The power of labels

I started writing another post, but I’ve been sidetracked by the notion of the power of words as labels.

Labels by Olive Is Green

I had to fill in a form the other day. It asked for the date of my stroke, the type of stroke, and the ‘name of survivor’.  I thought this was being a bit dramatic, and told them so in the comments box.  On a facebook forum to which I belong, a journalist posted a request for members to respond to a question.  The forum went mad because the journo had referred to us as ‘stroke victims’.  “Mate, do we sound like victims to you?” was one of the more polite responses.  And NHS paperwork has ‘name of patient’ written all over it.  Well, apart from the fact that I can’t work out when I can technically claim I’m no longer a patient, when was the last time anyone put the word ‘patient’ and me in the same box?

I don’t consider myself a survivor.  Survivors are people who fought to stay alive.  I just let other people stick lines in my arms and learned what to do with the drugs.  Victims are people who get mugged or raped or something, or otherwise it’s a state of mind.   A patient is someone being attended to by someone medical, which only happens to me a couple of times a week these days.  And generally they are sick, which I do not feel. Or someone who has patience, which I do not.

I don’t like the labels.  Hearing any suggestion that they apply to me pisses me off.  I understand why the facebook message board posters let rip at the poor journo, who just wanted some perspective from people who’ve actually had a stroke.  I’ve sent more than one sarcastic text or IM response back to more than one person who’s questioned whether I should be doing something, or doing it alone, or asked me to consider how I feel about what happened on a level I can’t really be bothered to think about in any great detail.  I know it happened.  I was there.  I’m a grown up.  I can work out what I can do and what I can’t, and deal with the issues of whatever happens next.  I just don’t fancy being a victim.  It’s not in my DNA.

But. I do know that all the above words apply.  My IQ wasn’t dented when some of my brain cells died. I just don’t like the vulnerability that the terms imply.  Would you?   I ask, because I wonder how often we apply labels to people that they don’t appreciate, and don’t realise they want to bop us on the nose for doing so (presuming they are more tolerant and less sarcastic than me). I don’t want to be called a survivor because I could have died.  I don’t want to be labelled a victim because I didn’t have a choice about what happened.  And I don’t want to be termed a patient because, at the moment, I see medical people more often than most other people do.  It’s not that I don’t know the words are correct, but they don’t describe me.  Not one of them.  I’m just me: the same me I have always been.

I am grateful for this.  However, I do have sympathy with you, if you know me.  Because I am still me.  Oh dear.  Poor you.  I’m afraid you will have to survive being a victim of this ongoing situation.  Be patient, eh?


Post script:  I wanted to see if anyone else had written about this – someone always has.  Anyway, I just found this: Words and Labels. Exactly the same three words (even in the same order). I guess I’m not the only one then!!!




  1. […] blogged about the power of labels before.  But other than the girls and their tattoos, and someone else pointing out very loudly […]

  2. Marsy Beron says:

    It is very old post but if you ask, I answer – Yes, I had written the book with the same title “The power of labels”. See in Amazon, Barnes&Noble and so on. The labels are poison for our self-esteem but many people ignore the problem.

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