you are sick or introducing yourself as someone who is sick, you are just using the title sick girl speaks. A fine line, I know, but I don't think you are willing anything bad into your life b/c in your heart you want to live as healthy of a life as possible. Just my random thoughts!

Brake said...

When I was in high school I was in a car accident that ripped off my scalp (have I told you this story?). I had a year of reconstrucive surgery that made me strongly resemble the elephant man (tissue expanders in my head and all). Anyhoo, people have always told me that I reflect on it with no emotion. I remeber when I was in the thick of it I had blinders on. I never, not ONCE, stopped to think I was disfigured, because if I did I wouldn't be able to pick myself up. Fifteen years later, I acknoledge how difficult that time was. It has shaped who I am today. Tiffany, 15 years later!! My point is, you are still adjusting into the life as a "not sick person". I understand the rational that you must always be prepared; that you could get sick again at the drop of a hat, but it takes time to divorce yourself from the "sick girl" moniker. I think it's like a visualization, see the sick girl in the mirror as something detached from you and YOU are the well girl. The sick girl will always be in the fiber of your being, I think you embrace that as who you are now. Accept that you are redefining, not that you are not one thing or the other, you will always be both. Yes, words are powerful, but you can endow those words with your own definition in time. To let go of 34 years of identity will take time, but you start by accepting where you were and that that has made you who you are. But I believe you know this.

Midlife Midwife said...

Hey, you were just thinking ahead to the sequel to your first will be called "Well Woman's Wisdom" :-)

Jill Mertens said...

I like the notion that "sick girl" refers to your past struggles and- at the same time, it represents you speaking for many other "sick girls" (and guys) out there today.